Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind., Rod Spaw column
Feb 22, 2013 (Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Don't trust your eyes when robots call you
Q: An automated recording called my cellphone to tell me I'm paying too much for my car insurance. I thought it was illegal to call people's cellphones to make sales pitches -- and this was a robo-call, no less. The call came from 812-373-6009 and the ID said Columbus, Ind.
A: Don't trust the caller ID on this unwanted intrusion on your telephone. Marguerite Sweeney, section chief of the telephone privacy section for the Indiana Secretary of State's Office, says solicitors often use technology that transmits fake caller ID numbers.
Autodialer, aka robo-calls, and violations of the state's Do Not Call telephone laws are frequent complaints received by Hotline, and they also keep Sweeney's office busy. She said the secretary of state's office logged more than 20,000 complaints in 2012 about robo-calls and Do Not Call transgressions.
Sweeney said the penalty for violating the auto-dialer prohibition is up to $5,000 per call. The first violation of the Do Not Call law can cost up to $10,000; the fine increases to up to $25,000 on second and subsequent calls.
Last year, she said, the secretary of state's office entered into 18 voluntary settlements with companies for illegal calls, which resulted in payment of penalties and costs totaling $190,650.
Sweeney said the office filed 16 lawsuits for telephone law violations in 2012, and six still were pending at the end of the year. She said the state obtained four court judgments totalling $364,767. The money collected supports the state's telephone privacy program, she said.
To report violations of robo-call or Do Not Call laws, call toll-free 888-834-9969. Consumers also use Indianaconsumer.com to file a complaint.
Stopping junk mail requires some effort
Q: I've been receiving mailings from various insurance agents for some time now, and have tried to have the deliveries stopped. How do I make this waste of paper and postage stop
A: There are a number of steps consumers can take to slow down the flow of junk mail -- as well as junk email, according to consumer advocates.
A comprehensive website offering good advice is the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse at www.privacyrights.org. This site provides information not only about junk mail, but also about protecting your credit report and safeguarding personal information on smartphones.
One recommended action is using the opt-out service offered by the Direct Marketing Association.
Go to www.dmachoice.org to learn how you may receive just the junk mail you want or none at all. You can register with the association free online or you can print out a form and mail it for a $1 fee.
Write to Hotline, c/o The Herald-Times, P.O. Box 909, Bloomington, IN 47402, or email email@example.com, using "Hotline Inquiry" as the subject line.
Include your name, city and phone number. We cannot answer all inquiries.
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