Updated: Nov 29, 2021
I visited my client Larry recently at his farm in western Washington State to do a financial review and the first thing he asked me was "why do I get so many Medicare sales calls, I'm not even on Medicare?" That's easy, I explained. First, he was 64 and it was October, which is the biggest time of year for Medicare sales agents. Annual Election Period (AEP), October 15th through December 7th. And second, your data is out there and those who have it are selling it over and over. Simply demanding that a telemarketer put you on the Do Not Call (DNC) list doesn't work. Short of not answering your phone anymore what can you do? The following is a process that works very well when done completely. Just doing one or two, will work for a while but it won't last long. Sooner or later your data will get captured and they will know who to start calling again.
1) Stop oversharing your information
I had to copy and paste to an Excel spreadsheet in order to count the number of companies that they sell to. The grand total was 1,439.
Anytime you call an 800, 888, or 900 number your phone number can be captured by "Automatic Number Identification" or ANI. This system automatically identifies and stores your number and matches it with other online digital marketers associated with you.
2) Change your phone number and never give it out
Seriously, this is the first thing I'm going to do when I turn 64. It sounds both simple and impossible. Simple because nobody except friends and family will have my number and it's very easy to do. My new number will never be on anyone's list. I'll use the following steps to avoid having the number captured by big data. This sounds impossible because we use our phones for everything from ordering a pizza to confirming our bank ID. For this to work, you will need to do the next few steps.
3) Use a free phone as a spam filter
Set up a free phone like Google Voice to use as a spam filter phone. This new phone number is going to be used every time you give out your phone number. It's not just the big tech companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, eBay, who use your phone number to identify you, virtually every company and website out there collects your phone number as part of their process. For example, Fidelity Advisors will take rollover instructions over the phone as long as they can send a text confirmation to your cell phone that they have on file. Think about that for a second. Companies are so confident that you and your phones are one and the same that they use it to verify just about everything. Using a Google Voice phone as a phone spam filter will allow you to provide a phone number without giving out your new personal cell phone number. You can log in to use it as needed and ignore it the rest of the time. This is an actual screenshot of my Voice number.
4) Set up an email address as a spam filter
Just like a free phone to use as a spam filter, get a free email address for your data/spam filter. I've been using firstname.lastname@example.org for 20 years now. It keeps my real email address private. Anytime I need to enter an email I use this Hotmail address. Every email is filtered to spam automatically. If I'm registering something on a website that requires an email for verification I use it and then just find the corresponding email in the spam filter and use it. Then I can ignore the hundreds of emails they spam me.
5) Register your new private number with the FTC
I mentioned this at the beginning and yes, I'm skeptical about this one. According to the FTC at the end of Fiscal Year 2021, the Do Not Call registry contained 244.3 million actively registered phone numbers. To me, the math doesn't add up. Regardless, I'll register my new private cell phone at DoNotCall.gov.
The FTC rules allow the following kinds of calls and don't require your permission:
Messages that are purely informational. Robocalls about your flight being canceled, reminding you about an appointment, or letting you know about a delayed school opening fall into this category, as long as the caller doesn’t also try to sell you something.
Debt collection calls. A business contacting you to collect a debt can use robocalls to reach you. But robocalls that try to sell you services to lower your debt are illegal and are almost certainly scams.
Calls from some health care providers. This includes a robocall from a pharmacy reminding you to refill a prescription.
Messages from charities. Charities can make these calls to you themselves. But if a charity hires someone to make robocalls on its behalf, unless you are a prior donor or member of the charity, the robocall is illegal. They also must include an automated option to let you stop future calls.
6) Download a call blocking app for your phone
I tried several free apps on my cell phone but didn't like the advertisements urging me to buy the paid version. So, I really can't speak to this because I haven't found one yet that I like. If you know of an app or service that effectively blocks unwanted calls please leave a comment below.