Telephone Privacy: the Right to be Left Alone

When I am at my home, I don’t want to be disturbed with phone calls from people I don’t know. Some companies get the phone numbers to call from phone books, others use a computer to randomly generate phone numbers, and others buy customer lists from otehr companies. I have started to track down companies with my information. I’m asking them to not release any information about me to other companies.

I have an unlisted phone number on my home phone. I pay $1.71 (plus tax) per month for this privilege. That’s over $20 a year to prevent the phone company (Bell Atlantic) from selling my name to other companies. Having a nonpublished, unlisted number definitely keeps your privacy intact. The only invasive calls I get are either for the person who had my number before me; or are randomly dialed.

Know your rights about telephone solicitation. Businesses can only call you between 8am and 9pm in your time zone. They must send you a copy of their solicitation policy if you ask for a copy. They also must stop calling you if you ask to be placed on their “Do-Not-Call” list. If they call you again later, you can sue them in small claims court for $500. And you wil generally win if you can show who talked with on what date.

What I’m thinking about doing if things get out of hand is to get “Ident-a-ring” on my phone line. This service (how can it be a service if I have to pay for it?) fromBell Atlantic gives you a second phone number on your regular phone line. Whenever someone calls that number, your phone will ring differently from a regular phone call. Give the second number out to family and friends. Only answer the phone if that is the ring that occurs. If the “normal” phone rings, let thte answering machine get it. Keep the second number unlisted and unpublished. Keep the primary number listed. Then in case of an emergency, directory assistance will still be able to give out your number.

A company down in Alabama has created a database of phone numbers that match up to names and addresses. They sell this database to businesses so that as soon as you call a company, they can figure out how to handle your call. But the only number that will show up on their computer screen will be the public number. Later when they try to sell to that number, your answer machine will pick it up.