AARP Live Discusses Estate Planning and How to Protect the Things You Love the Most at 10 p.m. ET. Watch Here
by Sid Kirchheimer, AARP Bulletin, August 27, 2010|Comments: 0
Q. How can I distinguish telemarketing calls from those calls I want to answer—before I pick up the phone?
A. Caller ID will provide some clues: When it displays "Call Center" or a charity's name, it's most certainly a telemarketer. "Private" or "Undisclosed" could signal a privacy-seeking acquaintance, but unscrupulous telemarketers also like to hide where they're calling from. Others feign legitimate corporate affiliation (such as your credit card company) by using so-called spoofing services that put a fake name on your caller ID screen.
When I'm not sure, I let my answering machine take the call. Telemarketers rarely leave messages. When they get no answer, they typically move to the next number on their calling list. My real friends and family leave messages, as do legit businesses calling about account issues. (Occasionally scammers pretending to be representing those companies will leave you a message and a call-back number that will link you up to them—so for any return calls, always dial the toll-free number on your statement or card.)
If you do end up on the line with a telemarketer, it's of course always possible to end things promptly with a polite refusal, a request to be taken off the telemarketer's list and a hang-up.
But when harassed by repeat calls, I often opt for the following response: "Hold on while I get the better phone in the other room." Then I go about my business, leaving the caller dangling. Result: After a while, the caller hangs up and doesn't call back. Telemarketers usually have per-hour or per-shift call quotas and they can't waste time waiting.
Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Exclusive savings and benefits with the AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford.
Members earn points on select Walgreens brand health and wellness products.
Members save $65-$200 on round-trip tickets purchased online.
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
Manage your email preferences and tell us which topics interest you so that we can prioritize the information you receive.
Explore all that AARP has to offer.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at