Useful Information about telephone Fraud

 The old traditional (wired) phone scam involving the 90# buttons on your business telephone is still around.

How This Scam Occurs

You receive a call at your office from someone claiming to be a telephone company employee investigating technical problems with your line, or checking up on calls supposedly placed to other states or countries from your line. The caller asks you to aid the investigation by either dialing 90# or transferring him/her to an outside line before hanging up the telephone receiver. By doing this, you may be enabling the caller to place calls that are billed to your office telephone number.

What You Should Know

·         Telephone company employees checking for technical and other types of telephone service or billing problems would not call and ask a subscriber to dial a specific series of numbers before hanging up the telephone receiver.

·         Telephone company employees would not request subscribers to connect the caller to an outside line before hanging up the receiver.

·         These types of calls are made to trick subscribers into taking actions that will enable the caller to place fraudulent calls.

·         This scam only works if your telephone is served by a private branch exchange (PBX) or private automatic branch exchange (PABX).

What to Do

If your place of business utilizes either a PBX or a PABX, you or your company telecommunications manager should contact the manufacturer of the PBX or PABX and the telephone companies that provide you with local and long distance service to obtain information about the type of security systems available to protect your telephone system from toll fraud. You may also ask about any monitoring services that help detect unusual telephone system usage.

Avoid Becoming a Target

To avoid becoming a target of this scam, educate yourself and other employees about the 90# scam. Encourage employees to take the following steps if they think that a telephone call is fraudulent or is part of this scam:

·         Ask the caller for his/her name and telephone number;

·         Tell the caller you are going to call the telephone company immediately to determine whether or not there is a problem with the line;

·         Immediately hang up the receiver; do not dial any numbers or transfer the caller to an outside line before hanging up;

·         Find the telephone number for your telephone service provider and/or its security office and report the suspicious phone call. Be prepared to provide details of the call to the telephone company representative; and

·         Contact your local law enforcement officials.
Voice Mail Fraud

If you don’t change the default password on your voice mailbox, you, or your company, could be in for a big – and expensive – surprise. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has become aware of a form of fraud that allows hackers to use a consumer’s or business’s voice mail system and the default password to accept collect calls without the knowledge or permission of the consumer.

The Scam Works Like This


A hacker calls into a voice mail system and searches for voice mailboxes that still have the default passwords active or have passwords with easily-guessed combinations, like 1-2-3-4. (Hackers know common default passwords and are able to try out the common ones until they can break into the phone system.) The hacker then uses the password to access the phone system and to make international calls.

The hacker does this by first changing the voice mailbox’s outgoing greeting to something like "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, operator, I will accept the charges." Then, the hacker places a collect call to the number they’ve just hacked. When the (automated) operator (which is usually programmed to "listen for" key words and phrases like "yes" or "I will accept the charges") hears the outgoing "yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, operator, I will accept the charges" message, the collect call is connected. The hacker then uses this connection for long periods of time to make other international calls.

There is also another twist to this scam. A hacker breaks into voice mailboxes that have remote notification systems that forward calls or messages to the mailbox owner. The hacker programs the remote notification service to forward to an international number. The hacker is then able to make international calls.

What to Beware of


  1. Hackers usually break into voice mail systems during holiday periods or weekends, when callers will not be calling; thus, the changing of the outgoing message goes unnoticed.
  1. Hackers are typically based internationally, with calls frequently originating in and/or routed through the Philippines or Saudi Arabia.

What Is Call Splashing?

When you place a long distance call from a public phone (a payphone, hotel, or airport phone, for example), your call may be routed to a distant call center before being “handed off” to your preferred long distance company. Your preferred long distance company might then, either unintentionally or intentionally, bill you as if your call originated from the distant call center, rather than from your actual location. As a result, you may be charged higher long distance rates for the call than you expected. This is called “call splashing,” and it may be in violation of Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules.

Is Call Splashing Legal?

A telephone company is permitted to base charges on an artificial point of origination if the caller:

  • requests to be transferred to a different company's operator;

  • is informed (before incurring any charges) that the call may be billed as if it originated somewhere other than where the caller is calling from; and

  • he/she consents to the transfer.

Avoid Being "Splashed"

To help avoid call splashing, listen carefully to the telephone operator and don’t consent to any call transfers unless you understand what the operator is asking. Carefully read your phone bill to ensure the origination and destination locations of your long distance phone calls are correct. If your phone call has been billed without your consent as if the call originated from a distant call center, and the rate is higher than you anticipated, complain to your preferred long distance company so you can receive the correct billing rate.


Understanding Your Telephone Bill



Consumers are sometimes confused by the various charges and items on their monthly telephone bills. The FCC's Truth-in-Billing rules require telephone companies to provide clear, non-misleading, plain language in describing services for which you are being billed. The company sending you the bill must identify the service provider associated with each charge. If a bill contains charges in addition to basic local service, it must distinguish between charges for which non-payment will result in disconnection of basic local service, and charges for which non-payment will not result in disconnection. Telephone companies must also display, on each bill, one or more toll-free numbers that you can call to ask about or dispute any charge on the bill.

Here is a detailed description of some of the charges or line items that may appear on your traditional wireline telephone bill, your wireless telephone bill, or both.

Charges on Both Wireline and Wireless Telephone Bills

Access Charges

  • Access charges are fees charged subscribers or other telephone companies by a local telephone company for the use of its local network.

  • The FCC allows local telephone companies to bill customers for a portion of the costs of providing access. These charges are not a government charge or tax. The maximum allowable access charges per telephone line are set by the FCC, but local telephone companies are free to charge less or nothing at all. Access charges for second or additional lines at the same residence are higher than the charges for the primary line. These charges can be described on your telephone bill as "Federal Access Charge," "Customer or Subscriber Line Charge," "Interstate Access Charge," etc.

  • State public service commissions regulate access charges for intrastate (within a state) calls. In some states, a state subscriber line charge may appear on customer bills.

Federal Excise Tax

  • This three percent tax is now applied only to local service billed separately from long distance service.

State & Local Taxes

  • These taxes are imposed by state, local, and municipal governments on goods and services. They may also appear as "gross receipts" taxes on your bill.

Universal Service Charges

  • The Universal Service Fund (USF) provides support to promote access to telecommunications services at reasonable rates for those living in rural and high-cost areas, income-eligible consumers, rural health care facilities, and schools and libraries.

  • All telecommunications service providers and certain other providers of telecommunications must contribute to the federal USF based on a percentage of their interstate and international end-user telecommunications revenues. These companies include wireline phone companies, wireless phone companies, paging service companies, and certain Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers.

  • Some consumers may notice a "Universal Service" line item on their telephone bills. This line item appears when a company chooses to recover its USF contributions directly from its customers by billing them this charge. The FCC does not require this charge to be passed on to customers. Each company makes a business decision about whether and how to assess charges to recover its Universal Service costs. These charges usually appear as a percentage of the consumer's phone bill. Companies that choose to collect Universal Service fees from their customers cannot collect an amount that exceeds their contribution to the USF. They also cannot collect any fees from a Lifeline program participant.

911, LNP, and TRS Charges

  • 911 - Charge imposed by local governments to help pay for emergency services such as fire and rescue.

  • Local Number Portability (LNP) - Telephone number portability allows residential and business customers to retain, at the same location, their existing local telephone numbers when switching from one telephone service provider to another. Companies may assess fees to recover the costs that they incur in providing number portability. Fees may vary by company, and some companies may not charge any fees. These fees are not taxes.

  • Telecommunications Relay Service - Charge to help pay for the relay center that transmits and translates calls for people with hearing or speech disabilities.

Other Charges

  • Directory Assistance - Any charges for placing 411 or (area code) 555-1212 directory assistance calls.

  • Monthly Calling Plan Charge - Charge applicable to any monthly calling plan such as unlimited long distance calling on your wireline bill or unlimited minutes on your wireless bill.

  • Operator Assisted Calls - Charges for any calls connected by an operator. Rates for these calls generally are higher than rates for unassisted calls.

  • Features Charges - Both wireline and wireless telephone companies offer features such as call forwarding (transferring incoming calls to another telephone number); three-way calling (holding an incoming call, placing a call to a second number, and allowing three parties to participate); call waiting (providing a signal during an ongoing call to notify that another party is calling the subscriber); voice mail (message service much like an answering machine); and Caller Identification (Caller ID) (allowing the subscriber to view the telephone number of an incoming call on a display screen). With Caller ID, non-listed or non-published numbers may be displayed unless the non-listed or non-published subscriber requests that they not be.

Charges Only on Your Wireline Telephone Bill

  • Minimum Monthly Charge - A minimum monthly charge assessed by some long distance companies even if you don't make long distance calls.

  • "Single Bill" Fee - Charge for combining local and long distance charges onto one bill. This fee is not mandated by the FCC and is not an FCC charge. Some companies waive the fee for customers who pay bills online or by credit card. Customers can avoid the charge by arranging for separate billing from their long distance telephone company.

Charges Only on Your Wireless Telephone Bill

Airtime Charges

  • Airtime charges are per-minute charges for the time you spend talking on your wireless telephone. Some wireless providers round fractions of minutes to the next highest one, two, or three minutes. For example, if you talk 22 minutes and 28 seconds, it will be counted as 23 minutes for a 1-minute increment plan and 24 minutes for a 2-minute increment plan.

Roaming Charges

  • Roaming charges require you to pay for using your wireless telephone outside of the "home" service area as defined by your service provider in your service plan or contract.

  • Wireless providers typically charge higher per-minute rates for calls made or received while roaming. They may also apply additional fees, such as a daily access fee.

911 Charges

  • Enhanced 911 or E911 service enables wireless telephones used to dial 911 to automatically transmit the caller's geographic position to emergency responders. Wireless service providers are improving their networks to provide E911 capability according to a schedule established by the FCC. The specific requirements and schedules can be found on the FCC Web site at Wireless service providers may choose to pass their costs of providing E911 service on to their customers and this charge may be described as an E911 charge on your wireless telephone bill.

Text Messaging

  • This service allows sending of short messages, usually less than one hundred characters in length. Subscribers can be charged either a per-message fee or a flat, monthly fee for unlimited messaging.

Downloading Fees

  • These are fees charged for downloading options offered by your wireless service provider, such as ring tones, or, if your service plan includes Internet access, any fees for downloading data from the Internet.

Detailed Billing

  • This service provides detailed information such as date, time, duration, type of call (incoming or outgoing), number called, or calling party, for each call.

What Is Pay-Per-Call Service?

Pay-per-call service, offered only using a 900 number, is any service:

  • providing audio information or entertainment;

  • providing access to simultaneous voice conversation;

  • including the provision of a product, where charges are assessed on the basis of completion of the call; or

  • for which the caller pays a per-call or per-time charge greater than the charge for the transmission of the call.

Other information services that may be offered through numbers other than 900 numbers (for example through an 800 or other toll-free number) include certain directory services, or services for which users are assessed charges only after entering a prior payment or subscription arrangement. It is important to note that, given these definitions, not all 800 calls are toll-free calls.

Phone Calls to Toll-Free Numbers

Calls placed using 800 and other prefixes like 888, 877, and 866 are widely understood to be toll-free. Such calls, however, can sometimes be connected to a service that will charge you for accessing information. If you dial an 800, 888, 877, or 866 number, the information service provider receiving your call cannot connect you automatically to a 900 number service and cannot call you back collect. You can only be charged after calling an 800 number for information if:

  • you have entered into a written agreement with the company offering the 800 number information services that includes:

    the amount you will be charged for each call;

  • the information service provider’s name, business address, and phone number; and

  • a unique PIN or other security device to prevent unauthorized charges to your account.

  • you are charged for the information through a credit, prepaid, debit, charge, or calling card. Before you can be charged for a call to an 800 number, the service provider must provide an introductory message telling you:

    that there is a charge for the call;

  • the service provider’s total cost per minute and any other fees;

  • that charges will be billed on a credit, prepaid, debit, charge, or calling card, and asking for your credit card number;

  • that charges for the call will begin at the end of the introductory message; and

  • that you can hang up during the introductory message or at the end of the introductory message and will not be charged for the call.

  • No written agreement is required for calls to 800 numbers that charge for using devices to provide telecommunications services to persons with hearing or speech disabilities. Similarly, no written agreement is required for directory services provided by a telephone company, or for the purchase of goods or services that do not qualify as information services.

    Your Telephone Bill

    Charges for 900 pay-per-call and 800 number information services should be displayed in a section of your telephone bill that is clearly separate from your local and long distance telephone charges. For each call made to a pay-per-call service, information regarding the type of service, the amount of the charge, the date and time of day, and length of the call must be indicated. Information service providers must notify their customers at least one billing cycle prior to making any changes in their charges or terms of service.

    Your telephone company cannot disconnect your local or long distance service for nonpayment of disputed 900 or 800 number charges. Your telephone company can, however, block you from making calls to 900 numbers if you do not pay legitimate 900 number charges.

    Blocking 900 Numbers

    In most areas, you can ask your local telephone company to block 900 number dialing from your phone and the company must do so at no charge. You must ask within 60 days of beginning new telephone service. The company can charge a reasonable one-time fee if you ask for blocking outside the 60-day period. If you decide to remove the 900 number dialing block, your request to your local telephone company must be in writing.


    "809" Phone Scam - Beware

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has become aware of a long distance phone scam that may lead consumers to inadvertently incur high charges on their phone bills.

    The Scam Works Something Like This

    • You get an e-mail, voicemail, or page telling you to call a phone number with an "809", "284", "876" (or some other three-digit) area code to collect a prize, find out about a sick relative, engage in sex talk, etc.

    • You assume you are making a domestic long distance call - as "809", "284", "876" (and other three-digit area codes involved in this scam) appear to be typical three-digit U.S. area codes.

    • When you dial the "809", "284", "876" (or other three-digit) area code plus the number, however, you're actually connected to a phone number outside the United States, often in Canada or the Caribbean, and charged international call rates. (In this case, "809" goes to the Dominican Republic, "284" goes to the British Virgin Islands, and "876" goes to Jamaica.)

    • You don't find out about the higher international call rates until you receive your phone bill.

    Minimize the Risk of This Happening to You

    • Check any area codes before returning calls.

    • If you do not otherwise make international calls, ask your local phone company to block outgoing international calls on your line.



    Mexico Collect Call Scam


    This scam seems to be prevalent in Spanish-speaking communities in California, Texas, Florida, New York and Illinois.

    Here’s How it Works

    An operator calls the consumer’s residential telephone number and tells the consumer he/she has a collect call from a family member who has an emergency or an important message. The operator has all the relevant information – the family’s last name, husband’s name, wife’s name, etc. The operator provides the consumer with the “calling family member’s” name. The consumer accepts the operator-assisted call, assuming there is a real emergency or message. Upon accepting the call, the consumer is then connected to a complete stranger who gives information that is not related to the consumer’s family. Realizing the call is a fraud, the consumer immediately hangs up, but is still billed for the call.

    In some cases, the consumer is not even allowed to respond “yes” or “no” in accepting the call; the operator automatically puts the call through without waiting for an affirmative response. Other times, the consumer actually declines the call and is still charged a very high rate for a collect call that was never accepted.

    Here’s How to Avoid This Scam

    Consumers should use voice recognition as a tool for identifying the person placing the collect call. Specifically, consumers should ask the operator to have the person placing the collect call speak his name, instead of allowing the operator to say the name of the person placing the collect call. Also, consumers should carefully examine their monthly telephone bills for accuracy, and report errors to the company billing for the erroneous charges.



    Your Rights If You Have Been Slammed

    If you have been slammed and HAVE NOT paid the bill of the company that slammed you:

    You DO NOT have to pay anyone for service for up to 30 days after being slammed. Therefore, you do not have to pay either your authorized telephone company (the company you actually chose to provide service) or the slamming company. You must pay any charges for service beyond 30 days to your authorized company, but at that company’s rates, not the slammer’s rates.

    If you HAVE paid your telephone bill and then discover that you have been slammed:

    The slamming (unauthorized) company must pay your authorized company 150% of the charges you paid. Out of this amount, your authorized company will then reimburse you 50% of the charges you paid to the slammer.

    For example, if you were charged $100 by the slamming company, that company will have to give your authorized company $150, and you will receive $50 as a reimbursement.

    With these rules, the FCC has taken the profit out of slamming and protected consumers from illegal changes.

    Authorized Switching Methods

    Your telephone service cannot legally be switched from your existing preferred telephone company to a new company unless the new company verifies the switch using one of the following methods:

    • Uses an independent third party to verify your oral authorization to switch.

    • Provides and obtains your signature on a letter that indicates, in writing, that you want to switch preferred telephone companies.

    • Provides a toll-free number that you can call to confirm the order to switch preferred telephone companies.

    NOTE: The Communications Act makes telephone companies responsible for the acts of their agents, including their telemarketers.

    New Guidelines for Telemarketing Switches

    Before a telephone company can place an order to switch a subscriber who agreed to sign up for service during a telemarketing call, the company must verify the subscriber’s decision to switch by: (1) connecting the customer to a third party verifier; (2) sending the subscriber a letter of agency (LOA) to sign and return; or (3) providing a toll-free number to the subscriber to confirm the decision electronically. The requirements for each method are:

    Third Party Verification: All third party verifications must elicit from the subscriber: (1) the date of the verification; (2) the identity of the subscriber; (3) confirmation that the person on the call is authorized to make the change; (4) confirmation that the person on the call wants to make the change; (5) confirmation that the person on the call understands that a carrier change, not an upgrade to existing service, bill consolidation, or any other misleading description of the transaction, is being authorized; (6) the names of the telephone companies affected by the change (not including the name of the displaced company); (7) the telephone numbers to be switched; (8) the types of service involved; and (9) appropriate verification data (such as, the subscriber's date of birth or social security number).

    Letter of Agency: Any written or electronic LOA used to confirm a telemarketing order must include: (1) the subscriber's billing name and address; (2) each telephone number to be covered by the order to change the subscriber's preferred telephone company; (3) a statement that the subscriber intends to change from his or her current preferred telephone company to the new company; (4) a statement that the subscriber designates the new company to act as the agent for this change; and (5) a statement that the subscriber understands that there may be a charge for this change. The LOA also must be separate from any promotional material – such as prizes or contest entry forms. To the extent that a jurisdiction allows the selection of additional preferred carriers (e.g., local exchange, intraLATA toll, interLATA toll, or international interexchange), the letter of agency must contain separate statements regarding those choices, although a separate letter of agency for each choice is not necessary.

    NOTE: Advertising promotions that send a check for payment to encourage you to switch preferred telephone companies can incorporate an LOA, but must meet specific guidelines. The check must contain the necessary information to make it payable, and can't contain any other promotional language or material.

    The telephone company must place the required LOA language near the signature line on the back of the check. In addition, the company must print on the front of the check, in easily readable, bold-faced type, a notice that your signature will authorize a change in your preferred telephone company.

    Toll-Free Number for Electronic Confirmation: Telephone companies electing to confirm sales electronically must establish one or more toll-free telephone numbers exclusively for that purpose. Calls to the number(s) will connect a subscriber to a voice response unit, or similar mechanism, that records the required information regarding the preferred telephone company change, including automatically recording the originating telephone number. Such authorization must be placed from the telephone number(s) for which the preferred telephone company is to be changed.

    How to Protect Yourself Against Slamming

    Be a careful consumer.

    Always examine your telephone bill immediately and thoroughly. If you see a new preferred telephone company name on your bill, call the number that’s shown on that portion of the bill and ask for an explanation.

    Be aware of the methods telephone companies can use to change your preferred telephone company legally. The FCC’s rules require telephone companies to obtain your clear permission to make such a change. For example, if a new telephone company sends you an LOA to verify that you want to switch your preferred telephone company service to that company, the LOA is only valid if you sign and date it. Only sign, date, and return it if you are sure you want to change to the new company.

    Be sure you understand that switching long distance service also means switching international service. If you are considering switching preferred long distance telephone companies, be sure to ask whether any international calling plans you have with your current preferred long distance company will be offered by the new company.

    Be firm with telemarketers.

    If you receive a call from a telemarketer about switching your preferred telephone company and you’re not interested in changing, tell that to the caller. You can also ask the caller to remove your telephone number from its solicitation lists, and place your residential phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list. For more information about the national Do-Not-Call list, visit

    Thoroughly read all materials you receive in the mail.

    If you receive a letter in the mail asking you to “verify” that you switched your preferred telephone company, and neither you nor anyone in your household authorized the change, immediately notify the sender that you did not authorize a switch. Then, immediately call your local telephone company to confirm that you want to remain with your existing preferred telephone company or companies.

    Read the fine print in any sweepstakes or drawing entry form before filling it out.

    The form may indicate that by signing it, you’ve given authorization to switch preferred telephone companies. In some states, such forms are illegal and should be reported to the state Attorney General’s office.

    Be careful when answering telephone surveys.

    Be careful in responding to telephone surveys. If the person answering the telephone says “yes” to any of the surveyor’s questions, the answers may be taped and used later as verification of authorization to switch preferred telephone companies.

    “Freeze” your existing preferred telephone company.

    A freeze lets your local telephone company know that you do not want it to switch your preferred telephone company unless it receives written or verbal authorization from you.

    What to Do if You’ve Been Slammed

    Call the slamming company and tell it that you want the problem fixed. If you have not paid, tell the slamming company that you will not pay for the first 30 days of service. Call your preferred telephone company to inform it of the slam, and tell it that you want to be reinstated to the same calling plan you had before the slam. Also tell your preferred telephone company that you want all “change of carrier charges” (charges for switching companies) removed from your bill.

    You can call the following toll-free numbers to verify your preferred telephone company or companies:

    • 1-700-555-4141 for long distance and international services and

    • 1+your area code+700-4141 for local toll services.


    The National Do-Not-Call List

    Once you have placed your home phone number or numbers, including any personal wireless phone numbers, on the national Do-Not-Call list, callers are prohibited from making telephone solicitations to those number(s). Your number or numbers will remain on the list until you remove them or discontinue service – there is no need to re-register numbers.

    The national Do-Not-Call list protects home voice or personal wireless phone numbers only. While you may be able to register a business number, your registration will not make telephone solicitations to that number unlawful. Similarly, registering either a home or business fax number will not make sending a fax advertisement to that number unlawful, but the FCC has separate rules that prohibit unsolicited fax advertisements under most circumstances. For more information on the rules for fax advertisements, see our consumer fact sheet at, or visit our Web site at

    A telephone solicitation is a telephone call that acts as an advertisement. The term does not include calls or messages placed with your express prior permission, by or on behalf of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, or from a person or organization with which you have an established business relationship (EBR).

    An EBR exists if you have made an inquiry, application, purchase, or transaction regarding products or services offered by the person or entity involved. Generally, you may put an end to that relationship by telling the person or entity not to place any more solicitation calls to your home. Additionally, the EBR is only in effect for 18 months after your last business transaction or three months after your last inquiry or application. After these time periods, calls placed to your home phone number or numbers by that person or entity are considered telephone solicitations subject to the do-not-call rules.

    While registering home phone numbers on the national Do-Not-Call list prohibits telephone solicitations, this action does not make prank or harassing calls unlawful. For problems with such calls, contact local law enforcement agencies.

    You can register your home phone number or numbers on the national Do-Not-Call list by phone or by Internet at no cost. To add a phone number to the national Do-Not-Call list via the Internet, go to To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you wish to register. For more information on the national Do-Not-Call list, visit our Web site at

    Company-Specific Do-Not-Call Lists

    Whether or not your home phone number or numbers are registered on the national Do-Not-Call list, the FCC requires a person or entity placing voice telephone solicitations to your home to maintain a record of your direct request to that caller not to receive future telephone solicitations from that person or entity. The calling company must honor your do-not-call request for five years. To prevent calls after five years, you will need to repeat your request to the company, and it must honor it for another five years (and so on). Your request should also stop calls from affiliated entities if you would reasonably expect them to be included, given the identification of the caller and the product being advertised. Unless your home phone number or numbers are registered on the national Do-Not-Call list, however, you must make a separate do-not-call request to each telemarketer from whom you do not wish to receive calls.

    When you receive telephone solicitation calls, clearly state that you want to be added to the caller’s do-not-call list. You may want to keep a list of those persons or businesses that you have asked not to call you. Tax-exempt non-profit organizations are not required to keep do-not-call lists.

    State Do-Not-Call Lists

    Additionally, many states now have statewide do-not-call lists for residents in their respective states. Contact your state’s public service commission or consumer protection office to see if your state has such a list, and to find out how to register your number or numbers. For contact information for your state public service commission, go to You can also find contact information for these offices in the blue pages or government section of your local telephone directory.

    Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems and Artificial or Prerecorded Voice Calls

    The FCC has specific rules for automatic telephone dialing systems, also known as “autodialers.” These devices can be particularly annoying and generate many consumer complaints. The rules regarding automatically dialed and prerecorded calls apply whether or not you have registered your home phone number(s) on the national Do-Not-Call list.

    Autodialers can produce, store, and dial telephone numbers using a random or sequential number generator. They often place artificial (computerized) or prerecorded voice calls. The use of autodialers, including predictive dialers, often results in abandoned calls – hang-ups or “dead air.” Except for emergency calls or calls made with the prior express consent of the person being called, autodialers and any artificial or prerecorded voice messages may not be used to contact numbers assigned to:

    • any emergency telephone line;

    • the telephone line of any guest or patient room at a hospital, health care facility, home for the elderly, or similar establishment;

    • a paging service, wireless phone service (including both voice calls and text messages), or other commercial mobile radio service; or

    • any other service for which the person being called would be charged for the call.

    Calls using artificial or prerecorded voice messages – including those that do not use autodialers – may not be made to home phone numbers except for:

    • emergency calls needed to ensure the consumer’s health and safety;

    • calls for which you have given prior express consent;

    • non-commercial calls;

    • calls that don’t include or introduce any unsolicited advertisements or constitute telephone solicitations;

    • calls by, or on behalf of, tax-exempt non-profit organizations; or

    • calls from entities with which you have an EBR.

    In addition, the FCC’s rules prohibit the use of autodialers in a way that ties up two or more lines of a multi-line business at the same time. All artificial or prerecorded telephone messages must state, at the beginning, the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call. If a business is responsible for initiating the call, the name under which the entity is registered to conduct business with the State Corporation Commission (or comparable regulatory authority) must be stated. During or after the message, the caller must give the telephone number (other than that of the autodialer or prerecorded message player that placed the call) of the business, other entity, or individual that made the call so that you can call during regular business hours to ask that the company no longer call you. The number provided may not be a 900 number or any other number for which charges exceed local or long distance charges.

    Autodialers that deliver a recorded message must release the called party’s telephone line within five seconds of the time that the calling system receives notification that the called party’s line has hung up. In some areas, you could experience a delay before you can get a dial tone again. Your local telephone company can tell you if there is a delay in your area.

    Telemarketers must ensure that predictive dialers abandon no more than three percent of all calls placed and answered by a person. A call will be considered "abandoned" if it is not transferred to a live sales agent within two seconds of the recipient's greeting.

    Caller Identification (ID)

    If you have caller ID, a telemarketer is required to transmit or display its phone number and, if available, its name or the name and phone number of the company for which it is selling products. The display must include a phone number that you can call during regular business hours to ask that the company no longer call you. This rule applies even if you have an EBR with the company, and even if you have not registered your home phone number(s) on the national Do-Not-Call list. Before these rules took effect, the words “private,” “out of area,” or “unavailable” might have appeared on the Caller ID display. 



    Amended Fax Rules and Established Business Relationship Exemption

    The rules provide that it is unlawful to send unsolicited advertisements to any fax machine, including those at both businesses and residences, without the recipient’s prior express invitation or permission. Fax advertisements, however, may be sent to recipients with whom the sender has an EBR, as long as the fax number was provided voluntarily by the recipient. Specifically, a fax advertisement may be sent to an EBR customer if the sender also:

    • obtains the fax number directly from the recipient, through, for example, an application, contact information form, or membership renewal form; or

    • obtains the fax number from the recipient’s own directory, advertisement, or site on the Internet, unless the recipient has noted on such materials that it does not accept unsolicited advertisements at the fax number in question; or

    • has taken reasonable steps to verify that the recipient consented to have the number listed, if obtained from a directory or other source of information compiled by a third party.

    If the sender had an EBR with the recipient and possessed the recipient’s fax number before July 9, 2005 (the date the Junk Fax Prevention Act became law), the sender may send the fax advertisements without demonstrating how the number was obtained.

    Opt-out Notice Requirements

    Senders of permissible fax advertisements (those sent under an EBR or with the recipient’s prior express permission) must provide notice and contact information on the fax that allows recipients to “opt-out” of future faxes. The notice must:

    • be clear and conspicuous and on the first page of the advertisement;

    • state that the recipient may make a request to the sender not to send any future faxes and that failure to comply with the request within 30 days is unlawful; and

    • include a telephone number, fax number, and cost-free mechanism (including a toll-free telephone number, local number for local recipients, toll-free fax number, Web site address, or e-mail address) to opt-out of faxes. These numbers and cost-free mechanism must permit consumers to make opt-out requests 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

    Senders who receive a request not to send further faxes that meets the requirements listed in the next section must honor that request within the shortest reasonable time from the date of the request, not to exceed 30 days. They are also prohibited from sending future fax advertisements to the recipient unless the recipient subsequently provides prior express permission to the sender.

    Opt-out Requests By Consumers

    To stop unwanted fax advertisements, your “opt-out” request must:

    • identify the fax number or numbers to which it relates; and

    • be sent to the telephone number, fax number, Web site address, or e-mail address identified on the fax advertisement.

    If you change your mind about receiving fax advertisements, you can subsequently grant express permission to receive faxes from a particular sender, orally or in writing.

    Fax Broadcasters

    Often fax advertisements are sent in bulk on behalf of a business or entity by separate professional fax broadcasters. Generally, the person or business on whose behalf a fax is sent or whose property, goods, or services are advertised is liable for a violation of the junk fax rules, even if the person or business did not physically send the fax. A fax broadcaster also may be liable if it has a “high degree of involvement” in the sender’s fax message, such as supplying the fax numbers to which the message is sent, providing a source of fax numbers, making representations about the legality of faxing to those numbers, or advising about how to comply with the junk fax rules. Also, if a fax broadcaster is “highly involved” in the sender’s fax messages, the fax broadcaster must provide its name on the fax.

    Fax Numbers and the National Do-Not-Call List

    Registering a home phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list prevents only telephone solicitations directed to that number, not fax advertisements to your home or business fax number. For more information on our telephone solicitation rules, see our consumer fact sheet at or visit our Web site at The FCC’s junk fax rules nevertheless prohibit fax advertisements unless you have an EBR with the sender or have given your prior express permission to receive the fax advertisements.


    Eli Terry,
    Mar 22, 2009, 3:06 PM