Just as you are preparing dinner, your home phone rings. Hello Mrs Neville, I would like to talk to you about your investment portfolio …

Sound familiar?

Many seniors, right across Victoria report receiving high numbers of unwanted telephone calls to their landline. Some deal with it by not answering the phone at all, while some use their answering machine to screen calls.

Your telephone is a vital connection with the world. To minimise the nuisance factor, there are some things you can do to avoid the pain and stay connected with family and friends.

Do Not Call Register – How can it help you? 

The Do Not Call Register is a secure database where you can register your Australian telephone, mobile and fax numbers to make it clear to marketers that you do not want to receive unsolicited telemarketing calls and faxes.

Registration is free and you only need to do it once. And once registered, your number will stay on the register indefinitely unless you decide to remove it.

The register doesn’t actually ‘block’ numbers. It doesn’t have any technological impact on your telephone or fax line, and it does not block or physically stop other parties from contacting you. It works by giving telemarketers and fax marketers 30 days to recognise the registration of a number and to stop contacting that number.

What about those calls from charities?

Many calls to solicit donations are made by, or on behalf of, charities. These organisations are permitted to call numbers listed on the register.

Telemarketing calls that seek donations but are made by organisations other than registered charities or registered charitable institutions are not permitted.

A call made to carry out opinion polling or market research is not a telemarketing call, but some calls have more than one purpose.

If a call contains any telemarketing elements such as a sales offer, advertisement or promotion, even if it is secondary to the main purpose of the call, then it is a ‘telemarketing call’ and must not be made to a number on the register.

If breaches of these rule happen to you and you are on the register, you can lodge a complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority, donotcall.gov.au or call 1300 792 958.

How to handle those pesky calls

Emma Dawson, Telstra’s Senior Adviser Accessibility and Inclusion, provides a common-sense approach to dealing with unwanted calls.

We’ve all received telemarketing calls at some point. Some are clearly scams while others are just plain annoying. While there are a range of options to help consumers protect themselves from nuisance calls and scams, a great place to start is by taking a common-sense approach, she says.

Here are some common sense tips for minimising or handling unwanted calls:

  • Unsubscribe from any marketing lists you may have added yourself to – some organisations share their databases with third parties for promotions and specials. Be careful what you subscribe to!
  • Telemarketers generally have a script that tells them how to respond to every objection, so the less you engage with them, the better.
  • Try not to get angry at the caller. If the telemarketer is being rude, you can ask to speak to a manager. Despite what they might say, most have a supervisor in the call room.
  • Investigate products or services from your telephone provider that can identify or block certain callers, such as call number display services, silent numbers or Telstra’s Call Guardian – a home phone that asks unknown callers to announce their name prior to being connected. Fees may apply.

Remember that any organisation that calls or faxes a number listed on the register, or arranges for this to occur, may be breaking the law and could face penalties.