Telemarkers now call us from more 79,000 call centers nationwide. Because they spend more time at home, senior citizens are three times more likely to be solicited by them.

Jeanette Otis, a 70-year-old widow from Houston, gets about five unwanted calls a day. For her, the irritation begins ?when they start out their conversations with ?How are you today???

Rex Sebastian, 72, was so frustrated that he installed a device that can block at least some of the calls. ?When a computer-originated call comes in, it zaps it out,? he says.

The Federal Trade Commission has announced a plan that allows anyone to join a national ?do not call? list by dialing a toll-free number. Telemarketers would then be prohibited from calling phones on the list. ?The penalty for violating an FTC rule is $11,000,? says J. Howard Beales, the director of the FTC?s Bureau of Consumer Protection, ?and we would regard each call as a violation.?

Before this becomes law, the FTC will hear objections from the $660 billion-a-year telemarketing industry. ?Businesses trying to reach people and get promotions is clearly part of free speech,? says Jerry Cerasale, the senior vice president of the Direct Marketing Association. ?It?s commercial free speech.?

Not everyone knows that if you ask a telemarketer to remove your name from their calling lists, he or she must do it. The proposal for a national registry maintained by the FTC would let a consumer stop calls from all companies with just one request.

Twenty states already have statewide ?do not call? lists, including Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, New York, Oregon and Texas. Some states charge consumers a few dollars per year to stay on the list. Florida was the first state to pass a no-call measure, primarily intended to protect senior citizens.

Robert Bulmash of the Illinois-based Private Citizen Inc., is pushing for the new FTC bill. ?We have a fundamental right to be left alone some place, and if that right doesn?t exist in our homes then it will only exist in our graves,? he says.

For now, here?s what to do to receive fewer calls: If you have asked a telemarketer not to call you back and he or she continues to call, report this to your state attorney general. Telemarketers are only allowed to call you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Ask where they?re calling from, since by law they must reveal this. If they?re calling from a state with a ?do not call? list, you can make sure they can?t call you again.

If you think you?ve been defrauded by a telemarketer, you can call the FTC?s toll-free number, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). To file a complaint on the internet, click here.

For now, if you don?t want a telemarketer to call you again, simply say, ?Put me on your do not call list.?

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