Some phones around Iowa are ringing with calls… from a phone-dialing machine. There isn’t a real person on the other end, but consumer-protection attorney Bill Brauch in the Iowa Attorney General’s office says they may have a legal right to dial your number with a machine. There are lots of computerized dialing devices out there, and Brauch says nonprofits, political groups and businesses use them to make recorded calls, though both state and federal laws apply to the automatic dialers and recorded devices.

Millions of Americans rushed to sign up when the federal Do-Not-Call list was created, but Brauch says that may not protect you from the machine calls. They can’t call you unless they have an “ongoing business relationship” with you, like the retailer you have a credit card with. A nonprofit organization doing fundraising can use a machine to call you, but it’s forbidden for any telemarketing company the charity’s hired.

If there’s a live person who comes on the line after five seconds, they may be legal in using a machine dialer, but if the message is all tape-recorded, then they can’t do it unless those exceptions, like a business relationship or a nonprofit, apply. He says a call that seems to break that law may be a scam.

Brauch says there are a number of fraudulent operations that try to get you to call them back at a number they give. They may even arrange it so making that call costs you a charge. He says you have to be very wary when you get a recorded call that asks you to dial a number. He says they might call and claim you’ve won a prize, and have to call a given number. “Don’t do it,” Brauch warns. “That’s asking for trouble. Never respond to a call that comes on a tape recording out of the blue, asks you to call a number, tells you that you’ve won some contest that you don’t think you’ve ever entered.” He says the best response if you don’t want to be bothered or ripped off is to just hang up.

Brauch says if you think the call is from someone that doesn’t have a business relationship with you and is just calling to try and sell you something, and you’re on the Do-Not-Call list, they’ve broken federal law — and you should call and report them to the Federal Trade Commission. The agency collects that kind of data and can bring legal action against violators of the Do-Not-Call law.

Related web sites:
Iowa Attorney General