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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 13, 2006

Telemarketers got your number . . . at work?

by Samantha Beres

It's annoying. Telemarketers call us at home and on our cell phones. Now, they even call us at the office. Here at Iowa State, some employees have noticed a recent increase in automated telemarketing phone calls.

While hanging up may be the option of choice, Angela Bradley, director of networks and communications in IT Services, says jotting down the time, date and telephone number (if you have a display telephone) and e-mailing it to can help her department fight telemarketers. Much of the time, these calls come from 1-800 numbers.

Automatic dialers

"There's been a rash of these calls in the last six months," confirmed Mike McQuiston from networks and communications. "What's particularly different about these is that they are the computer-based automated dialer type of call," he added.

Automatic dialers use a computer program that selects a range of phone numbers to automatically dial and send a recorded message. If the automatic dialer picks a range of numbers say, from 294-0000 to 294-9999, it could easily dial about 16,000 numbers sequentially or within a day to see what it hits. (Iowa State holds all the 294 and 572 numbers and about half the 296 range.)

The calls come from lenders, credit card companies, travel agents, even Disney.

McQuiston said one problem is, when the telephones don't get answered, those calls may go to voice mail, essentially spamming the Iowa State voice mail system.

How to fight 'em

Networks and communications staff can't block telemarketers, but if they know what the calling number is, they can take action.

One tactic is to program the phone system to recognize the telephone numbers the automated telemarketers are calling from and direct the numbers to be disconnected if no one picks up, rather than send the calls to voice mail.

Another strategy is to call the number, get a responsible person on the line and request that individual numbers or all Iowa State numbers be removed from their calling list. Networks and communications specialist Susan Spencer said that takes time, but it works.

Spencer spent over two hours trying to get a live person at the Bank of America credit card department. (She kept hitting zero till she finally got an operator.) Once she had someone on the line, she asked that the range of Iowa State telephone numbers be removed. Companies have to remove numbers from their call list when asked to do so.

Stop, look and listen

If a telemarketer calls and it's not a recording, an option is to stay on the line and ask to be taken off the list. These calls from live telemarketers still come in as well. One employee recently received a call from a Wells Fargo telemarketer.

If the same company keeps calling when it has been asked not to, or a telemarketer is being over-the-top aggressive, it could be considered harassment and an employee should report it.

"If someone receives a call that is harassing or threatening, (telemarketer or not), we want to know immediately," Bradley said. "He or she can call the support number at 4-8565."

McQuiston said another type of call to remember is the good old long distance scam. An incoming caller claims to be with the "Telephone Company." He or she asks to be transferred to #90, or to an operator. The operator would make a long distance call, and the bill would come to the Iowa State phone that forwarded the caller out.

These calls happen infrequently with the Internet and low cost of long distance. Just don't forward any calls off campus, McQuiston said. He added that when employees report inappropriate calls, "we'll act on every request as best as we can."

"Do not call" registry

The National Do Not Call Registry is one way to get home and cell numbers removed from telemarketers' call lists. However, the registry's Web site specifies that "business-to-business calls and faxes are not covered by the National Do Not Call Registry."

It takes less than five minutes to register. You can read more about it at


Do something
about it:

When you receive an automated telemarketing call, jot down the time, date and telephone number (if you have a display phone) and e-mail it to