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Toll-Free Numbers Used to Gather Caller Data

Are you aware that when you call an 800, 855, 866, 877, 888 or 900 toll-free number, the business you’re calling may save your telephone number and use it to their advantage to make money? According to Verizon, if the company you’re calling uses Automatic Number Identification (ANI), it can use your phone number to gather additional information about you: your address, income level, items you purchase, and more from other marketing databases. The company also may sell your phone number to telemarketers.

This practice is not illegal. ANI is approved by the Federal Communications Commission. What’s more, companies are not required to tell you if they use ANI.

The only thing you can do is tell the company with the toll-free number that you don’t want your information kept in the company’s records or you don’t want your information rented or sold. Of course, you also can ask that the company not contact you again. However, you can’t be sure your request will go beyond the person with whom you’re talking or that it will be honored. And we all know that telemarketers have ways around the Do Not Call Registry.

The best way to avoid your data being collected? Don’t call toll-free numbers. With cell phone and many of today’s landline calling plans, the amount of free minutes is generous. There’s rarely a need to call toll-free numbers unless that’s the only number a company gives out.

To complain about companies using ANI, Verizon recommends contacting your state’s Attorney General and/or the FCC Consumer Affairs Bureau. If you want your name removed from a direct marketing list, go to dmachoice.org.

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