Telemarketer calls keep coming despite safeguards
BY JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor
Sunday, December 04, 2011
12/04/11 at 3:13 AM
When Mike, the snarky
telemarketer, called during
the dinner hour to
tell Tom Mabe he’d been chosen to
receive a free, deluxe, digital satellite
system, Mike got the shock of
Telemarketer Mike: May I
speak to Tom Mabe?
Voice on the other end: Let me
ask you something: Did you know
Mike: No, I’m just calling to offer
Tom a …
Voice: Hold that thought, hold on
a second. (Hey, guys, get really good
pictures of the body, and dust everything
down for prints). You there,
Mike? Let me bring you up to speed.
You’ve actually called a murder
scene. Mr. Mabe is no longer with us.
I’m Officer Clarke. I’m conducting a
homicide investigation. Hello?
Officer Clarke: I want to ask you
a series of questions. First of all –
what was the nature of the business
you had with Tom Mabe?
Mike: I…I had no business with
him. I’m sorry to have bothered…
Officer: I’m going to ask you to
stay on the phone, this call has already
been traced and we may need
you to come in for further questioning.
Mike: You don’t understand. I’m
Officer: No, you don’t understand.
Unless you want to be charged
with obstruction of justice, it is imperative
that you keep your --- on
the phone. Tell me, where were you
last night between the hours of 8 and
The real Tom Mabe actually is
alive and well. An entertainer from
Lexington, Ky., Mabe lives out a
consumer fantasy. For years he’s
created and sold revenge-on-thetelemarketer
spoofs. His CDs have
made him a satisfied man who’s
capitalized on the gag reflex most
consumers have for telemarketers.
When the Federal Trade Commission
solicited public comment
about a proposed national Do-Not-
Call list more than a decade ago, 90
percent of respondents supported
such a list, which was created in
Oklahoma’s own list went into
effect Jan. 1, 2003, with 436,065
households signing up.
As 2011 closes, 650,000 households
are on that list — a big number
considering that in the intervening
years, many consumers
have switched from land lines to
If all of us hate phone solicitations
— my caller I.D. shows 16
such calls in 10 days — why are the
telemarketers still around?
Telemarketers will thrive as long
as there’s fertile ground. Kudzu is
hard to kill. For every hoop solicitors
must jump through to operate
legitimately, there probably is
a matching loophole that they can
slither through. Telemarketers
continue to exist because consumers
keep slopping the hogs. We get
guilted into giving to “causes” we
haven’t thoroughly vetted. We’re
harried and want to get solicitors
off the line.
Or, maybe, we like that bumper
sticker showing support for law
enforcement. We’ve got the sticker
but we have no earthly idea how
much of the donation went to the
honorable cause and how much
went to so-called administrative
The truth is, some people don’t
mind doing business with telemarketers.
More than 100 million
Americans still purchase goods and
services over the phone each year.
Telephone marketers rack up more
than $200 billion in sales annually.
Federal and state do-not-call lists
do work — to a point — weeding out
telemarketers who subscribe to the
list and honor its intent. Too often,
however, lists do not deter scammers
who often prey on the elderly
and the vulnerable. Solicitors may
use technology to conceal the fact
that they’re dialing from distant
points where the long arm of the
law cannot reach.
“We get calls regularly where an
elderly parent or loved ones wired
money over to Nigeria or South
America or some other place thinking
they’d won the lottery and were
sending the taxes and processing
fees so they could claim their prize.
Once the money is wired out of the
country it’s not coming back,” said
Assistant Attorney General Tom
Bates, chief of the Public Protection
Do-not-call registries also have
exceptions, permitting perfectly
legal contact from nonprofits or religious
groups, political candidates
or causes and callers seeking faceto-
face meetings. Calls are permitted
if the consumer has had a prior
financial relationship with the entity
— for instance, an alma mater
or a credit-card provider.
Consumers also should remember,
Bates said, that when they sign
up for prizes or other things at fairs
or elsewhere, that action can be
construed as consent for telemarketers
to call later.
If consumers have questions
about a charitable group soliciting
funds, they can contact the Secretary
of State’s office, which often
can confirm if an organization is
properly registered and can provide
reports showing how much of
a donation goes to the charity.
While the AG does prosecute
some violators, catching disreputable
telemarketers is a tough job for
investigators, Bates said, given law
enforcement’s limited resources.
As a consequence, the most reliable
policing tool is a lead thumb flexed
by consumers themselves.
“The best weapon is prevention.
Be very jealous about sharing
phone numbers and personal information,”
Bates warned. “Sirens
need to go off if they ask for that.
Don’t play detective for the AG’s office.
Let’s leave that job to Tom Mabe,
aka Officer Clarke.
Julie DelCour 918-581-8379
Original Print Headline: Gag reflex: Do-not-call lists only go so far