I received an email recently from a reader concerned with the volume of phone calls she was receiving from charities pressuring her for money.
The main culprit in this instance being the NSW Rural Fire Service.
In frustration this reader had sent a letter in to the NSW Emergency Services Minister, David Elliott to see if he could assist in any way.
I’m not going to suggest David Elliot can do nothing, I can say from my experiences with Mr Elliott that he is an excellent local member, and has been a solid performer as a Minister, and who knows? He may be able to pull some strings with the Rural Fire Service Association to have my reader removed from their harassment list.
However I believe the issue of the privacy of telephone records and the harassment of people via the telephone comes under the control of the Federal Communication Minister. This is of course a portfolio that has been in dire straits ever since the Coalition were elected to government and under the guidance of Malcolm Turnbull as Communications Minister destroyed the National Broadband Network that was so desperately required, particularly by those in rural areas who by voting National helped its destroyers into power.
The fact is that a vast array of charity organisations have seen their funding slashed and burned since the Coalition cut their direct funding. This combined with the Coalitions federal funding cuts to the State governments who of course had to apply cuts themselves, having a catastrophic impact on many charities and services such as women’s refuge centres and disability services. This was brought on by a budget deficit that a Coalition government promised to fix but have instead sent it spiralling out of control.
There were measures in place to increase government revenue by making it harder for multi-million dollar corporations to hide funds and avoid tax but unfortunately the Coalition joined forces with the Greens to shut these down and give these profit-shifting millionaires a free pass. Meanwhile the rest of us persevere.
As for the phone calls they will continue as long as these organisations need money, or simply just want more.
Stopping these calls can turn out to be a long process indeed and the manner in which these people obtain your personal details is highly controversial and questionable.
I have some experience in this field having previously worked for a well-known charity that had its own in-house call centre for fundraising and can offer readers some insights into how the system works.
I’ll start with the “Do Not Call” register. This is a register to stop cold sales calls being made to your phone number, and while this may cut down the call volume it will not stop all the calls. The reason for this is that registered charities are exempt from the call register, and as such can phone anybody they like between the hours of 9am and 8pm on weekdays.
The process involved in making the call goes like this, a telesales worker with a computer and a phone connected to a server will have calls automatically connected and the call recipients details displayed on the computer in front of them. The person making the call has no control over who they call it is all computer generated, the sales person however can alter the record to add a “do not call again” note on their computer generated list, however that is not a guarantee of not being called again as call centres often use multiple lists or programmes, in fact they are usually changed every month or so.
For those who wish to get nasty, threatening and abusive it may be wise to remember that your address details are on the callers screen. The US serial killer Ted Bundy once worked in a call centre. I’m just saying…
The way to ensure that you are not called again is not to abuse the caller, or scream or blow a whistle into your mouth piece. This is futile as the volume is automatically controlled by the callers headset to protect their hearing from idiots doing exactly these kinds of things. Instead you will need to ask to be removed from the database by the supervisor.
However you will need to ask the person the name of the company they work for, as most times it will be a call centre that calls on behalf of multiple organisations and removing yourself from one of those charities will have little impact. You will need to ask the supervisor in that case to have your records removed from every database in that firm, and then request that a recording of the call be sent to you via email so that if you receive any more calls from the firm you can then take action. These call centres share the information between clients, so if you are on one charities database and make a donation that will pop on the radar of all the other charities being serviced by that call centre. Every call these centres make is recorded for legal reasons unless you specify that you don’t want the call to be recorded, and you have a right to be given a copy of that recording and there are legal consequences for companies that continue to call after you have requested they don’t.
So how do these places come into possession of your details?
These organisations buy your details from data collection companies. These companies make programmes that can be uploaded into the call centres computers so that automated calls are made and they charge charities a hefty fee for their services. One such company is Data Solutions, and I would suggest if you are getting frequent calls you can start by contacting them and having your name removed from their lists.
These companies purchase your details from the databases of other firms and on-sell them. These databases come from all kinds of sources, your details can be gathered from entering a competition, joining a club, applying for a credit card, registering software, going on a mobile phone plan, buying something from a store, anywhere that your name, address and phone number are collected.
There is big bucks in databases, and firms seeking to boost their profits will look to whatever means they can to keep the shareholders happy.
When you speak to the caller or their supervisor you will need to ask where your number was obtained from so you can contact them, they are legally obliged to provide that information. This will give you the name of the data firm who sold your details, whom you can then contact and asked to be removed from all their lists. However you will need to remember that although this part of the process is immediate, those lists have been provided to organisations who are still using them and as such it is not likely to stop the calls immediately.
My humble suggestion is that if you want to give to a charity do so directly, not as a result of a call.
Patience I’m assured is a virtue, although it’s a virtue many understandably don’t have the patience for.
One thing is for sure this is an area where the government should be toughening up legislation as I’m sure most would agree the on-selling of someone’s personal details is something that should be decided on by the individual concerned rather than someone in a corporate boardroom.
Data mining may not have the environmental impact of coal mining but it is proving itself just as unpopular.
As my phone rings, I think it’s no bloody wonder.