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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.

Di Natale gives an indication of how much credibility the party he leads has left Image - News Ltd

Di Natale gives an indication of how much credibility the party he leads has left
Image – News Ltd

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.



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17 thoughts on “Telephone Line – Ridding Yourself Of Unsolicited Calls

  1. “Hello”you have reached the home of “enter name here”

    I`m sorry we`re not,”hey hunny is this where this goes!”

    Just leave your “how the friggin hell do you work this”

    And I`ll return your “fuck this I can`t make it go” CLICK Bzzzzzzz

  2. Timely post Post Pete. I have been receiving on average 1 call a day from various charities plus the odd bogus ‘microsoft error’ and a damn annoying chinese pharmacy company.
    Although I pay a fee to have my landline number silent, is not stopping the charities and miscellaneous types.

  3. good advice Peter.

    i recently had an issue with an organisation which i later found out was POSING AS A CHARITY – Countrywide Austral Pty Ltd (ABN 83 146 901 797) “acting on behalf of” the AFP Association.

    they called and asked for a donation of AUD400 + gst … so i donated a total of AUD440 and received the following email – to confirm and agree to the donation.

    Hi Owen

    To confirm your support for the Australian Federal Police Association, please reply with the words “I agree” and send back. Thank you.

    Matthew Howe


    good afternoon Matt.

    conditionally, i agree

    my conditions:
    1) you have agreed to not send books and promotional material.
    2) my agreement is conditional upon my details not being shared with any other service providers, marketing organisations or entities.

    this donation is for the purpose of supporting the families of AFP officers
    … in the hope that if the revolution comes – and the police are forced to choose a side – the AFP officers and their families choose to defend and support the rights of their community.

    if you are unable to abide by these conditions i would be happy to look at other avenues where i can support the families of AFP officers via another channel.



    so can you imagine my disgust when less than 4 months later, i receive a call from another “charity” and when i asked where they got my number they tell me that it was obtained from the donation i made to the AFP Association !!!

    i since twice emailed both the original contact (Matt) and the advertised contact at Countrywide Austral Pty Ltd and have not received a reply (first email sent 12 Feb 2016, second email 17 Feb 2016).

    i called the Charity Ombudsman in VIC (as this is the registered address of Countrywide Austral Pty Ltd) only to be told i had better contact the ACCC as Countrywide Austral Pty Ltd is not actually a charity and therefore there is nothing they could do to assist.

    when i called the ACCC they said sorry, cant help … maybe try Office of the Australian Information Commissioner … who i have not yet contacted due to loss of hope … disappointment … and wondering how much time and effort i was to spend for no result.

    no i imagine that if i were to breach terms and conditions of any agreement i made with a PTY LTD, that i would hear pretty quickly that legal proceedings had commenced and that i had better make good or fact the consequences.
    however, our good friends at Countrywide Austral Pty Ltd are not making any offers … or indeed any attempts to contact me and explain what exactly is going on.

    leaves a bittier taste in my mouth … especially as i was asked to donate $400 – which is no trifle … and the conditions of my agreement were ha;f met (i didnt receive the books and promotional material) … it was just the bit about pls dont share my details that they failed to adhere to.

    so beware … there are “charities” and there are charities … and there are “agreements” and there are agreements … and there are plenty of unscrupulous operators who will fail in their duty to you – even when you have an agreement in place.

    Countrywide Austral Pty Ltd has don ALL charitable organisations a MASSIVE DISSERVICE.
    SHAME JOB >> Countrywide Austral Pty Ltd

  4. What do I do with all the greetings cards, calendars etc that come unsolicited through the post. At one time I used to purchase the items but the flow is increasing and now from multiple sources. Right now there is a small stack on the hall table that ought to returned to sender. However I am now questioning why I should be held responsible for returning unsolicited goods. Maybe I should just make use of them or would that be illegal?
    I feel there is some form of emotional blackmail at work here.

  5. I’m on the Do Not Call register but it’s a waste of time really. I now leave my landline unplugged (use it for my computer only) and from now on will give that number to charities I choose to donate to – “never” following a phone call.
    My friends have learned to use my mobile for calls and that’s what I give to people I want to talk to. The odd junk call gets through but I can block future calls – which I can’t do on my relatively old landline phone.

    Re unsolicited goods … I wouldn’t use them as it’s a form of advertising for them, e.g. if you send a card with their name on it. Put everything in the bin, recycle if possible.
    a) who’s to say the post ever got through?
    b) it is absolutely definitely emotional blackmail!

    A tangential issue – door-to-door sales people. I’ve got one of those Do Not Knock If …. signs by my doorbell. It is sometimes ignored. One occasion took the cake. I pointed to the sign and the stupid man produced a ream of paper from his pocket and started angrily telling me my sign has no standing in law blah blah blah. He was still talking as I shut the door. Did he really think that would make me buy something? Crazy lunatic.

  6. I use this script on my answering machine.

    “Hello. You have reached 08-91231234.

    If you are a telemarketer, or are conducting a survey, please take this number off your list.

    All other callers, please leave a message after the beep.”

    Over time, it eliminated the telemarketer calls.

  7. apologies for the numerous typos in my post (above) … my rambling is difficult enough to follow without missing letters and mis-spelt words.

  8. Could I speak to the owner ? Me : No , I have just broken into this house and are busy robbing the place , so don’t ring back .

  9. A telemarketer phoned me on my mobile a few years ago whilst I was at work. I told him I couldn’t talk as I was working. This person, with an Indian accent phoned me for a month at the same time every day. Sometimes not speaking, but I could hear the other marketers in the background. There was nothing I could do. I had no influx out where he was calling from or what company. We have now unplugged our landline. Now everyone we know contacts us via mobiles. What annoys me is now when you make a purchase in a shop they ask for your phone number and/or email. I know full well this will be sold to data collection agencies. I give them my landline as it’s not used. I know others that just give a random number, so some other poor person will be added to the data base unknowingly. I also have a Do not knock sign on my door. Mostly it is respected. Occasionally a sales person will knock. I refuse to answer the door.

  10. I usually either just say “fuck off” and hang up or “I’ll only donate to your charity if you donate the same to mine” or “give me your home number so I can ring you and talk about it………no?……….then fuck off”

    Either of the 3 seems to work for me. They don’t ring again for several months.

    A similar thing works for door knockers as well.
    They never seem to want to give their own address……wonder why……

  11. Vicki when I was a whippersnapper and could barely read, I responded to a Readers Digest thingo. My parents refused to pay up

    Net result, Readers Digest can’t enter a contract with a 7 year old. No obligation to return unsolicited goods. I never return unsolicited goods, I shamelessly send out their Christmas cards etc, if the charity doesn’t manage their fund raising arm, not my problem.

    Truthfully I was suspicious to receive fund raising material from an indigeneous charity with a very white face as the fundraiser

  12. Anne Williams when I am asked for my phone number and email in situations where I don’t want to build an ongoing relationship with the vendor/retailer I just make a mistake in the my email or phone number.

    I currently have the land line unplugged to stop the unmanned phone calls that started at 6:50 am on a Sunday morning and were repeated at 10 minute intervals

  13. What a can o’ worms, Pete. You’ve cleared up some puzzling questions for me though.

  14. Another scam is the caller who claims that it isn’t a sales call but just a survey. It seems they pass those “survey” results onto others to follow up with sales calls.

    I use Calling Line Identification to help screen unwanted calls. They are usually easy to spot – either “Private Number”, “Overseas” or otherwise recognisable as being previous callers.

    I do support various charities but it should be my choice of who, how and when.

  15. When it is a telemarketer asking for you by name or the person in charge, why not just say “Hold the line please”, then put the phone down and wait till they hang up. You could even play some nice music for them…lol. It’s their call cost and time.

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