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Matt:

My phone is listed on the do-not-call registry. Yet it seems that every candidate for the 50th Congressional seat has called my house to urge me to vote for them. Okay, I think it was probably a recording, but nonetheless, shouldn't I be protected from this form of unwanted campaigning?

- Keith W. Turner, Rancho Bernardo

Oh, Keith, you must be one of those free spirits who actually believes that life is fair and laws are made to protect us. Got to admit, the DNC registry comes close. But consider also that the state has some strict laws about public or commercial access to DMV records, yet we still get a ton of postal political huckstering at election time that comes straight from that database. So what's the common thread here? Where's the loophole you could drive a campaign train through? Politicians. The people who made the laws in the first place. True, your local representative is more than happy to claim that he/she helped pass the state and national laws that keep people from autodialing you at dinnertime to sell chimney-cleaning or annuities. But why would they intentionally bar themselves from calling you at election time? They were careful to make Vote-for-Me telepleas exceptions to the Do Not Call laws.

Other exceptions are calls from charities, though these days no legit charity solicits phone donors; surveys are also exempt, unless they include a marketing pitch. The trickiest exemption is the one for businesses with which you have established a relationship. Buy a product and somehow reveal your name and phone number to the maker? They can legally make solicitation calls for the next 18 months. Call a business to make some kind of inquiry or fill out a job ap? They've got you for the next three months. Beware those TV ads that ask you to call their 800 number for more information.

Your last-ditch protection as a consumer is to tell the caller that you want to be put on the company's do-not-call list. (You need to be that specific; a hang-up or Buzz off!� won't work.) Once that's done, even if the dialers fall under one of the exceptions, they can't call you again without being fined. Of course, you can't bark orders at a recording, so it's up to you to find the phone number for the solicitor, call them, climb through the phone tree, and get a real person to talk to. Don't rely on the number that's displayed on your caller ID. Many telemarketers have systems that can disguise their business numbers on outgoing calls. Oh, one more caveat. The federal registry protects your phone number for only five years. You have to re-up after that. Check your status through the FCC's DNC website, donotcall.gov.

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