Invasion of the Non-Profits

16 Feb

A number of years ago we started getting phone calls from a “heavy breather” just like that old cliché.  They were frequent & in the beginning I thought it was someone having an asthma attack calling because they knew I was a nurse & might be able to help them. That theory was debunked in no time when the heavy breathing escalated to foul language & some unattractive name calling that simply didn’t apply to anyone in our house. So we changed the number & had the new one non-listed & non-published. The heavy breather moved on to another victim or possibly the hospital, depending on what his original intent / diagnosis was.

For the longest time we enjoyed a peaceful coexistence with our land line phone. When it rang we knew it was someone we’d given the new number to or, on occasion, a wrong number. We were blissfully ignorant of what was to come.

With more & more frequency we’ve been getting solicitations on the phone for donations from non-profits. We put ourselves on the “National Don’t Call List.” We have an answering machine. We simply don’t answer when we see a number from out of the area or one that comes up on our caller ID as “UNAVAILABLE.”

It became so annoying that I did a little research & found out just what was going on.

We can put ourselves on the “National Don’t Call List” every day all day long, which will stop some annoying calls but will NOT stop non-profits from reaching us by phone. Non-profits are exempt from anything that prohibits our phone number from being called. I REALLY have a problem with that.

After a call several months ago that Willy answered, he checked on the non-profit that supposedly was soliciting donations for veterans welfare. The non-profit existed but there were numerous complaints against them. When they called back, he told them that. Almost as though he had put fire to their feet or at least their dialing fingers, their phone calls became more frequent even after Willy asked to be removed from their call list. They called Thursday AND Friday last week & Willy, a gentle man by nature, became firm & almost ugly about removing us from their call list. We’ll see how that works out for us.

I have a different approach. I tell the caller that we pay for an unlisted number because we want our PRIVACY, yet their call comes up on our caller ID as UNAVAILABLE … giving THEM the privacy WE’RE paying for. I’m not nice from the get-go & some have stopped calling, while others persist. Willy says I’m so ugly to them he almost feels sorry for them. I hate being ugly to anyone but I’m at the end of my rope as we get no less than 3 of these calls EVERY DAY.

Willy & I support many non-profits & make donations to specific ones each year although we can’t donate to EVERY one, but it would be nice if we could. But we definitely do NOT make any donations over the phone. We’ve seen too many commercials where older, trusting people get scammed out of their pensions just by thinking they’re helping someone in need. We’re practicing caution for our elder years.

As we have begun getting these calls as early as 8 a.m. & as late as 9:30 p.m. I’ve developed a system. When an UNAVAILABLE number, especially one from out of our area code comes up on our caller ID, I answer the phone in my best “machine voice” & say, “If your call comes up on our caller ID as UNAVAILABLE we will not answer the phone. Thank you.” I actually think that may be working a little because we seem to be getting a tad less unwanted calls. The down side is I did that recently shortly after ordering flowers for a favorite aunt for her birthday. The florist called me back with a question using an unfamiliar UNAVAILABLE number & I gave my best “answering machine” voice response &, as a result & the following confusion, they canceled my flower order. When I realized the number was actually familiar I called it back & straightened out the birthday flower mess. This should never have happened.

I told the non-profit guy who called last night at 9:15 p.m. that I am president of a non-profit (our science fiction club) & that we canvas for donations but we NEVER contact people in their homes during non-business hours. I told him non-profits are invading our privacy & to remove us from his call list. He not only agreed to do that but gave me a numerical code to use to block any further calls from them. He said it wouldn’t stop other non-profits but it would stop THEIRS.  We’ll see.

The thing is, we shouldn’t have to put up with these annoying calls when we’re trying to sleep or work from home or watch a favorite television show. If we pay extra on a monthly basis for an unpublished number, that number should not be available to ANYONE & should not be randomly called from a computer. Non-profits should NOT be exempt from this. I wish I had an answer to this dilemma because I know thousands of us would benefit from it.

Probably the most successful solution I’ve heard of was from a nurse friend who frequently is “on call” at the hospital & often sleeps during the day. When the phone rings & it’s a non-profit asking for her husband, she simply says, I’m sorry, he died last month.”  If they ask for her she says, I’m the housekeeper &, I’m sorry, she died last week.” Surprisingly, this seems to work for her.

It’s a shame & seems extreme, to say the least, to have to fake your own death to get the non-profits to stop calling your land line. Lots of people I know have had their land line phones removed from service & use their cell phones exclusively to get their privacy back. The phone companies should take notice … they are losing business because of non-profits & the sooner they realize that, something just might be done. For businesses, losing money is the match that ignites the rocket.

Exclusive cell phone use will work for our cell phone dependent friends for a while but I’m betting the non-profits will find them eventually & their cell phones will be sitting in the charger with a lot more frequency. We’re already getting advertisements on our cell phones…Sigh.

For now, if you call & get my real made up “machine message” that’s actually me faking it or a strange message related to our untimely demise, please … just send me an email.



8 Responses to “Invasion of the Non-Profits”

  1. monkeys22013 February 16, 2014 at 1:52 pm #

    This happens to us ALL THE TIME..enjoyed your spin on always so very funny Linda


    • heimdalco February 16, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

      Thank you, Leslie. It really has gotten annoying to the point of needing to write about it. Sorry it happens to you guys, too, but at least we aren’t alone.


  2. murrday February 16, 2014 at 2:29 pm #

    Part of the problem is, many nonprofits sell or trade/swap their list of donors to other nonprofits. For example, the Red Cross does this. That’s why I no longer donate through them. But that practice explains why you can be getting calls from nonprofits that you never signed up for.

    “According to the Charity Navigator survey, the Massachusetts Audubon Society, OxFam, the American Red Cross, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and the American Civil Liberties Union all require donors to opt out if they don’t want their information shared with other groups.” Full article at: Those groups also do not make it obvious that you need to opt out, because they want to keep your information, for its marketability.

    This is why it’s useful to use Charity Navigator, and then only donate to groups with a solid privacy policy in place, for both online and surface mail donations.

    I’m sorry that this is not better news. However, it’s necessary to know what’s going on, in order to change who we donate to, to counteract this.


    • heimdalco February 16, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

      Thank you SO much for this info. I will read the article & see what we can do. Willy said he was CERTAIN someone sold his info or shared it because we have never heard of some of these people. I KNOW they have to make money & getting donations isn’t easy (our club struggles every year to get auction donations) but those donations should not come at the price of what I consider invasion of our privacy. I appreciate your reply so much.Thank you again.


  3. Betty Hudson February 16, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    I just hang up without saying anything.

    Sent from my iPhone



    • Willy S. February 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm #

      Oh, hanging up would be too easy for Linda. Sometimes I could swear I hear the people crying to be let off the phone. Probably my imagination …


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