April 12. 2013 1:03AM

NH tops on 'Do Not Call' Registry

New Hampshire Union Leader

CONCORD - New Hampshire leads the nation in phone numbers per capita on the Do Not Call Registry, according to state securities regulators. Since its inception in 2003, approximately 1.1 million New Hampshire telephone numbers have been placed on the registry, from a state with a population of 1.3 million.

The state ranks 11th in the number of yearly do-not-call complaints per capita with the Federal Trade Commission, according to research by the Bureau of Securities Regulation in preparing its case for a $3 million fine against Edward Jones investment advisors (Click for story).

"These statistics are a clear indication that New Hampshire residents generally prefer not to be contacted for telemarketing purposes," said Jeff Spill, deputy director of the bureau.

The bureau just closed a case involving Spartan Capital Securities for calls made from New York City, and has other cases in the pipeline.

"There will be a series of cases we are going to bring to address this problem," said Spill, "to get the message out there that this type of marketing is not going to be tolerated."

Spartan agreed to pay $35,000 in fines for telemarketing violations in January 2012, and was fined another $40,000 on April 4 for failing to comply with all the terms of the 2012 agreement.

Elderly and disabled

Inappropriate telemarketing by investment advisors is of particular concern, Spill said.

"Generally, this is not the type of marketing that lends itself to the kind of relationship you want to build with a securities professional."

Spill said the elderly and disabled are particularly vulnerable. According to the bureau petition against Edward Jones, "The Federal Communications Commission has explained that telemarketing has the most significant impact on the elderly and the disabled, as these groups are often the most accessible to telemarketers and are often the most susceptible to deceptive sales practices."

As the Do Not Call Registry celebrates its 10th anniversary, Adrian LaRochelle, another attorney in the securities bureau, said it's important to remember the reason it was created by the Federal Trade Commission.

"The idea was not that these calls were petty annoyances," he said, "but it was really affecting peoples' daily lives. The FTC explained during the process of getting the legislation approved that people were actually unplugging their phones during certain times of the day."

Cell phones, too

At first, the registry was needed primarily to protect against calls to conventional landlines, but cell phones can now be registered as well. Telemarketers, which had more difficulty obtaining working cell phone numbers 10 years ago, now get that information from a variety of sources, LaRochelle said.

Reward cards offered by retailers and linked to your cell phone number are a prime source. Registration on social media sites also often requires a working phone number, which can be resold. "These wireless numbers, although not included in any phone directory, have become available to telemarketers," he said.

The practice is not illegal because consumers, often unwittingly, authorize the sale of their personal information by not paying close attention to the "terms of service" they agree to. Checking or unchecking the right box in an online registration process can make the difference, LaRochelle said.

Even if a consumer has unwittingly given a company the right to call them, they can always request to be placed on the company-specific Do Not Call list when the first call comes through.

"Individuals should know that registering their cell phone number with Do Not Call has the same effect as a home number," he said.