There was a time when a phone number was only a couple of digits and maybe a letter or two. Later, we became accustomed to dialing seven digits for a local call -- we only dialed the area code if we were placing a long distance call. Most recently, we've adjusted to dialing 10 digits to make a local call to someone across town. Now that 10-digit dialing is commonplace in many cities across the nation, including Atlanta, here are some tips to remember:
- An area code is part of your telephone number, rather than an extension of it. Remember to give it to people asking for your number.
- Don't forget to verify area codes of friends and family.
- Just add 10-digit telephone numbers to the list of multi-digit numbers, like your driver's license and Social Security number, that you already memorize and recite almost daily.
- If possible, program phones to automatically dial 10-digit numbers if you think you'll have trouble remembering the full number.
- Reprogram automatic dialing devices to recognize 10-digit phone numbers.
- With an overlay, there's not a question about how many digits to dial. Simply dial 10 digits.
- Read your phone bill carefully. Look for discrepancies in billing and company names. Question curious charges -- call the company. If your questions are not answered contact the Public Service Commission.
- Know the name of your long distance company. When in doubt, call your local phone company to find out who it is.
- Call your local phone company and request a PIC freeze to prevent slamming - the unauthorized change of your long distance carrier.
- Consider Per line and Per Call Blocking to prevent the distribution of your name and phone number over Caller ID units. Contact your local phone company and ask them to explain the service and associated Anonymous Caller Rejection Services.
- Inquire about special calling plans which may be available to reduce costs. Enroll in a plan that meets your needs.
- Stop unwanted telemarketing calls by removing your name from calling lists. The Direct Marketing Association has information on how to remove your name from various telephone, mailing, and email lists. There is a $5 charge to register online, and registration is free if you do it by mail.
- You may get on the Georgia No Call List free by registering with the Federal Do Not Call Registry at 1-888-382-1222 or TTY 1-866-290-4236, toll-free. You must call from the telephone number you wish to register. You may register online at www.donotcall.gov.
- Block 900-number calls for free. Your local telephone company provides this service, if available in your area.
- Save money at payphones. Ask your long distance carrier about an access code or a toll-free number to reach their operators. This will help ensure your calls will be billed at your carrier's rates, instead of possibly higher rates charged by payphone providers.
- Stop unsolicited faxes. Report receipt of unsolicited faxes to your local telephone carrier by giving them the name and telephone number located on the fax.
- Know the statement date of your bill. If you have not paid 45 days after your statement date, you may be disconnected.
- Mail your bill 3 or 4 days before the due date so it will arrive on time. It is important to have a good payment history.
- Get your deposit back. If you pay your bill on time 24 months in a row, your deposit will be returned with interest.
- Ask for an energy audit. These are usually offered by your utility for free.
- Learn to read your meter. This helps you learn how many kilowatts you use daily so you can recognize a meter problem.
- Have your meter tested by your utility. You are entitled to a free meter test.
- Ask your utility about budget billing programs. You can apply for this program that offers a set payment every month if you have a good payment history.
- Expect to pay different rates in the summer and winter. Your utility can provide this information.
- Don't get disconnected. Getting reconnected is costly. Your utility can require you to pay the past due balance, a reconnection fee and a deposit before reconnection.
- You must pay your electric bill. Regardless of your financial or medical situation, your utility will eventually disconnect you if you do not pay your bill. If you can't pay your bill in full or on time, contact your utility or the Public Service Commission before your bill is due.