When ‘Do Not Call’ Doesn’t Stop the Telemarketers

ABC News Fixer shares tips for dealing with unending robocalls.

January 15, 2015, 3:34 PM
PHOTO: A telephone
Mortgage Investors Corp. has been slapped with a $7.5 million civil penalty for allegedly violating Do Not Call provisions of the FTC.
Paul Velgos/Getty Images

&#151; -- Dear ABC News Fixer: After receiving some telemarketing calls to my home phone, I went on DoNotCall.gov and registered both my home and cell phone numbers. Within a few weeks, I started receiving more telemarketing calls, to both phones.

When I attempted to call these numbers back, they were all disconnected.

Most of these calls are recorded messages. Some give an option to press “1” and speak with a representative. When I ask them to remove me from their list, they hang up on me and keep calling.

I filed complaints on DoNotCall.gov, but there is a disclaimer that not every person who complains will receive a response. Do they read the complaints?

And how do I get the telemarketers to stop calling?

- Danette Ellsworth, California

Dear Danette: You were on the right track in registering your numbers – though as you’ve learned, signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry won’t stop those who are determined to commit fraud over the phone.

We showed your letter to the Federal Trade Commission, which maintains the registry. An FTC spokesman told us the increase in calls most likely occurred because you got on a bogus info broker’s list -- not because you registered your numbers on DoNotCall.gov.

Legitimate telemarketers who purchase the federal registry pay for that information in order to comply with the law. It’s not likely that someone who was out to commit fraud would risk buying the registry, since that would put them on the government’s radar, the spokesman said.

If you press “1” to speak to a representative, or otherwise engage these telemarketers, you’re signaling to them that your number works. Then they sell your information to other scammers, since they know there’s a real person – you -- at that number.

A better strategy would be to ignore these calls altogether.

If they are pre-recorded “robocalls” trying to sell you something, they are illegal under federal law.

Let these telemarketers go into your voice mail. You probably already know this, but scammers can spoof the number or name that shows up on caller ID, making it hard to know who’s calling. If it’s an important – and legitimate – call, the business will leave a message.

To avoid getting on a scam calling list, be careful with your personal information. Try not to give your phone number online and beware of sweepstakes entries that ask for your phone numbers.

As for your complaints to the FTC, keep on complaining. That’s how they build cases, though it’s true that they can’t respond to each consumer. Complaints are entered into the Consumer Sentinel database for use in analyzing patterns and bringing cases, the FTC spokesman said: “They don’t go into a black hole.”

Since the Do Not Call Registry was started in 2003, the feds have brought more than 100 cases and obtained civil penalties totaling $130 million, the spokesman said.

Many people find that signing up with the National Do Not Call Registry cuts down on unwanted calls, at least the ones from legitimate sources. There are some exceptions, though. Political organizations, charities and telephone surveyors aren’t prohibited from making calls; nor are companies with which you already have a business relationship, unless you explicitly tell them to stop.

- The ABC News Fixer

Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.

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