Why "Do Not Call" lists may not stop robocalls

The number of robocalls being dialed out to people’s home phones and cell phones is on the rise, and the F.T.C. says that those prerecorded telemarketing calls are illegal.

Nancy Mieli has been receiving what seems like an onslaught of robocalls. After the unfamiliar area codes involved a series of hang ups, Nancy says the robocalls turned into something more offensive.

"That's when he went into a rant of 4 letter words. And they were very personal and they were directed at me,” she said.

The near-daily calls to Nancy’s cellphone began almost three months ago. The calls come from all over the country, including Boston, New Jersey and even Canada.

According to F.T.C. attorney, William Maxon, millions of robocalls are made every day, all identifying themselves as cardholder services.

"It's a generic name, it's a fairly recognizable name, so we find that it's frequently used,” Maxon added.

The numbers these prerecorded telemarketing calls come from are usually spoofed, or faked.

This month the F.T.C. shut down five different companies using the “cardholder services” scheme based out of Florida and Arizona. The F.T.C. says each operated under four to six different names.

The government said the companies’ claims that they are able to reduce someone’s credit card interest rate for a flat, upfront fee are false, and have cost consumers tens of millions of dollars. Over the past 18 months the F.T.C. says it has seen a spike in the number of robocalls being made across the country.

"Essentially they just load the phone book into their robodialers and they blast the calls out. Some of these dialers just run through numbers sequentially so they'll dial numbers that aren't even real numbers,” said Maxon.

Just like Nancy, more and more people are claiming the company representatives are becoming abusive.

"We've heard of many people that have had bad reactions, they've been yelled at when they ask to be put on 'Do Not Call' lists, which is why we recognize it is an enforcement priority to go after these guys" Maxon said.

The government’s “do not call” list seems to be no protection against robodialers. Nancy, like many others, are on the national list yet they have not seen an end to these disruptive calls. The F.T.C says it is difficult to track down the callers, and is telling people to not press anything on their phones when they receive these calls.

"If you press 2 to say you want to be put on the 'do not call' list, what they'll do is they'll end up selling that information to other companies that just want to know what are phone numbers that work... hang up,” Maxon recommended.

The best way to protect a phone number is to be careful about which companies and websites a person gives it to. Maxon’s advice is to file a complaint with the F.T.C. if and when someone receives a robocall.

In addition to the national “do not call” list, states like Indiana have their own list. Both the national and state lists may help fight unwanted robocalls and telemarketers.

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