Columbia Star


Why are we getting more telephone nuisance calls?



Indeed, even with a federal “do not call” registry, people certainly are being disturbed more frequently by robocalls, those annoying recorded messages offering a free vacation or some such nonsense.

That’s because internet powered phone systems have made it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal calls from anywhere in the world. They can hide from law enforcement by displaying fake caller ID information. To date, the FTC has brought more than 100 lawsuits against over 600 companies and individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls and other “Do Not Call” violations. It is also encouraging industry efforts to combat the caller ID spoofing that hides caller identity.

The FTC began its DNC registry in 2003 to give consumers a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls, but clever manipulators nevertheless are managing to generate unwanted calls.

“The DNC registry still is very successful in preventing unwanted telemarketing calls that come from legitimate telemarketers,” said Janice Kopec, an attorney with the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection.

“I know it’s hard to believe, but if you weren’t on the DNC registry you would actually be getting more unwanted calls than you are currently getting.”

Some 230 million phone numbers are on the registry. If you have not already done so, register by going online to

Companies caught calling people on the registry face a $40,000 fine per violation and possible prosecution. As to why people on the registry are still getting calls, Kopec says it’s because companies are increasingly willing to break the law to get access to consumers.

“We’ve seen more and more unlawful actors who don’t care about complying with the law blasting unlawful calls,” she said. “Those are the folks we really do try to target and go after in our law enforcement actions.”

So what do you do to block callers who ignore the law? After signing up for the registry, the FTC recommends you explore call blocking features. CTIA, a trade organization representing mobile phone companies, recommends consumers download reputable tools and apps.

Companies like Verizon and AT&T offer call blocking features. AT&T reports it has blocked its billionth unwanted robocall using a new program that detects violators. Verizon says its service called “Caller Name ID” has a “risk meter” for Android phone users showing the likelihood of fraud.

After you’ve done all you can do to prevent and block calls, the FTC asks consumers to limit interaction with callers while gathering enough information to report them through the FTC’s Do Not Call registry website.

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