VERIFY: Why do numbers on the Do Not Call registry still get robocalls?

How can you protect yourself from robocalls?

QUESTION:

Why do registered Do Not Call numbers still receive scam robocalls?

ANSWER:

Because the FTC's National Do Not Call Registry was made to stop legitimate sellers from legitimate companies. Robocalls notoriously come from scammers who disregard the Do Not Call list and often commit fraud.

SOURCES:

Janice Kopec- Attorney in the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection

Patrick Webre- Acting Chief of the Federal Communication Commission's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau

PROCESS:

Since the genesis of Verify, we've received dozens of emails, messages and phone calls about those automated intrusions notoriously dubbed 'robocalls.' 

It's a snapshot of a national pattern: since the Registry started in 2003, the amount of registered phone numbers has grown 450 percent to more than 226 million, according to the Federal Trade Commissions's National Do Not Call Registry Data Book FY2016.

In that same time, there's been nearly 31 million complaints, over 5 million between October 2015 and September 2016.

The District has the second highest enrollment in the Do Not Call list--90 percent of D.C. numbers are registered--but over 20,000 complaints were filed in FY2016.

You wanted to know, so we verified: Can I still get robocalls if I'm registered on the National Do Not Call Registry?

Turns out the answers simple: the National Do Not Call Registry does not block illegal robocalls.

"The Do Not Call list is very effective at preventing calls from legitimate companies using legitimate telemarketers," Janice Kopec, attorney for the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said.

Kopec says the list does not block calls from shady companies using advanced technologies like internet phones, VOIP phone lines, automatic dialing and ID spoofing.

"All robocalls that are a sales robocall...trying to get you to buy a good or a service is illegal unless you gave that caller specific permission to call you ahead of time," Kopec said.

The Federal Trade Commission, the agency responsible for protecting America's consumers, works in tandem with The Federal Communications Commission to scale back telefraud and litigate criminals. 

Patrick Webre heads up the FCC's Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau and says robocallers don't even look at the numbers registered on the Do Not Call list. 

"They don't abide by that...they don't even check the list," Webre said. "In most cases they'll try to call as many people as they can...so that they can steal as much money as they can.

He says robocallers blast 2.6 billion messages every month. To put that into perspective, there's about 323.1 million people in America--so that's like calling everyone in America eight times--including infants. 

But bigger than their pervasiveness, Webre says Robocallers are getting smarter using caller IDs that mimic your own.

"It's called neighborhood spoofing, so instead of calling from a number you don't recognize that you'd probably be a little suspicious about, they'll call you from a number that looks very similar to your own number," Webre said. "That will maybe, in a split second, make you pick up whereas before you would have questioned." 

Three tips of advice Kopec and Webre stress: Register your number on the Do Not Call List to cut down on at least some telemarketing calls (not robocalls), file a complaint with the FTC or FCC, and contact your phone carriers about setting up call-blocking services.

There's also an app the agencies recommended called 'Nomorobo.' It costs $1.99 per month per mobile line, to get the piece of mind of a robo-less night.

We asked more of your Verify questions to both Kopec and Webre. Enjoy our Verify extended edition:

Part 1: What makes a robocall illegal?  How do you decide which complaints to pursue? Will a federal agency ever call you for money? 

 

Part 2:  Do you ever give money to people who have been scammed? What's one new thing you're working on to stop robocalls? Besides the National Do Not Call Registry, how else can I stop unwanted calls?

 

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© 2017 WUSA-TV


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