By now, many of us — fed up with incessant and unwanted telemarketing calls — have put our phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. The federal database was started in 2003 following the passage of the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act of 2003, which requires certain callers — largely those making sales calls to personal phone lines — to refrain from calling the individuals on the list.
As of late 2017, the registry contained nearly 230 million registered phone numbers. So what do you do if your number is among those on the list (and has been there for the duration of the 31-day grace period), but you’re still getting unwanted calls from telemarketers? Consider these next steps:
- When you get illegal sales calls, simply hang up. Interacting in any way with the illegal call — whether it’s speaking with a live caller or pressing a button on your phone in hopes of reaching a live person during a robocall — could let the illegal caller know you’re there and responsive, potentially leading to additional calls. Be sure not provide any personal info as illegal callers are often scammers.
- File a complaint. You can report the illegal call to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting donotcall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222. You’ll be asked to provide your phone number, the time you received the unwanted call and whether the call was a recorded robocall, along with any information about the caller you can provide, such as the number that called and the name of the company calling, if available.
- Be patient. Due to the volume of reports received, the Federal Trade Commission cannot directly respond to every complaint. But when enough people file complaints regarding a particular violator, investigators can spot trends — then identify the parties responsible for the illegal calls and take legal action. So far, the agency has filed lawsuits against hundreds of companies and individuals found responsible for placing unwanted calls, leading to over a billion dollars in judgments against offenders. (Violations are punishable by fines of up to $41,484 per call.)
- Look into call blocking. If you get repeated calls from the same unwanted caller, consider blocking the number on your phone utilizing FTC’s Call Screening Reject, which is a $3 monthly charge. Or, with FTC’s Telemarketer Interceptor service, you can block telemarketer calls while sending a message to the telemarketer that you do not accept such calls. If the caller is not a telemarketer, he or she is offered an option of dialing 8 to complete the call. The service is available for $1.50 a month — call 888-218-5050 to activate or to learn more.
- Get AT&T Call Protect. This app, which can be activated for free by FTC postpaid subscribers who have iPhones with support for HD Voice, automatically blocks calls from numbers flagged as “fraudulent.” Customers can manually block specific numbers for a period of 30 days and, if spam calls get through, recipients are notified with an in-call popup from which they can accept or deny the call. The AT&T Call Protect app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.
Looking to put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry?
Visit donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 to register your home or mobile line for free.
Exceptions to the rule
Certain types of unsolicited calls are still permitted even when you’ve put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Note the following exceptions to the Do Not Call rules:
- Only personal phone numbers can be listed on the registry, so the call limitations don’t apply to calling business lines or to making business-to-business calls.
- Political organizations can still call numbers listed on the registry, as can nonprofit organizations and those conducting telephone surveys.
- Unless specifically asked not to do so, a company may call a person on the Do Not Call list for up to 31 days after he or she has submitted an application or inquiry to that company.
- Bill collectors can still make calls to numbers on the Do Not Call list, although other laws place certain restrictions on such calls, such as limiting them to “reasonable hours” and limiting calls to those who have filed for bankruptcy.