The ‘Do Not Call’ list isn’t (really) working anymore

Credit: Adrianna Calvo / MGN

WASHINGTON (WFLA) — Have you noticed you’re getting a ton of spam phone calls lately – even though you’re on the “Do Not Call” list? Here’s why: It’s become really easy for criminal telephone spammers to evade U.S. law enforcement, thanks to a gaping hole in the Do Not Call list.

“Rachel from card services” is one of the most commonly complained about calls. “Rachel” is a human-like robot, who wants your money.

“A couple of years ago the scammers did not sound like Rachel from card services. They sounded like people that were scamming you,” says Attorney Bill Howard, who prosecutes businesses that violate Do Not Call.

Howard says the scam’s easier than ever to pull off with a laptop and automatic dialing machines that use voice-over-internet phone systems.

“I can literally call one million people a day using an auto-dialer that costs me about $900,” says Howard.

Scammers evade the Do Not Call list by sending a bogus number to caller IDs, known as spoofing, and hiding the source. A lot of the calls originate from other countries, out of the reach of US Law Enforcement.  It’s gotten so bad, the government convened a “Robocall Strike Force” of companies working toward solutions – but its first detailed plan of action isn’t scheduled to be released on October 19th.

What can you do now?

  • Howard says a lot of scammers are third parties hired by legit companies. Threaten them. Howard says, tell them you’re calling the FBI – and then do it.
  • The FCC says don’t answer a call from a number you don’t know. If you accidentally answer, don’t hit numbers. That lets the robot know a human answered.
  • Register landlines with the FCC approved website Nomorobo to screen incoming numbers against a database of known spammers. Nomorobo is available for Androids and iPhones with iOS10 – but there’s a waiting list.
  • There are a number of apps that you can download to your phone, but they only work with known spam phone numbers and are unlikely to catch the majority of the robocalls from coming through.

In addition to the Robocall Strike Force, the Internet Engineering Task Force is working on a solution. The group of engineers is, among other things, working with communications companies to find a new way to verify the source of voice-over-internet calls and catch the spoofed numbers.

One other note – political calls are excluded from Do Not Call rules. When you register or re-register to vote, don’t give your contact information. Only your street address is required by law.

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