INDIANAPOLIS -- Being on the Do Not Call list may stop some scammers from calling your phone, but it doesn't stop them all.
Many Hoosiers report unwanted phone calls are out of control, and the problem has gotten worse, even after signing up for the Do Not Call list.
Mark Smith, a retired farmer living in Fairmount, said he just wants to enjoy some peace and quiet, but his phone keeps ringing with pesky unwanted calls.
“Oh, for crying out loud,” said Smith. “I can’t go one day without getting a call!”
Smith says he is already on the Do Not Call list.
“It doesn’t do any good,” said Smith.
Brian Danser of Gas City also contacted Call 6 Investigates because he’s fed up with the constant calls.
“It will be one or two phone calls a day,” said Danser.
The scammers often say they’re with the IRS, they want to offer him a free vacation, or they say it’s ‘card services’ with an issue about his credit card.
“I don’t have a credit card, so I know that’s a spoof call,” said Danser, who is also on the Do Not Call list.
The Indiana Attorney General’s office reports an 11% increase in complaints about unwanted phone calls since 2015.
The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the federal Do Not Call list, has seen a nearly 50% increase in complaints about Do Not Call violations and robocalls since 2015.
In 2015, the agency received 3.5 million complaints, and in 2016 took 5.3 million complaints, according to data obtained by Call 6 Investigates.
Hoosiers like Brian Danser say blocking the numbers doesn't even work because scammers can just call back from a different phone number.
“It’s nothing but a headache,” said Danser.
Hoosiers say Do Not Call is failing miserably at stopping unwanted phone calls, and the number of calls is just getting worse.
Call 6 Investigates did some checking and found both the Indiana and federal Do Not Call lists date back to the early 2000s before iPhones were invented and many people were still using landlines exclusively.
Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney sat down with Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill whose office oversees the state's Do Not Call registry.
“The Do Not Call list works for the vast majority of companies who are willing to abide by the law,” said Hill. “The reason you’re getting calls is because you have a certain number of callers if you will who are freely willing to violate the standards.”
Hill said cheap technology makes it easier than ever for criminals to spoof numbers and spam you, and thousands of others.
But he says the Do Not Call system does work, just not as well as you'd like it to.
“How many calls are you NOT getting?” said Hill. “It's difficult to say how many calls you would get if you hadn't signed up for the do not call list."
Hill wants people still receiving unwanted calls to call his office with as much information as possible about the scam call.
“If it’s a company we can reach and identify, that makes it easier for us to move forward with enforcement,” said Hill.
INDIANA ATTORNEY GENERAL’S OFFICE ACTIONS AGAINST DO NOT CALL VIOLATORS
Do Not Call Complaints in 2015: 14,326
- In 2015, the AG’s office filed 6 actions against violators
- The office settled or obtained judgment in 12 cases
- The state entered into settlements or obtained judgment totaling $665,840
- The state collected $136,500 (not including sales of the Do Not Call list)
Do Not Call Complaints in 2016: 15,883
- In 2016, the state filed 5 actions against do not call violators
- The state settled or obtained judgments in 10 cases.
- Indiana entered into settlements or obtained judgments totaling $7,140,441
- The AG’s office collected $40,898 (not including sales of the Do Not Call list)
The Indiana Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission both say catching violators can be difficult because many are overseas.
“We go after the folks making the calls, but for every action we bring and every operation we shut down, unfortunately, there are 5 more operations behind that sending out unwanted calls," said Janice Kopec, Do Not Call program manager at the Federal Trade Commission. “Phone scammers unfortunately always seem to have a new trick.”
Kopec said their agency is doing plenty to stop Do Not Call violators.
“The FTC has brought 130 actions against hundreds of individuals and companies for violating the Do Not Call including 45 specific law enforcement actions against companies that have spammed consumers with unwanted robocalls,” said Kopec.
The FTC has fined telemarketers more than a billion dollars.
Kopec says people should still sign up for the Do Not Call list.
“The Do not Call list does work, and it works really well to prevent legitimate telemarketers from calling you,” said Kopec. “I know it’s hard to believe but if you weren’t registered for the Do Not Call list, you would actually be getting more phone calls that you are right now.”
Despite efforts from state and federal government, many people still blame the government for not doing enough to stop unwanted calls.
However, groups like the Consumers Union told Call 6 Investigates it’s actually your phone company who has the power to stop robocalls.
“I think the phone companies are in the best position to provide tools to consumers to protect them from robocalls,” said Maureen Mahoney, a spokesperson for the Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports.
“They have the engineers, they have the technology, and they know how their systems work."
The Consumers Union has started a petition to put pressure on phone companies to provide call blocking technology.
The FTC agrees cell phone providers need to do more on the issue.
“The industry needs to keep working on better blocking solutions available for their subscribers,” said Kopec. "They need to keep looking at their networks to make sure they’re secure and able to identify mass robocall events and take steps to stop them. They need to listen to their subscribers and offer better options to ward off these calls.”
Phone companies have started the Robocall Strike Force to look at addressing the issue.
AT&T says they have released a free service call AT&T Call Protect which blocks fraud calls before the reach customers' phones.
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-California) has introduced ROBOCOP legislation that would require companies to offer free call blocking technology on your phone.
Tips For You To Curb Unwanted Calls
- Ask your phone company what call blocking solutions they offer
- Sign up for the federal and state Do Not Call lists
- Contact your state and federal lawmakers and tell them to take action
- If a scammer calls, do not answer, talk or press buttons; this will get you even more phone calls
While phone companies work on the wide-reaching solutions, Call 6 Investigates also found free tools and apps that block unwanted calls from both cell phones and landlines.
The apps will either notify you that the call is suspect or disconnect you before your phone even rings.
Free iPhone and Android apps to help block unwanted calls:
Statement from AT&T Indiana on addressing unwanted calls
- AT&T is committed to finding tools and solutions to abate the proliferation of illegal and unwanted robocalls and to helping consumers have more control over the calls they wish to receive.
- Last year, AT&T, along with a group of more than 30 companies, formed a Robocall Strike Force and met biweekly between August and October to develop solutions to address unwanted and illegal robocalling.
- The Robocall Strike Force consolidated its findings and issued both short and long-term goals in a report. As outlined in the report, the work of the group continues within industry associations, such as USTelecom, CTIA, and standards-setting body ATIS.
- In December, AT&T released a free service called “AT&T Call Protect,” which blocks fraudulent and unwanted calls at the network level before they reach our customers' phones.
- Currently, AT&T is working with vendors to ensure we are ready for carrier interoperability verification by the 4th quarter of 2017, which will provide another layer to identify and mitigate robocalls.
- We recognize that robocalls are a problem and we are working to find solutions for our customers.
Statement from Verizon
As you are no doubt aware, Verizon participated in four workgroups (co-chairing one of them) which brought carriers together to work through ways we can address this problem, including how we can work more effectively with law enforcement to address the root cause. Verizon is making progress on each of the areas outlined in the Strike Force’s Final Report, including creating and testing new tools that further empower our customers to address unwanted robocalls.
In fact, Verizon is currently trialing a new service for incoming calls that will help our customers identify robocallers and spam callers. It’s currently on a limited number of Android devices and we’ll make it available on additional ones this year.
In addition, Verizon has been a leader in working with members of the communications ecosystem to identify “bad actors” who continue to make millions of illegal robocalls. We also were a founding member of the Trusted Carrier Framework established by the U.S. Telecom Association’s Robocall Working Group, which has been working with like-minded carriers to address numerous mass calling events.
As you can see, Verizon is doing its part to help address this robocall issue. While much progress has been made, there’s still substantial work to be done. We look forward to working with other carriers and the government to achieve meaningful advances to combat robocalls.
Statement from Frontier
Frontier offers tools to combat robocalls, such as Anonymous Call Rejection, Selective Call Block, and NoMo Robo. Developing an effective approach to both copper and fiber-based networks is a technology challenge that requires a total industry effort to properly address. Fortunately, the industry is hard at work to develop, and ultimately implement, better robocall blocking technologies through standards development. Frontier is proud of its efforts with the Robocall Strike Force and we will continue to aggressively fight to defeat robocalls.
Statement from the Federal Communications Commission
I think it’s important to remember that the Do Not Call registry (primarily administered by the FTC, though we’re involved) only relates to telemarketing calls – so it does not apply to non-marketing robocalls. Also, it does not block calls but rather informs callers which numbers not to call. For callers that perhaps are trying to scam or defraud people, they too often ignore this list. From there, we rely on consumer complaints to inform investigations and enforcement actions. In addition, we are working to empower consumers to have access to services that will actively block unwanted calls. We are also working with phone companies to help them block spoofed calls that are clearly not legitimate (such as robocalls pretending to be from an area code that doesn’t exist). The industry-led Robocall Strike Force has been important in items like this.