Share This Page

Telemarketers continue to ignore Do Not Call

| Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

“Are your carpets dirty?” “Paying too much on your home mortgage?” “Let us help you lower the interest rate on your credit cards!”

Chances are, one of these annoying messages — or something similar — has hit your phone recently. Even if you have caller ID to help block unwanted calls, they still sneak through.

Sometimes it's an automated, recorded “robocall.” Other times, it's a telemarketer who won't take “No” for an answer.

“It's a constant barrage. It drives me nuts,” said Fair Oaks, Calif., resident Dot Boyd, who said she and her husband typically get three to five unwanted sales calls a week. “They're only trying to do their job, but it's so incessant,” said Boyd, who usually either ignores the message or just hangs up.

Like millions of other frustrated consumers, the couple recently relisted their home phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry.

Created 10 years ago by the Federal Trade Commission in response to consumer complaints, the registry lets consumers put their personal phone numbers on a no-call list that all telemarketers must abide by — or face stiff fines.

In the past decade, more than 221 million phone numbers were added by consumers to the registry, which can stop “most, but not all” unwanted calls, according to the FTC.

The “do not call” list is just one of many tools used by FTC enforcers to pursue the persistent problem of illegal telemarketers and robocallers.

Lawsuits and million-dollar penalties are another. In recent weeks, the FTC has slapped beefy fines on several companies accused of hitting consumers with unwanted calls.

Last week, it assessed a $3.2 million penalty on a major debt collection company for harassing consumers by phone. In its complaint, the FTC said Texas-based Expert Global Solutions and its subsidiaries repeatedly — and illegally — called consumers to collect debts: early in the morning, late at night, at their workplace and after they'd been asked to stop.

In late June, the FTC handed out its biggest civil penalty ever — $7.5 million — for do-not-call violations on Mortgage Investors Corp., one of the nation's leading refinancers of military veterans' home loans.

Those cases are among more than 100 lawsuits filed against illegal telemarketers in the past decade. So far, the FTC says it's handed out more than $126 million in civil penalties and collected $741 million in takebacks from companies and restitution to victims. It's also shut down companies responsible for “billions” of illegal robocalls.

So why do so many of us still get all those irritating calls?

Blame it on technology. Telemarketers once had to employ boiler rooms of callers who dialed households by hand. Today, all that's needed is a phone-and-Internet connection to spew out thousands of calls a minute.

“It's so efficiently cheap to blast out millions of these calls,” said Kati Daffan, of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. “It's the spam of the telephone.”

Claudia Buck is a personal finance writer for the Sacramento Bee.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.