Are you getting more spam calls than ever before, even though you’ve listed your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry?
Unfortunately, unwanted and intrusive calls from salespeople and scammers have become a frustrating fact of life for individuals, regardless of what type of phone they use or where they’re located. In fact, 67% of all phone calls in the US today are robocalls and scams.
Keep reading to learn about:
- What the Do Not Call list does and doesn’t do
- What increases your risk of getting scam calls
- What you can do to stop these phone calls
What the Do Not Call list actually does
Adding your number to the Do Not Call list doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid scam calls.
In fact, registering your number on this list doesn’t really do anything except let law-abiding salespeople know not to call you. It doesn’t trigger any technical or legal action that would prevent an unsavory telemarketer or scammer from calling you.
The only thing the DNC list does is give you a way to complain (by filling out a form) that someone has tried to scam you or sell to you via your phone, even though your number has been on the list for more than 31 days (the waiting period until the list goes into effect for newly added numbers).
If the offending number appears in enough complaints, then FTC will attempt to prosecute the caller and fine them up to $43,792 per call. The key word here being attempt.
The unfortunate reality is that most spam callers have little fear of being caught, mostly because the FTC can’t keep up with the increasing volume of illegal calls. In 2020, for example, scam calls in the US rose by an incredible 56%, averaging nearly 4 billion calls per month.
Another reason it’s hard to penalize robocallers is that they usually spoof their phone numbers, which makes it difficult to identify them, much less prosecute them.
Since creating the Do Not Call Registry in 2003, the FTC has only prosecuted 153 individuals and companies.
What the DNC list doesn’t cover
The FTC created the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce the number of telemarketing calls people were receiving. As such, the list only applies to sales or scam calls.
Other types of calls, including the following, are exempt:
- Political calls—While robocalls from political candidates asking for your support or reminding you to vote can get very annoying, especially around election time, these calls are not subject to the Do Not Call list restrictions.
- Charitable calls—Nonprofit organizations can still solicit donations from you. Although, they must stop doing so when you ask them to.
- Debt-collection calls—Even though you’ve listed your number on the DNC list, debt collectors can still call you about your debts. However, they must stop calling you if you ask them to unless they are taking legal action against you.
- Informational calls—Calls that don’t include a sales pitch are exempt from the DNC list.
- Surveys—Calls from people doing surveys are still allowed, even if you’ve registered your number on the DNC list.
- Calls to a business—The Do Not Call list only applies to individuals’ phone lines. So, your business’s phone number is still fair game for telemarketers and scammers.
- Calls from companies you’ve established a relationship with—The FTC defines a business relationship in two ways: The first is when you buy something from a business or use its services. By patronizing a company, you effectively remove yourself from the DNC list for those businesses for up to 18 months from the date of your last transaction or shipment. The second way to establish a business relationship is to call a company to inquire about its products or services. Doing so removes you from the DNC list for that company for three months starting from the date of your inquiry.
- Calls from businesses you’ve given written permission to contact you—Companies occasionally put this information in their terms of service or privacy policies. By clicking “Agree,” you’re consenting to telemarketing calls.
- Calls from foreign businesses—For example, a French company with call centers in India has no obligation to abide by the Do Not Call rules.
How online personal data increases your risk
Like most criminals, phone scammers tend to go after the lowest-hanging fruit first. When it comes to phone scams, the ideal mark is someone who has a lot of personal information online.
In fact, 75% of people who received a scam call say the caller already knew key personal information about them.
Scammers use this data to convince their victims to trust them enough to do what the scammer wants, whether this means transferring money, revealing their credit card or banking information, or sharing their Social Security number.
Individuals with private, personal information online are also more likely to fall for phone scams, as you can see in these statistics:
- People who receive scam calls are 6x more likely to experience financial loss if a scammer has access to their personal data.
- 35% of individuals who answered their phones continued to speak to the scammer because he or she could confirm private, personal details about them.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim is to limit the amount of online personal details someone can find about you on the internet.
How to reduce spam calls
The people who keep calling you, even though your number is on the DNC list, are operating outside the law. As such, these callers are more likely to be scammers looking to separate you from your money.
To protect yourself from scammers, you need to do three things:
Reduce the amount of personal information about you online
A good way to start is to Google yourself and see which sites are posting personal details like your address, occupation, and phone numbers. You will probably find a lot of people-search sites selling access to this information.
To get your data removed from these sites, you’ll need to go through each site’s opt-out process. Our article How to remove yourself from the top people-search sites gives you step-by-step instructions on how to opt out of the biggest sites.
It’s also a good idea to audit your social media channels to ensure you or your followers haven’t posted any personal details a scammer could use against you.
You should also check our Privacy Pro product, which includes a Dark Web scan, to see if your personal data has been exposed in a data breach. Privacy Pro also automates the process of removing your data from people-search sites, saving you both time and effort.
Don’t answer suspicious calls
In addition to removing as much personal data as possible, you can reduce the amount of spam calls you get by not answering the phone when the call might be from a spammer. Usually, this means not picking up if you don’t recognize the number, even when it appears to be coming from your neighborhood. This is because over 80% of scam calls spoof local area codes to increase the likelihood that you will answer.
If you answer by mistake, it’s important to not say anything (especially the word “yes,” which the scammer can record and use as permission to scam you) or press any buttons, even if the caller says “press 1 to be put on our ‘do not call’ list.” Doing so will only highlight you as a target.
An easy way to avoid answering these calls is to set your phone to silence or block suspicious numbers. Android and iPhones have these features built-in features. You can also use your mobile carrier’s blocking tools or download a third-party blocking app, like Nomorobo, Hiya, RoboKiller, and Truecaller. You can find more information on the FCC’s Call Blocking Tools and Resources site.
Report scam calls
Even with call blocking activated, there is still a chance that you’ll mistakenly answer a scam call. If this happens and you hear a recorded message or other obvious signs of a scam (like someone saying you’ve just won something or your warranty is about to expire), you should report the call to the FTC at DoNotCall.gov. This is a more streamlined form for those who haven’t lost any money due to a phone scam.
If a phone scam has cost you money or you have information about a caller who tried to scam you, you should file a report at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC adds these reports to its Consumer Sentinel database, which it shares with over 3,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. These agencies use the information to build cases against suspected scammers.
As you can see, the DNC list, while serving an important purpose, doesn’t completely protect you from those who are out to harm you. Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a bulletproof way to avoid scam calls.
Until the government develops a more effective way to deal with unwanted robocalls, the best way to protect yourself is to follow digital privacy best practices, including removing your personal information from the internet. This minimizes the ammunition available to bad actors, thereby reducing your odds of becoming a victim.
Feel free to contact us for advice on any part of this process. We have years of experience protecting people’s online privacy and are happy to share our insights regarding your particular situation.