Complaints about automated calls up sharply - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Complaints about automated calls up sharply

By JENNIFER C. KERR
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - So much for silence from telemarketers at the cherished dinner hour, or any other hour of the day.

Complaints to the government are up sharply about unwanted phone solicitations, raising questions about how well the federal "do-not-call" registry is working. The biggest category of complaint: those annoying prerecorded pitches called robocalls that hawk everything from lower credit card interest rates to new windows for your home.

Robert Madison, 43, of Shawnee, Kan., says he gets automated calls almost daily from "Ann, with credit services," offering to lower his interest rates.

"I am completely fed up," Madison said in an interview. "I've repeatedly asked them to take me off their call list." When he challenges their right to call, the solicitors become combative, he said. "There's just nothing that they won't do."

Madison, who works for a software company, says his phone number has been on the do-not-call list for years. Since he hasn't made any progress getting "Ann" to stop calling, Madison has started to file complaints about her to the Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the list.

Amid fanfare from consumer advocates, the federal do-not-call list was put in place nearly a decade ago as a tool to limit telemarketing sales calls to people who didn't want to be bothered. The registry has more than 209 million phone numbers on it. That's a significant chunk of the country, considering that there are about 84 million residential customers with traditional landline phones and plenty more people with cellphone numbers, which can also be placed on the list.

Telemarketers are supposed to check the list every 31 days for numbers they can't call. But some are calling anyway, and complaints about phone pitches are climbing even as the number of telemarketers checking the registry has dropped dramatically.

Government figures show monthly robocall complaints have climbed from about 65,000 in October 2010 to more than 212,000 this April. More general complaints from people asking a telemarketer to stop calling them also rose during that period, from about 71,000 to 182,000.

At the same time, fewer telemarketers are checking the FTC list to see which numbers are off limits. In 2007, more than 65,000 telemarketers checked the list. Last year, only about 34,000 did so.

Despite those numbers, the FTC says the registry is doing an effective job fighting unwanted sales calls.

"It's absolutely working," Lois Greisman, associate director of the agency's marketing practices division, said in an interview with The Associated Press. But, she said, "the proliferation of robocalls creates a challenge for us."

Greisman said prerecorded messages weren't used as a major marketing tool in 2003, when the registry began. "In part because of technology and in part because of greater competitiveness in the marketplace, they have become the marketing vehicle of choice for fraudsters," she said.

For people trying to scam people out of their money, it's an attractive option. Robocalls are hard to trace and cheap to make.

With an autodialer, millions of calls can be blasted out in a matter of hours, bombarding people in a struggling economy with promises of debt assistance and cheap loans. Even if a consumer does not have a phone number on the do-not-call list, robocalls are illegal. A 2009 rule specifically banned this type of phone sales pitch unless a consumer has given written permission to a company to call.

Political robocalls and automated calls from charities, or informational robocalls, such as an airline calling about a flight delay, are exempt from the ban. But those exemptions are being abused, too, with consumers complaining of getting calls that begin as a legitimate call, say from a charity or survey, but then eventually switch to an illegal telemarketing sales pitch.

Robocalls can be highly annoying to consumers because they're hard to stop. Fraudsters use caller-ID spoofing so that when a person tries to call back the robocaller, they get a disconnected number or something other than the source of the original call.

The best thing people can do when they get an illegal robocall is to hang up. Do not press "1'' to speak to a live operator to get off the call list. If you do, the FTC says, it will probably just lead to more robocalls. The caller will know you're there and willing to answer, and may continue to call.

The FTC says people can also contact their phone providers to ask them to block the number. But be sure to ask whether they charge for that. Telemarketers change caller-ID information often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will soon change.

The industry says most legitimate telemarketers don't utilize robocalls to generate sales.

"They give a bad name to telemarketers and hurt everybody," says Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs at Direct Marketing Association, a trade group.

Cerasale says the do-not-call list has resulted in telemarketers making far fewer cold calls to random people. Instead, he says, marketers have shifted to other methods of reaching people, such as mail, email or targeted advertisements on websites. That, he said, could be 1 of the reasons that the number of telemarketers checking the registry has dropped so sharply.

In light of the increased complaints, the FTC is stepping up efforts to combat robocalls. It recently released two consumer videos to explain what robocalls are and what to do about them. It also announced an October summit to examine the problem and explore the possibility of emerging technology that might help trace robocalls and prevent scammers from spoofing their caller ID.

Enforcement is another tool. The FTC has brought cases against about a dozen companies since 2009, including Talbots, DirecTV and Dish Network. The cases have yielded $5.6 million in penalties.

The agency said this month that it was mailing refund checks to more than 4,000 consumers nationwide who were caught up in a scam where the telemarketer used robocalls from names like "Heather from card services" to pitch worthless credit card rate reduction programs for an up-front fee. Checks to consumers range from $31 to $1,300 depending on how much was lost.

To file a complaint with the FTC, people can go online to www.ftc.gov or call 888-382-1222 to report their experience for possible enforcement.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • National SportsMore>>

  • US Tennis Association deemed mostly liable for player's fall

    US Tennis Association deemed mostly liable for player's fall

    Thursday, February 22 2018 6:44 PM EST2018-02-22 23:44:51 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:49 PM EST2018-02-23 00:49:17 GMT
    (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer). Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard leaves Brooklyn Federal court, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in New York. Bouchard testified during her negligence lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association that a wet floor caused her to sl...(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer). Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard leaves Brooklyn Federal court, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, in New York. Bouchard testified during her negligence lawsuit against the United States Tennis Association that a wet floor caused her to sl...
    US Tennis Association found mostly liable for when Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard slipped on wet locker room floor and hit head at 2015 US Open; jury assigns blame 75 percent to USTA, 25 percent to Bouchard.
    US Tennis Association found mostly liable for when Canadian player Eugenie Bouchard slipped on wet locker room floor and hit head at 2015 US Open; jury assigns blame 75 percent to USTA, 25 percent to Bouchard.
  • US women beat Canada for gold in a 3-2 shootout thriller

    US women beat Canada for gold in a 3-2 shootout thriller

    Thursday, February 22 2018 2:34 AM EST2018-02-22 07:34:20 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:49 PM EST2018-02-23 00:49:13 GMT
    (AP Photo/Matt Slocum). United States celebrates winning gold after the women's gold medal hockey game against Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.(AP Photo/Matt Slocum). United States celebrates winning gold after the women's gold medal hockey game against Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018.

    Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds with a 3-2 shootout victory.

    Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds with a 3-2 shootout victory.

  • Arizona's Trier suspended for trace amount of PED

    Arizona's Trier suspended for trace amount of PED

    Thursday, February 22 2018 6:54 PM EST2018-02-22 23:54:37 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:49 PM EST2018-02-23 00:49:02 GMT
    The NCAA has declared No. 14 Arizona's Allonzo Trier ineligible for the reappearance of the banned substance that led to a 19-game suspension last season.
    The NCAA has declared No. 14 Arizona's Allonzo Trier ineligible for the reappearance of the banned substance that led to a 19-game suspension last season.
  • Strange NewsMore>>

  • Oklahoma City receives rare lake effect snow from storm

    Oklahoma City receives rare lake effect snow from storm

    Thursday, February 22 2018 1:24 PM EST2018-02-22 18:24:37 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:18 PM EST2018-02-23 00:18:19 GMT
    Oklahoma City, meet the Great Lakes. A weather event known as lake effect snow that's common in the upper Midwest and northeastern U.S., made a rare appearance at Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner on Wednesday.
    Oklahoma City, meet the Great Lakes. A weather event known as lake effect snow that's common in the upper Midwest and northeastern U.S., made a rare appearance at Oklahoma City's Lake Hefner on Wednesday.
  • APNewsBreak: NY touts economic boom with South African photo

    APNewsBreak: NY touts economic boom with South African photo

    Tuesday, February 20 2018 6:12 PM EST2018-02-20 23:12:34 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:18 PM EST2018-02-23 00:18:18 GMT
    (Empire State Development via AP). This screen shot from a report released on the website of New York state's economic development agency, Empire State Development, shows seven towering heavy-lift cranes to help illustrate the state's growth, but the A...(Empire State Development via AP). This screen shot from a report released on the website of New York state's economic development agency, Empire State Development, shows seven towering heavy-lift cranes to help illustrate the state's growth, but the A...
    APNewsBreak: New York economic development agency issues report illustrating state's booming growth with 8-year-old photo of construction cranes in South Africa.
    APNewsBreak: New York economic development agency issues report illustrating state's booming growth with 8-year-old photo of construction cranes in South Africa.
  • Officials: Trolley driver paid man $2K to attack him on job

    Officials: Trolley driver paid man $2K to attack him on job

    Thursday, February 22 2018 1:34 PM EST2018-02-22 18:34:54 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:18 PM EST2018-02-23 00:18:17 GMT
    Authorities say a Massachusetts trolley driver paid a man in a Halloween mask $2,000 to attack him on the job so the driver could fraudulently collect workers' compensation and disability insurance.
    Authorities say a Massachusetts trolley driver paid a man in a Halloween mask $2,000 to attack him on the job so the driver could fraudulently collect workers' compensation and disability insurance.
  • NationalMore>>

  • Sheriff: School officer never went inside to confront gunman

    Sheriff: School officer never went inside to confront gunman

    Thursday, February 22 2018 1:14 AM EST2018-02-22 06:14:16 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:50 PM EST2018-02-23 00:50:08 GMT
    (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert). Mourners hug as they leave the funeral of Alaina Petty, in Coral Springs, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018.  Petty was a victim of Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, ...(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert). Mourners hug as they leave the funeral of Alaina Petty, in Coral Springs, Fla., Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Petty was a victim of Wednesday's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Nikolas Cruz, a former student, ...

    The students who swarmed Florida's state capitol in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre face pushback in Legislature.

    The students who swarmed Florida's state capitol in the wake of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre face pushback in Legislature.

  • GOP congressmen challenge new Pennsylvania district map

    GOP congressmen challenge new Pennsylvania district map

    Thursday, February 22 2018 12:13 AM EST2018-02-22 05:13:49 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:49 PM EST2018-02-23 00:49:50 GMT
    Pa Supreme Court draws a 'much more competitive' district mapPa Supreme Court draws a 'much more competitive' district map

    The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered.

    The state Supreme Court last month threw out a Republican-crafted map that was considered among the nation's most gerrymandered.

  • Final tribute: Slain football coach is hailed as a 'hero'

    Final tribute: Slain football coach is hailed as a 'hero'

    Thursday, February 22 2018 5:54 PM EST2018-02-22 22:54:39 GMT
    Thursday, February 22 2018 7:49 PM EST2018-02-23 00:49:46 GMT
    (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach). Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team depart the service at the Church by the Glades for Aaron Feis, the football coach who was killed at the school shooting last week, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in C...(AP Photo/Joel Auerbach). Members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football team depart the service at the Church by the Glades for Aaron Feis, the football coach who was killed at the school shooting last week, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, in C...
    Friends, students pay tribute to football coach who died saving students from school shooter.
    Friends, students pay tribute to football coach who died saving students from school shooter.
Powered by Frankly