Hello, FCC and FTC – Can You Hear Me Now?

It happens 2.9 billion times each month. All across this nation citizens are being pestered by privacy-invading telephone calls from either live or tape-recorded telemarketers, spammers and scammers even though there are state and federal laws against such unwanted calls.

Think about this. 2.9 billion calls a month translates to 96.6 million of these annoying and frustrating calls placed every single day. That’s four-and-a-quarter million phone calls every hour causing many who answer the calls to want to tear their hair out. 

So, what’s Washington doing to help alleviate this productivity killing, ever-present nuisance that plagues us?  After all, unwanted pre-recorded calls are clearly illegal unless the company has your prior written permission to phone you.

Both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are tasked with enforcing the federal robocall laws and regulations.  Back in 2003, the FTC set up a handy-dandy Do Not Call Registry citizens can sign up for. Just plug in your home and/or cell phone numbers and viola! you are (supposedly) protected from this most bothersome form of communication.

I just double checked my home phone number the other day, which by the way is an unlisted and blocked number, and the FTC’s registry told me: “You successfully registered your phone number ending in xxxx on June 29, 2003.  Most telemarketers will be required to stop calling you 31 days from your registration date.” Really? Then why am I still getting multiple maddening phone calls every single day?

Washington is Here To Help – Yeah, Right

Just for kicks I also checked the numbers for both my cell phone and my husband’s and got a similar message. No need to re-register, I was informed, we were shielded from the telephonic nuisance. Yeah. Right.

Back in 2016 Senator Chuck Schumer introduced a spiffy sounding bill called the Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones Act (ROBOCOP) which would have required phone companies to offer free tools to block the calls. Schumer promised the bill would grant us all some relief.

“The ROBOCOP Act will finally help put a rest to these dreaded calls that are interrupting family dinners—or worse—scamming people out of their hard-earned money,” Schumer said during a splashy news conference.

“Robocalls are one of the things that annoy Americans the most,” Schumer said. Well, I’m annoyed Mr. Schumer, that you didn’t work harder to actually get that bill passed. It died in committee.

Since that time entrepreneurial companies have developed computer software (apps) to help consumers control these calls by blocking them from even ringing through on your phone.

The YouMail firm is a pioneer in the field of counting and mapping robocalls and its list of the worst robocalling hotspots across the nation is considered a must read. Even the FCC cites its statistics. YouMail offers a free blocking app and boasts that it helps consumers ward off over 500 million unwanted calls a year.

A newcomer in the field is RoboKiller. This app promises it can automatically block over 100,000 telemarketers and robocalls from ringing through even if they change their numbers. They also have a “revenge” feature, an Answer Bot (different recordings of human conversation) that will engage the live telemarketer in meaningless chatter so as to waste their time.

But before you rush to get one of these apps realize that there are now all sorts of pretaped robocalls you probably want to get. Your doctor’s office might be calling to remind you of an upcoming appointment. The company you bought your new appliance from could be calling to give you a delivery time. Utility companies are using robocalls these days to tell customers when they need access to read your meter.

Just last fall, Lois Greisman of the FTC admitted to Congress that American’s privacy is being invaded by the sheer number of these unwanted calls and that, “robocalls are also frequently used by criminal impostors posing as trusted officials or companies.” Well, if these calls are illegal to begin with why do they keep happening 2.9 billion times a month?!

Greisman said the FTC is using “every tool at its disposal to fight these illegal calls,” yet every year multiple millions of us continue to file complaints. It is pretty clear that Washington has dropped the ball on this problem.

Mid-term elections are coming up, folks. I intend to copy this column and write a form letter saying, in effect, “I am a taxpaying U.S. citizen. You are supposed to uphold the anti-robocall law and protect me. Step up the prosecution of these annoying scofflaw companies! Or get lawmakers to pass laws with teeth in them.” I plan to send it to the White House, the FTC, the FCC and all my elected officials in the U.S. Congress. And I will remind them I vote.  Join me?



  1. Diane Dimond on March 12, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Creators Syndicate Reader Alex Quilici writes:

    Nice article. I’m the CEO of YouMail, and wanted to highlight two things. One, YouMail lets good guys through – so the CVS prescription robocall won’t get blocked by us. Don’t avoid getting a robocall blocker because you’re afraid it’ll block the wrong calls. Two, we put out a press release last month breaking down the different types of robocalls. Only about 15% are telemarketers, so the DNC (Do Not Call) list has worked to lower those. About 25% are scams, who aren’t going to obey whatever laws are out there anyways. That leaves 25% that people want – like appointment reminder – and the rest are payment reminders, where they generally have legal rights to annoy you. So it’s not the DNC’s fault – it accomplished most of the limited goal that it was designed to address

  2. Diane Dimond on March 12, 2018 at 8:15 am

    ABQ Journal reader Kevin MacKeon writes:

    Great article again. I’ve experienced an explosion of these junk calls in the past year. Cruise vacation packages, veterans fundraisers, guys calling to tell me my computer is malfunctioning (I don’t have a home computer, I do libraries exclusively). It’s gone overboard now. Total disregard of privacvy.


  3. Diane Dimond on March 12, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Facebook Friend Ronald Jeffries Tallman writes:

    Everybody talks about this all the time. Many are scams and some of the elderly are confused. Originally 10-15 yrs back there was “do not call” I think aimed at real person sales type of calls. There was a huge fine if violated but I never heard if it was enforced or not.

    My defense is simply, unknown calls usually out of area code, same first 3 digits type calls or unknown do not get answered. If important they will leave a message. I’ve even heard if you call some back you will be charged a fee. Yes occasionally if we come across a live person we will chatter act interested for
    Awhile then abruptly “no thanks.”

    Hard to believe (or is it) a bill didn’t get through.

  4. Diane Dimond on March 12, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Facebook Friend Lisa DePaulo writes:

    “Take Me Off Your Fucking List.” If I had a nickel for every time I have to scream that…

  5. Diane Dimond on March 12, 2018 at 12:30 pm

    Facebook Friend Jana Polsky Deneroff writes:

    I keep blocking the calls and then five more come in. Every day.

  6. Diane Dimond on March 12, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Facebook Friend Ginnie Oleskewicz Schwartz writes:

    And the timing of these calls are terrible, just to get hung up on. I have tried blocking the numbers but they just use another number. Very frustrating!!!

  7. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    Facebook Friend Andrea Saint James writes:

    They can now bypass the fact that you have blocked their call and leave a message directly into your voicemail despite your block. How is this possible??

    • Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:54 pm

      Kathie Brown McDavid replies:

      Telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often through internet technology that hides their location.

      • Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:54 pm

        Andrea Saint James replies: I understand spoofing. What I don’t understand is using the very same phone number I blocked, they can use to bypass the ring and go straight to your voicemail.

        • Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:55 pm

          DD replies:

          THAT it a mystery, Andrea. That has also happened to me. When these calls can be manipulated to go right into your voicemail, bypassing you, I think we really have an invasion of privacy issue! ~ DD

  8. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Facebook Friend April Davis PI writes:

    Thank you Diane Dimond! I’m losing my mind over this. I’m in the middle of very intense investigations and being bugged at least 10 times a day. My number has been registered with the Do Not Call registry for years but the calls keep coming. I’m sharing this if that’s okay with you.

  9. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Facebook Friend Bill Voinovich writes:

    Keep a small AIR HORN right next to the phone…
    That’ll slow down the telemarketers a little bit…
    I think you can get them in the automotive department at Walmart…They’re about $6

  10. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Facebook Friend Carrie Ford writes:

    I get these. I don’t know how they got my cellphone number

    • Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:58 pm

      DD replies:

      I’ve also wondered about that, Carrie. Perhaps they set their computers to simply try every single numeric possibility…then “remember” the numbers that actually connect to an active phone line.

      Whatever, I wish there were a law for Congress to simply outlaw unwanted robocalls. Period. ~ DD

  11. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    Facebook Friend Larry Ahrens writes:

    Diane I have a call screening device. The machine answers the call and asks the caller to dial “0” to get through. Robot callers can’t dial 0 so they don’t connect. But to your point I’ll bet we get 20-plus robocalls per day.

    • Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 1:00 pm

      DD replies:

      Larry! I need to know the particulars about your screening device! I want one…..~DD

  12. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 1:00 pm

    Facebook Friend Donna R. Gore writes:

    I not only don’t use my home phone, I don’t have the answering machine on. Have to keep it for the “bundle of services.” Don’t answer cell phone calls I can’t anticipate – those people that capture your voice to scam. We can’t win except for the election process.

  13. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Anne Rudiger writes:

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  14. Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Ron Dahlke writes:

    Ahem – hate to point this out. Aside from the annoying cyclic sales calls, the majority of robo calls are generated by campaigns and cpacs. I used to just unplug my phone during election time. I finally did away with it altogether. Pity the landline phone carriers won’t do more to block/prosecute as they’re loosing business over it.

    • Diane Dimond on March 13, 2018 at 6:06 pm

      DD replies:

      Yeah, Ron, I’m going to have to disagree with you. I don’t think the “Majority of robocalls are generated by campaigns and cpacs.”

      Consider, election cycles are every two years at their most frequent…and step up every four years due to national (presidential) elections.

      As you may note from the column there are 2.9 BILLION robocalls every month. This is an average of course. And, the number likely DOES rise during the run up to an election. But this is an-every-day-of-the-year, all-year-round problem. Really it is.

  15. Diane Dimond on March 18, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    ABQ Journal Reader Ron Newlin writes:

    Your article in the Albuquerque Journal on March 10, 2018 is right on. We started to write down all the unwanted calls in 2015 and it became a pain in the lower part of the anatomy. Then by December 2017 we were getting enough calls that we were fed up again and started to write them down with more dedication. Attached is a list of the numbers ** we have added to our list so far. We don’t get all of them included. I intended to send the list to someone, but don’t know who.

    The list is only from our main home phone. My wife, Georgia, and I are retired, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and our telephone provider is Century Link. They provide us with a Caller ID Package, for a fee, and include a process to block unwanted calls. However, you can only block 25 calls with the provided process. When you reach 25 calls, you have to manually remove some numbers in order to add additional ones. Even doing that does seem to cut down on a few of the calls. They have to use another number when they find out we have one blocked.

    The attached list does not include any unwanted calls on our second line here, which we use for home, fax, and computer, or calls on our cell phone. All three of our phone devices are listed in the Do Not Call Registry. (I verified this again about a month ago, as you did also.) I would guesstimate that the list contains about only 50 to 60 percent of the unwanted calls that we have received since December 1, 2017.
    I have spoken to Century Link and was informed that there was nothing they could do about the unwanted (polite reference) calls. I tried to call several of the displayed numbers and found they cannot be called. A number of the tries indicated that the call came from a disconnected phone number. Another strange thing is the number of calls that have the last four digits as “2955” (16). Also some numbers are identified as “Not Available to add to the Call Blocking List” when I tried to add them. Century Link had no explanation for that.

    Last fall we were receiving the “Let us fix your computer calls” as early as 5:15 AM or as late as 11:00 PM. Needless to say, the callers were blessed with some choice words.
    I realize that this OP-ED article is only a small portion of the items that you cover, as I read them in the Journal quite often. Any suggestions to further the cause will be appreciated. If I can add any fuel to your fire, I would gladly do so.

    Ron Newlin
    Albuquerque, New Mexico

    ** Note to readers: Accompanying this email was a TOO-LONG-TO-POST multi-page phone log of numbers Mr. and Mrs. Newlin kept. I admire their patience! But, the questions remain? Who do they give this list to and what good would that do ? ~DD

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