A new plague of annoying telemarketing calls
It seems to be happening to more and more recently. Garden State residents -- even those who signed up for the federal Do Not Call list years ago - they're getting swamped by annoying calls from telemarketers at all hours of the day and night.
According to Bikram Bandy, the program coordinator for the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call Registry, there has been an increase over the past five years in the number of illegal calls made to consumers.
He said the predominant reason for this is technology.
"We've seen a dramatic increase in the number of voice over internet protocol calls made -- internet calls that are much cheaper than regular ones, so telemarketers are increasingly using VoIP to make huge numbers of illegal calls from all over the world, and hide from law enforcement while doing it."
He also said the problem has also been made worse by the advent of the robo-call, a recorded message that replaces live telemarketers making contact with consumers.
Bandy said if you ever signed up for Do Not Call, "your number has and will continue to stay on the national Do Not Call registry until you give up that phone number."
He said if you don't remember if you registered you can go to www.donotcall.gov and re-register, or check your registration status.
Bandy said a lot of New Jersey residents are on the Do Not Call list, both for cell phones and land lines.
"A little shy of 7 million phone numbers from New Jersey, and last year we received 119 thousand do not call complaints from New Jersey," Bandy said.
Tips for dealing with telemarketers:
- If you do get an illegal call from a telemarketer, Bandy recommends you never do business with them "because if they've broken the law to reach you and invade the privacy of your home, it's a good chance that there are probably other laws that they're breaking as well." He said a lot of these outfits are running scams, so we tell consumers to be very, very wary of any unsolicited call they receive trying to sell a good or service.
- If you get an unwanted call is hang up right away. "If you're instructed to press buttons to opt-out, they're just verifying for the computer that placed that call that it's a live number, someone is home at that time," Bandy said. He added that there are many instances where telemarketing operations will take those numbers, put them on a separate list and then "market that list to another boiler room that will then dial those numbers first because they're more likely to actually get in touch with human beings."
- Investigate call-blocking technology, because "sometimes phone carriers, and there are also some internet services and smart phone apps that use - sort of act like a spam filter. There are a lot of call blocking solutions that are out there that can provide relief to consumers who are frustrated by lots of illegal calls."
- If necessary, file a complaint at www.ftc.gov. "Complaints are extremely important for the work we do on the law enforcement side of things, to go after the perpetrators, it allows us to see trends, it allows us to identify the biggest violators and target them for law enforcement, it allows us to have an understanding of what is going on right now in the world of illegal calls," Bandy said.
Steve Lee, the acting director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, said if you're on the Do Not Call list and you receive annoying calls from telemarketers, you should inform the caller that you're number is on the registry.
"Tell the telemarketer that you're on the Do Not Call list, tell them they're subject to a fine and they shouldn't be calling you, and make sure you get their name and contact information," Lee said.
He said many times if you do that, "then the person on the other line is going to hang up pretty quickly and you may not hear from them ever again."
Lee also said there is no separate Do Not Call registry in New Jersey, so consumers only need to sign up for the federal list.