They keep calling and calling and calling. It's estimated Americans get 2.4 billion robocalls every month, and the Do Not Call list can't always stop them. The I-Team discovered consumer complaints are pouring in both here in Wisconsin and across the U.S.
Two-hundred and twenty-six million Americans are currently registered with the Do Not Call list; many are still getting inundated with unwanted calls. It turns out the government agency cracking down on robocallers can't keep up.
Karen Iannelli gets a lot of unwanted calls, and she's tired of it. This Racine County woman said she gets them from all over the U.S "Florida, Pennsylvania, Connecticut..," Iannelli commented. Many of them from people trying to steal her personal information and money. She told us about one of them, "I was going to get a free cruise....just give me your credit card number." Iannelli hung up.
She and her husband Mike are on the Do Not Call list but Iannelli pointed out, "it never works."
That's what Wisconsin's Bureau of Consumer Protection is hearing from across the state. Do Not Call complaints are pouring in, up close to 18 percent in 2015 and almost 45percent in 2016. Frank Frasetto is with Wisconsin's Bureau of Consumer Protection and helps oversee the state's list.
"A scammer is a crook, a thief and they really don't care about the do not call list," he told us.
Frasetto pointed out many people fall for the fake caller ID trick, "if we get something from our own area code, whether it's 608 or 414, you may answer that phone." Which he said is exactly what scammers are looking for, "that's an active number now, and you're going to continue to be getting calls."
The list works when it comes to companies that abide by the law. Most telemarketers won't call registered numbers. The Federal Trade Commission is also inundated with complaints. "Phone scammers unfortunately always seem to have a new trick," the FTC's Janice Kopec commented. She manages the agency's Do Not Call program, which has been inundated with complaints. According to Kopec more than 5 million consumers reported violations in 2016.
"We vigorously enforce the law. We try to find the people who are blasting out these unwanted phone calls," Kopec pointed out.
The FTC has cracked down on hundreds of individuals and company, but it's not enough.
"For every action we bring and every operation we shut down, unfortunately there's five more operations behind that," Kopec said.
The best way to protect yourself? Don't answer the phone if you're not sure who's calling, and never follow a prompt to "unsubscribe."
These days, Iannelli and her husband rarely answer the phone. They only pick up if they know who's on the other end.
It's estimated consumers lose $350 million each year falling for these rip-offs. If you do accidentally answer a robocall, don't say anything. Just hang up.
A recent decision by the FCC, or Federal Communications Commission, might bring some relief. In March the agency approved a rule that will let phone companies block any robocaller using fake caller ID numbers. In the past the FCC was leery of that practice, afraid some legitimate calls would also be blocked.
If you do get a robocall, report it. The government keeps a running list of numbers and has busted some scam rings based on complaints.
Robocall Strike Force
An industry-led initiative formed in response to a call to action by the former FCC Chairman in July 2016 directing industry to develop an action plan for making available comprehensive solutions to prevent, detect, and filter unwanted robocalls.