Is there any way to stop Robo calls, unwanted telemarketers?

(Photo: WKRN)

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) For Kathy Brearley of Jonesborough, Tennessee, it’s almost become a joke.

“During the last two weeks, I’ve sometimes gotten up to 27 calls in one day,” she wrote in an email to our sister station, News Channel 11.

She’s not alone. Dozens of Tri-Cities residents can share similar stories of multiple unwanted calls a day. For many of them, the frustration is heightened because they’re signed up for the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not Call Registry.”

So, why is this happening? News Channel 11 took that question to the Federal Trade Commission, which runs the DNC registry. The service launched in 2003 to help consumers deal with what’s become the No. 1 consumer complaint.

“The DNC registry has been and still is very successful in preventing unwanted telemarketing calls that come from legitimate telemarketers,” said Janice Kopec, an attorney with the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection which oversees the DNC registry and enforcement. “I know it’s hard to believe, but if you weren’t on the DNC registry you would actually be getting more unwanted calls than you are currently getting.”

According to Kopec, there are 230 million numbers in the registry. Click here to sign up.

Companies caught calling people on the registry face a $40,000 fine per violation and possible prosecution.

“We try to find them, shut them down and as appropriate, to recover money from those law violators,” Kopec said.

As for why people on the registry are still getting calls, she said it’s because companies are increasingly willing to break the law to get access to consumers.

“We’ve seen more and more unlawful actors who don’t care about complying with the law blasting unlawful calls,” Kopec said. “Those are the folks that we really do try to target and go after in our law enforcement actions.”

So what do you do to block callers who ignore the law? After signing up for the registry, the FTC recommends you explore call blocking features.

CTIA, a trade organization representing mobile phone companies, recommends consumers download reputable tools and apps.

Companies like Verizon and AT&T offer call blocking features.

Last April, AT&T said it had blocked its billionth unwanted robo call using a new program that detects violators.

“It examines more than 1.5 billion calls each day for patterns that indicate robo callers,” the company said.

Verizon says its service called, “Caller Name ID” has a “risk meter” for Android phone users showing the likelihood of fraud. The service is offered for $2.99 a month.

After you’ve done all you can do to prevent and block calls, the FTC asks consumers to limit interaction with callers while gathering enough information to report them through the FTC’s “Do Not Call Registry” website.

Click here to report unwanted calls.

“These folks are not beyond the reach of the law,” said Kopec. “We do try to find creative ways to get at them.”