What Are Robocalls?
The National Do Not Call Registry is a federal database containing the phone numbers of residents who have opted out of calls from telemarketers. These individuals have requested not to receive unwanted sales calls. The National Do Not Call Registry was created following the passage of the Do Not Call Implementation Act of 2003. It was instituted and is currently maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Telemarketers reach potential customers with live calls and robocalls. These calls are unsolicited, and those receiving them often find them distracting or disturbing. Over the last 20 years, the volume of telemarketing robocalls has increased sharply, and they have become a scourge to phone users. This led the federal government to enact laws restricting the use of unwanted sales calls. Residents choosing not to receive these calls can add their phone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry.
The Registry was open for registration on June 27, 2003, and the FTC began enforcing the rules governing the database on October 1 of the same year. Legitimate telemarketers regularly check the Do Not Call Registry and remove listed numbers from their call lists.
Robocalls are automated phone calls placed by autodialers to deliver pre-recorded messages. They are commonly used by telemarketers and political campaigns to quickly and easily reach large audiences. Besides wide reach, low cost and minimal effort are other benefits of robocalls. These benefits are the reasons why the vast majority of unsolicited phone calls are robocalls.
Scammers also commonly use robocalls for the benefits listed above. Scam robocalls are responsible for most of the unsolicited calls to phone users. When combined with VoIP and caller ID spoofing, scammers in other countries can place lots of robocalls targeting Americans. Considering using reverse phone lookup to investigate and identify scammers and dubious telemarketers using illegal robocalls. By submitting the phone numbers used for these robocalls, you can determine whether these unknown callers are flagged as scammers or duplicitous telemarketers.
How Do I Add My Phone Number to the Do Not Call Registry?
Adding your number to the Registry is free and easy. Simply visit the National Do Not Call Registry online and click the register button to begin the registration process. After completing the online registration, the FTC will send an email to you within 72 days. Click the link found in the email to confirm the information submitted and complete the registration. You can also verify your registration on the Registry’s website.
It is also possible to add your phone number to the Do Not Call Registry without visiting its website. Simply 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to register. The number to call for speech- and hearing-impaired individuals is 1-866-290-4236.
You can register up to three phone numbers at once if you choose to register on the National Do Not Call Registry online. To register more numbers, simply go through the registration process again. Those adding their phone numbers by calling the numbers listed above can only add one phone number at a time. They have to call the above numbers for each line they wish to register.
Can You Add Any Phone Number to the National Do Not Call Registry?
No. You can only add your home (landline) and mobile phone numbers to the Registry. Only personal phone numbers can be added to the database. The FTC does not allow business phone numbers on the Registry, and fax numbers are also not covered by the protection of the database. There is no need to add your fax number to the Do Not Call Registry because there are different federal laws and regulations for fax communications. These laws and regulations outrightly prohibit unsolicited faxes.
Do Sales Calls Stop Immediately after Registering on the Do Not Call Registry?
No. Sales calls from telemarketers do not stop the moment you add your phone numbers to the Registry. This is because legitimate telemarketers are not notified every time the database is updated. They are required to regularly check the database for newly added numbers. The FTC expects organizations subscribing to the Do Not Call Registry to check for changes every 31 days or sooner. Therefore, you may still receive telemarketing calls for up to 31 days after adding your numbers to the Registry.
Note that phone scammers and dubious telemarketers do not obey FTC rules and regulations and do not care about the Do Not Call Registry. You will keep receiving unsolicited calls from these bad actors and must find other ways to stop these calls.
Does Registration on the National Do Not Call Registry Expire?
No. When it was first introduced, phone users had to re-register their numbers every 5 years. However, with the passage of the Do Not Call Improvement Act in 2007, numbers added to the Do Not Call Registry will stay there permanently. A registered phone is removed from the Do Not Call Registry only if one of the following occurs:
- The owner of the number requests its removal
- The number was disconnected and reallocated
To remove your phone number from the Registry, call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you wish to remove. This number will be taken off the Registry within 24 hours. However, it may take up to 31 days to start receiving telemarketing calls again. When switching to a new phone number, you do not need to call to remove the old one from the Do Not Call list. It will be automatically removed when the carrier disconnects and reassigns it to another subscriber.
After switching to a number, you need to register this new number if you wish to add it to the National Do Not Call Registry. If your number changed because of an area code split, you do not need to re-register the new number. The FTC automatically registers new numbers changed due to split plans in the 90-day period when the old and newly assigned area codes are still active.
Are State Do Not Call Lists Substitutes for the National Do Not Call Registry?
No. With the introduction of the National Do Not Call Registry, most states suspended their Do Not Call Lists and began directing residents to the national database. However, some states still maintain separate Do Not Call Lists. The 12 states with Do Not Call Lists are:
These states Do Not Call Lists generally have rules and regulations similar to the National Do Not Call Registry. However, there are small differences. For example, Mississippi allows businesses to add their phone numbers to the state’s DNC List. Texas requires its residents to renew their registrations and keeps a separate Electric No Call List for businesses contacted by telemarketers acting on behalf of Retail Electric Providers.
Residents of states with Do Not Call Lists are encouraged to also register on the National Do Not Call Registry. This is because a state’s List has limited jurisdiction and may not be enforceable against out-of-state telemarketers. The federal Registry has national coverage, and its rules are binding for telemarketers operating in any state of the Union.
Does the FTC Penalize Illegal Calls to Numbers on the Do Not Call Registry?
Yes. While the majority of illegal calls to numbers listed on the Registry go unreported or uninvestigated, the FTC is empowered to fine offenders. Currently, the agency can fine offenders up to $42,530 for every illegal live call or robocall to a listed number. Considering the volume of calls placed by telemarketers, the overall fine amount can be huge for those flouting the rules of the National Do Not Call Registry. This is to discourage others from disregarding the Registry.
What Unsolicited Calls Are Legally Allowed to Numbers on the Do Not Call Registry?
FTC rules allow certain unsolicited calls even to phone numbers added to the Do Not Call Registry. However, it insists that these calls must not include sales pitches. Calls allowed to phone numbers listed on the Registry include:
- Calls from political organizations
- Call from charities and other not-for-profit organizations
- Calls from those conducting surveys
- Calls from bills and debt collectors
- Informational calls
- Calls made for emergency broadcast
Unsolicited political calls are definitely contentious. Most Americans find them as annoying as telemarketing calls. Recently, there have been calls to create a Do Not Call Registry for such calls so voters can register to be exempted from calls from political campaigns. However, political calls are currently allowed under FTC rules
Creditors and collection agencies can make unsolicited calls to debtors. However, there are rules that ensure they do not abuse this privilege. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act requires that bill and debt collectors do not call creditors at all hours. The law mandates that they call at reasonable hours and avoid calling when call recipients are likely to be sleeping. Individuals that are filed for bankruptcy may not be reached by unsolicited calls.
Dubious telemarketers often try to exploit loopholes in FTC rules concerning the Do Not Call Registry. One way is initiating contact with phone users via one of the exempted call types listed above and then asking their permission for follow-up calls. During subsequent calls, these telemarketers try soft selling tactics to get their targets to buy a product, pay for a service, or get an advertised offer.
Another way telemarketers try to skirt the restrictions imposed by the National Do Not Call Registry is to use caller ID spoofing to hide their true identities. This action breaks both federal and state anti-robocall laws and anti-spoofing laws.
What Is Caller ID Spoofing?
Caller ID spoofing refers to the intentional modification of caller information with the intention to trick the call recipient’s caller ID. Caller ID or phone spoofing is illegal when done with the aim to steal money, information, or other valuables or with the intention to cause harm.
Scammers and callers trying to hide their identities provide wrong or misleading caller information. They may change their names, phone numbers, or both as they appear on the receivers’ phones. Caller ID spoofing used to require sophisticated and expensive equipment. However, the wide adoption of VoIP has made it much easier to spoof caller ID.
When registering for a new VoIP phone number, a subscriber may choose their preferred number and name without IDs to verify them. Some VoIP service providers outright advertise and charge extra for caller ID spoofing. Some even allow users to change their caller information just before making calls. This makes it harder to identify callers by submitting their numbers for reverse phone number searches.
How Do I Report Illegal Calls After Adding My Number to the Do Not Call Registry
You can report illegal calls and violators of the Do Not Call Registry to the FTC. File a complaint on the website of the Registry. Visit the complaint page to do so. You can also report robocalls from the page. While you may not receive a response from the FTC, know that your complaint is important and valuable.
The FTC receives millions of such reports and does not have the resources to answer each one. However, frequently reported numbers catch the agency’s attention and are closely investigated. The numbers reported by phone users are also passed on to phone carriers and third-party entities developing call-blocking solutions.
For those receiving lots of unsolicited calls from debt collectors, the FTC advises reporting these callers to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They can report such violations on the complaint page on the Bureau’s website. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also accepts complaints about unwanted robocalls and texts as well as other types of illegal calls. Visit the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center to file a complaint.
Meanwhile, the FCC has started requiring carriers to implement caller ID authentication solutions, like STIR/SHAKEN, to cut down on the use of caller ID spoofing for illegal calls. The FCC also gave VoIP service providers up to June 30, 2021, to implement STIR/SHAKEN. This will reduce the number of unwanted calls flouting the rules of the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, as well as make it easier to identify and prosecute violators.