Disclaimer: This blog is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and does not create or intend to create an attorney-client relationship. This blog post should never be used to replace the advice of your personal attorney.
Every once in awhile, we all receive unwanted calls from telemarketers and other unknown numbers. Sometimes it’s nothing serious. You might hear from a telemarketer that misdialed a digit and wasn’t looking for you in the first place. However, there are instances when you are dealing with a spammer or scammer that tries to extort money or personal information from you. You should know how to report spam calls. Modern life is busy enough, without having to bother yourself with problems, you can easily avoid if you know how to.
The National Do Not Call Registry As A First Line Of Defense
Several government agencies take unwanted telephone calls very seriously. Your local attorney general’s office would like to hear from you if you’ve become a victim of a scam or received harassment from spammers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are in charge of the Do Not Call List. The list currently has over two hundred million numbers on it. Its purpose is to enforce the Do Not Call Act of 2003.
The Act is a piece of legislation, that was implemented due to the increased number of telemarketing calls as methods for selling goods and services. While legitimate telemarketers follow the law to its letter, they can still be pretty annoying. That’s why they need to follow the rules and regulations. A private citizen may choose to put their cell phone or landline number on the registry. Then telemarketers have permission to contact them in only three cases. That’s if:
- The number has been on the list for less than 31 days
- The owner of the phone number has given written permission to the telemarketer to call them
- There is a prior business relationship between the owner of the number and the company
Violators of the do not call rules can receive severe fines from the FTC and the FCC. Amounts can start from $500 and reach over $40,000. Every unwanted call counts as a single violation.
If you want your consumers to enjoy protection from unwanted phone calls, you need to know about the DNC list. Make sure the telemarketers you hire are legitimate and follow the rules. That way, you will guarantee the satisfaction of the people you are doing business with.
The Do Not Call List, however, cannot protect consumers from all unwanted calls. Various unknown callers may still reach them:
- Debt collectors
- Surveyors and people conducting polls
- Political campaigns
- Charitable and non-profit organizations
- Businesses calling for purely informative purposes
- Scammers and spammers
The Federal Trade Commission deals harshly with companies that disguise sales calls. If you are in the Do Not Call Registry and still hear a sales pitch on the phone or receive text messages containing such, you can file a complaint. Complaints take up to a month to process. The government agencies would like to know the content of the communications you’ve received. They will also check if you’ve given written permission to the telemarketer to call you, or if you have a prior business relationship with the company running the campaign. Expect to hear from the FTC and FCC if they need additional assistance. In any case, they are going to inform you about the outcome of the inquiry. You’ll be surprised how efficient reports turn out to be when it comes to fighting illegal calls. Your comfort and protection as a consumer are of interest to everyone involved.
The Federal Communications Commission And Spam Calls
Spam, and specifically robocalls, is one of the main targets of the FCC. They invest a lot of resources in combatting them. In their own words, they dedicate hundreds of millions of dollars annually to launching legal action proceedings against robocallers.
Another important thing the FCC does is to work closely with service providers. They have developed a system for analyzing available data and helping carriers block illegal calls and spammers by default. Such services prove to be an efficient line of defense against robocallers and spam text messages.
They also oversee third-party apps and tools that allow consumers to block spam callers and other dialers. Usually, such software deals effectively with numbers that don’t appear in the phone owner’s phonebook or other designated “white-lists.”
Illegal spoofing is another major problem phone companies face. The FCC does its duty by requiring service providers to implement Caller Id authentication procedures. They also collect and securely store data about consumer complaints. They protect the citizen’s personal information but provide the relevant data to the providers. In that way, they can better battle spammers, scammers, and unethical telemarketers.
Spammers and scammers aren’t famous for following the letter of the law, though. When you want to deal with them, you should look further than the National Do Not Call List.
Call Blocking For Specific Numbers
You are going to find an online form on the donotcall.gov website that you can fill out if you want to report spam calls. The FTC or the FCC will look into the matter and conduct an investigation. However, that measure works only for unethical companies that try to go around the Do Not Call Registry rules. It doesn’t work well with real scammers. You will have to try another approach if you want to be safe from scammers.
The first method applies to the cases in which you receive multiple calls from one number only. You can get in touch with your wireless carrier and ask them to block that number. AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and other service providers take the scam protection of their consumers seriously. You shouldn’t have a problem getting a decent call blocking service from them. That’s the most popular way to block spam calls. Many people resort to it, and it has proven to work reasonably efficiently for them.
There are other things service providers can do for you in those instances when you receive unwanted calls from several numbers.
Scam Likely And Other Methods To Block Calls
Network carriers keep track of scammers. They maintain databases containing their numbers and use them to warn their subscribers. Several years ago, T-Mobile and the other big fishes introduced the Scam Likely caller id. If you receive a call from a number that isn’t in your device’s address book that bears the tag, it means spammers or scammers are likely to be trying to reach you. Proceed with caution. You can choose whether or not you’re going to pick up. The Scam Likely tag can be a mistake and, a legitimate telemarketer might be trying to reach you, though, it is not always worth the risk.
When you choose to pick up, you should be aware of the scammer/spammer red flags.
- Companies or telemarketers you don’t know that try to get you to share your credit card number
- Aggressive sales pitches for miracle products or services
- People posing as debt collectors who aggressively threaten you with actions against you
- Multiple incoming calls with the same message qualify as spam in all cases
- Robocalls in almost all their varieties
If you notice some of those red flags, you should immediately report the caller to your mobile service provider. You can turn to the Federal Communications Commission if the problem persists even after the efforts of the carrier. Reporting spam calls only takes several minutes because you have to fill out an online form or talk to someone over the phone. The results of the inquiry, however, may take up to several weeks. Meanwhile, you’re likely to continue to be bothered with spam calls.
A More Permanent Solution
T-Mobile was one of the first carriers to introduce the spam blocking service to its subscribers. Unlike the Scam Likely tag, which automatically appears next to the caller id, you have to activate it manually. Check with your provider how to do it. In most cases, you will have to dial a specific code. The good news is that you don’t need a modern phone to report spam calls. You might have an old-school cell phone or the latest Apple iPhone. The blocking service most providers offer is free.
If you own a smartphone and want additional protection, there are third-party spam-blocking apps you can use. They will help you report spam calls easily. Just be careful what software you install. You may want to check with your provider or the FCC to make sure they are safe. Getting illegitimate software on your smartphone may have the opposite effect to what you want. Some dangerous apps might make you more vulnerable to hackers and spammers.
Can Blocked Spam Calls Go Through?
Generally, once a caller receives the spammer label, it’s almost impossible for them to break the defenses network carriers and third-party providers offer. If you block spam on your android device or Apple smartphone, they will no longer bother you. Spammers will call you if you have only Scam Likely tag enabled. It is then up to you to decline their communications.
The problem is that spammers change their numbers quite often. They use spoofing technology to give the illusion of calling from the local area when instead, they are calling from the other side of the world. Spoofing allows spammers to circumvent Spam Likely, and also fake their identity. That is the reason spam reports from consumers are vital. They enable network carriers and the designers of the blocker you got from the app store to update their databases. The more spammer numbers on the lists, the more secure the protection becomes. If you want to stop receiving unwanted calls in the future, make sure to file reports for any calls you get today.
Spam Calls Vs. Scam Calls
Not every spam call you receive is a scam. In the same vein, not all scam calls qualify as spam. If you know the differences, you’ll be able to help your network provider and the government agencies. You will be in a position to file the right report and thus expect faster, more efficient results.
A spam call is:
- An unwanted call that tries selling you goods or services
- Coming from telemarketers or robocalls
- Illegal, unless you’ve given an explicit written consent to receive the communications
At the same time, scam calls are:
- Illegal activities to steal money or personal information from the consumers
- Containing a demand for quick payment or provision of personal information such as bank account or credit card numbers to present a prize
- Against the law in every situation
You can see that it isn’t hard at all to tell the difference between phone scams and spam. When you file your spam report, you should make sure it indeed is spam you are complaining about to the authorities.
Protect Your Consumers From Spam Callers
If you want your business to run smoothly and optimize profits, you should look after your customers’ interests. You can keep them happy by ensuring they have no reason to report spam calls from your business or the telemarketers you hire. They most likely already use the services by their network carriers and third-party contractors such as Hiya. Such solutions work against known spammers, but it’s entirely up to you whether you will become such.
Avoid the spammer label by complying with the Federal Do Not Call Registry rules. You can get to know them in detail on the ftc.gov website. Their most basic tenant is never to call numbers on the Do Not Call List. You will need a subscription to the registry. Registration is free, and so are the lists of numbers for the first five area codes you need. You can subscribe to receive over two hundred million numbers in the US, or pay for the numbers in the area codes your campaign will cover.
You should also know the instances when you can call telephone numbers on the DNC list. You’re allowed to do that:
- With purely informative purposes; for example, if you’re a travel agent and you want to inform a customer about a change of flight details, you can do that
- When you have a prior business relationship with the owner of the number
- The consumer has asked in written form for your call
You need to match your company’s call sheet with the DNC database once every 31 days. That means you aren’t violating the rules if you contact a number that has gotten on the list less than a month ago.
Note that even if you comply fully with the Federal Do Not Call Registry rules, you may still receive the spammer label. Consumers may report spam calls to the authorities and service providers if your campaign is overly-aggressive. You might also find yourself in a small claims court for the same reason. Such developments cost a lot of money and cause headaches. You can easily avoid them by crafting your telemarketing campaign in such a manner that doesn’t bother the consumers who receive your communications. There are several simple principles to follow:
- Make sure your telemarketers are always courteous and on-point
- Call only during standard business hours
- Avoid multiple calls to the same number, unless the owner specifically asked for it
- Don’t use robocalls and text messages
- Avoid hidden sale pitches in informative communications
Market studies indicate that businesses that follow these principles run successful telemarketing campaigns. It’s only logical. The happier consumers are with the communications they receive from you, the more likely they are to purchase your goods or services.
If you need any help with crafting a telemarketing campaign that looks after your consumers’ security, give us a call. Our numbers aren’t on any No Call List. The specialists working for TCPA Protect are ready to assist you in guaranteeing the protection of your consumers.