They call and offer me a free stay at a Marriott. They call and tell me I’m behind on my taxes. They call and tell me a virus has infected my Windows PC.

The Marriott offer sounds too good to be true — and it is. I’m not behind on my taxes. I don’t even own a Windows PC.

These are scams. I’m on the Do Not Call Registry for cell phones. But it doesn’t always help.

Here’s a brief explanation of why you and I keep getting spam calls (live calls and so-called robocalls) despite inclusion on the list. Plus, read on to learn more about what you actually can do to put an end to these bothersome calls.


The History of the Do Not Call List

Telemarketing a scourge on society and it always has been. In 2003, the United States did something about it, creating a National Do Not Call Registry that made it illegal for anyone to phone you that you had not given express consent to.

Americans added more than 700,000 phone numbers on the Registry’s first day.

The Registry was working, and most people who added their number noticed a sharp decrease in the unwanted outreach. But then something funny happened: The problem started getting worse. And there’s a clear reason why.


The Rise of Telemarketing Scam Artists

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) runs the Do Not Call Registry. In 2015, it received more than 3.4 million complaints, which was a 60% increase over the previous year. In 2016, it received more than 5 million complaints.

You’re not just imagining it: The problem is most certainly getting worse.

The problem is new technology that makes it easier than ever to set up a scam telemarketing operation anywhere in the world. Scammers can use tools to make it look like their calls are coming from your local area code — even though the caller is actually in a different country.

And voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) has made these international calls incredibly inexpensive. Scammers can make millions of calls to the United States from places around the world. They are using all manner of bilking methods to get their hands on your money, and it only takes a few unsuspecting consumers to fall for it to make give these criminals a significant return on investment.

Don’t believe their scams work? Consider this: Americans are scammed out of about $30 million each year due to these fake telemarketing calls.


Is the FTC Doing Anything About It?

Yes, the FTC is doing what it can under the law to stop these calls for those on the Do Not Call list for cell phones. There are 30 billion robocalls each year — more than 2.6 billion were made in May 2017 alone. And the FTC is taking action against violators in its jurisdiction.

The FTC has handed out $1.2 billion in fines, including a $280 million judgment against Dish Network.

But the FTC has collected only a fraction of the fines it has levied, mostly because many of these companies are out of the country — where the FTC cannot chase them down.

So, in the end, legitimate businesses like Dish Network bear the brunt of enforcement while illegitimate businesses skate.


What Can You Do?

OK, so this might all sound a little bleak. But there are actions you can take, four of them, in fact. Here’s a look at what you can do to make your participation in the Do Not Call Registry for cell phones more effective.


1. Get on the List

Are you sure you’re on the list? There’s nothing the FTC can do to help you if you’re not. The registry currently includes more than 200 million landlines and cell phones, and yours would be a welcome addition. Sign up for (or verify that you’re already on) the Do Not Call Registry for cell phones here.


2. Get an App for Protection

But what about those international calls? The ones that the FTC has a more difficult time stopping? The good news is: There’s an app for that.

In fact, there are several apps and tools you can use to ensure you put an end to robocalls. YouMail is just one of these services. It uses its Privacy Guard to unmask unknown callers and help you block them permanently, if needed. YouMail runs $5 or $6 a month (depending on whether you bill monthly or annually), but it also deliver a range of other helpful services.

You can also considered using another app or tool, including:


3. Call Your Service Provider

The FTC is doing what it can. But is your wireless provider? These large companies often have the power and technology to help in the battle against spam calls, but they don’t often wield the power or use the technology, for a variety of reasons.

So give them a call and register your complaint. And, if you’re an AT&T customer, you can sign up for the free Call Protect program. T-Mobile has started marking suspect calls as “possible scam” on caller ID, and Verizon is working on a similar program. Let them know that these programs are what you want.


4. Call Your Congresswoman or Congressman

Jackie Speier is a member of the United State House of Representatives. She has proposed legislation that would help put an end to the endless robocalls and fake telemarketing that wastes your time and compromises some consumers’ hard-earned money.

Here’s what you do: Call your own representative in the U.S. House and let him or her know that you support this legislation. Some people don’t know this, but someone has to talk to you or call you back when you get in touch with your representatives in Washington DC. You are a constituent, and you have a voice. Put that voice to good use.

Wondering who your representative is? Use this portal to enter your zip code and find out.


Final Thoughts on the Do Not Call Registry for Cell Phones

Trust me when I tell you I share your frustration over the failure of the Do Not Call Registry for cell phones and landlines. I can only hope that this problem gets better over time.

Follow the 4 tips above to make the situation better. And, in the meantime, don’t answer numbers that you don’t recognize. If it’s important, someone will leave a voicemail. If it’s not, they won’t.

Have you have a bad experience with spam telemarketing? Let us know about it in the comments section below, or reach out through our contact page.