Do not answer

Years ago when I was with the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, I worked with a multistate group drafting Do Not Call legislation for states to adopt in response to rampant telemarketing calls.

I soon put my landline number on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry and, truth be told, experienced a significant drop in such calls.

I was a little late to the party with my cell phone, putting that number on the list in 2013 – and again, went for a long stretch without the harassing calls.

Not so anymore. Over the last few months, I’ve received an increasing number of calls from companies hawking student loan debt relief, mortgage financing opportunities, credit card upgrades and the like.

Now I’m averaging at least two such calls a day. And I’m not alone. My daughter in Spain recently texted me to complain about the number of telemarketing calls she’d been getting, and friends and other family members have confirmed the same.

My first thought once I realized that the calls were increasing: What in the world had happened to the Do Not Call registry?

Turns out it’s still in effect and working, to some degree – at least enough to warrant listing your phone numbers there.

Now though robocalls are the problem, and combating them effectively might take more than having your number on a list.

“If I’m sitting in India dialing a million numbers, what are the odds I’m even going to be fined for violating the Do Not Call Registry?” Alex Quilici, chief executive of YouMail, told Christopher Mele of the New York Times.

“It’s probably near zero.”

Mele capsulizes the problem in this article and offers some tips to help minimize the number of calls and alleviate any damage that responding might cause.

The simplest of course is this: Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.

As we all say, if it’s important enough, the caller will leave a voicemail.

There are apps you can install, of course – but as is true with all things technology, you’ll be playing a game of whack-a-mole. As spammers evolve, so too will the apps need to do.

There’s also a program from the Jolly Roger Telephone Company that strings along the robocaller to the point of frustration.

To hear how the program works, listen to some of the clips posted on the company’s website. You’ll be tempted to buy the program, even if its effectiveness might be short-lived, if only for the satisfaction of hearing robocallers go ballistic.

And check out Mele’s article. It’s worth the read.

###