Every year, emails and Facebook posts circulate about how telemarketers are about to gain access to cell phone numbers and start inundating us with cold calls. Scientific and anecdotal evidence does tell us that sales calls to mobile phones have been increasing. But that’s not because telemarketers are suddenly gaining access to new numbers—it’s because, according to the Pew Research Center, more than 90% of North American adults now own a mobile phone, with nearly 65% using a smartphone.
So where do all the claims come from about mobile phone numbers going public and federal governments in the U.S. and Canada developing a dedicated wireless Do Not Call list? According to the Federal Communications Commission, ongoing discussions within the wireless industry to establish a 411 phone directory of cellular accounts, much like the white pages that list landlines. As the FCC reiterates, though, “placing telemarketing calls to wireless phones is—and always has been—illegal in most states.” Unless, of course, someone opts in to receive such calls by explicitly providing their number to a company.
As most of us can attest, though, unwanted robocalls and telemarketing pitches still get through. But chances are those calls are coming from scammers who don’t care about playing by the rules. So here are a few ways consumers can still take action:
1) Anyone can add his or her cell phone number to the federal government’s Do Not Call Directory. The United States and Canada both maintain one list for any and all phone numbers, and you can register for it at any time by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the number you’d like to register or by visiting DoNotCall.gov (in Canada, visit lnnte-dncl-gc.ca). There is a 30-day preliminary period, but after that, your number is permanently protected (unless you choose to remove it). State-specific Do Not Call lists also exist.
2) If you do receive unwanted calls, remember that they’re probably coming from an illicit outfit that doesn’t care if your number is on the Do Not Call list. Still, you should file a complaint with the FCC by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC or filling out an online form, or report the activity to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-382-4357 or visiting their Complaint Assistant website (in Canada, you can file a complaint by visiting lnnte-dncl-gc.ca).
3) If you’ve filed a complaint but are still getting calls, rest assured that there are advocates willing to take your side. Earlier this month, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that Time Warner Cable was liable for erroneously making 153 prerecorded calls to a Texas woman—the person they were looking for had the same number previous to her. The woman reported the mix-up to Time Warner and added her number to the company’s Do Not Call list, but the messages persisted. So she filed a lawsuit, after which the company called her 74 more times. And Judge Alvin Hellerstein eventually awarded her $229,500—$1,500 per call!
The recent increase in attention around illegal telemarketing messages, robocalls, and other telephone-based scams matches up with an influx in data breaches, illicit email schemes, and fraudulent support calls made by hackers purporting to represent major companies like Microsoft.
If you’re concerned about the safety of your mobile devices, computer systems, and critical business data, contact CMIT Solutions today. We take security and safety seriously, and we strive to make technology work for your business by providing elite-level support and protection.