Dear Federal Trade Commission, Exactly WHAT are You Doing About Unwanted Calls and Scams??

Posted on August 1, 2014


Too little, I suspect.


It has been The Year of Juggling Houses. Lila’s Brother has finished his new place in a neighboring county, and moved out of Dad’s old house; Lila and Hubby have just finished our new place and will soon be moving; and Dad’s old house was recently sold.

When it comes to Dad, Lila can be sentimental, and took it into her head that it would be kind of neat to save Dad’s old phone number… the one that has been ringing in his kitchen for the last 37 years. Why not keep it in the family? So, since there is no phone line at our new place yet, Lila went ahead with her long-awaited new cell phone and had the number ported onto the new phone. For a few weeks, I will have two cells, then cancel the old one.

I figured there might be the occasional call having something to do with Dad or Brother (so much the better that I answer those calls, than some stranger), but figured there shouldn’t be any more than the usual number of scammers and telemarketers. After all, we kept an answering machine on Dad’s old line and there were rarely any messages, and I had added Dad’s number to the Do Not Call list some time ago. I added it again once it was put in my name on the new cell phone.

And now things are interesting.

My old cell almost never gets telemarketer or scammer calls. Maybe that’s because I’ve had the phone for seven years – long enough to be really established – and because robocalls (automatic dialers) to cell phones are illegal (a human telemarketer can call your cell, but telemarketing companies love the robocallers because they are cheap and massive). At any rate, my old cell is nice and quiet most of the time.

Not so my new cell with my Dad’s old number! I have already had, for example, a call from “US Online,” wanting to know all about my computer (I think not!), several toll-free “Unknown Name” callers, and something calling itself “Member Rewards,” even though no one in our family ever gave out this number for any rewards program.  I worry far less about the annoyance factor than about the scam factor. One of my older friends actually lost several thousand dollars to a phone scam, and many others fall victim as well.

Suffice to say, Lila dutifully reports all of these numbers to the FTC. But what does the FTC actually DO about it?

Well, on the bright side, they do occasionally enforce the rules and violators have been fined or shut down. On the down side, there have been only 105 “enforcement actions” since the Do Not Call list and rules went into effect in 2003. Only 80 have been resolved, according to the FTC site. In my estimation, that’s not nearly enough enforcement over the last 11 years for such an ubiquitous problem.

Still, Lila will continue to report fraudsters and telemarketers. It only takes a few seconds, and will add to the overall pattern in the FTC database:

“Do not call complaints will be entered into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel system, a secure online database available to more than 1,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies. While the FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, your complaint will help us investigate the company and could lead to law enforcement action.”

Could lead to law enforcement action. Never soon enough for Lila’s taste.