A ‘versatile’ way to get around the Do Not Call list

Some companies can be very sneaky these days. Especially when they buy lists of consumers’ phone numbers from companies that falsely claim those consumers had given written consent to get sales calls despite being on the National Do Not Call Registry.

According to an FTC settlement, Versatile Marketing Solutions (“VMS”), a seller of home security and monitoring systems, did just that. 

VMS bought phone numbers from “lead” generator companies that blasted illegal robocalls and fake home security survey calls to identify homeowners who didn’t already have a security system installed in their homes. VMS then called those people to sell them home security monitoring services despite two important facts: their phone numbers were on the National Do Not Call Registry, and none of them had given VMS written permission to call. VMS knew that the companies from whom it bought the phone numbers were engaged in illegal activity because, when VMS made their calls, many people responded that they had been contacted illegally. Despite numerous complaints, VMS continued to call these illegally generated leads, resulting in millions of unwanted calls to consumers on the National Do Not Call list. VMS also called people they had called before and who had asked not to be called in the future.   

Should you find yourself in a similar situation, here’s what to do:

  • File a complaint with the National Do Not Call Registry. If you get a sales call after your number has been on the list for 31 days, complain to www.donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222; it’s toll-free.  
  • If you answer a telemarketing call, don’t give out your personal or financial information. Treat your personal and financial information like cash. Don’t divulge information about whether you own your home, what you have in your home, alternate phone numbers, your birth date, social security number, or credit card or bank account information.
  • Hang up on any robocalls. If you answer a robocall, don’t respond to any automated instructions. In particular, don’t press any numbers, even if they say it is to get more information. Doing so may be taken as “consent” to use and sell your phone number to another company.
  • File a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 1-877-382-4357 or TTY 1-866-653-4261.
Blog Topics: 
Privacy & Identity

Comments

This is fantastic information! Thanks for making it available to FTC subscribers.
This explains why the 'callers' who are charlatans tell me that they have done 'nothing' illegal. And there are many times when it is the SAME person who has already called me several times.

What about political organizations that pass your email address from organization to organization?

Unfortunately charities and political organizations are exempt from the do-not-call law.

During election seasons I am forced to diconnect my land line from the wall. Way to many calls that I have no interest in. I know who I will vote for and I don't need to be questioned about my choices.

I have been on the DNC registry since it began. I check regularly and make certain I am still on there.
When I get these Calls (A LOT!)I dont say anything, or hit any number. I just hang up.
I have filed innumerable complaints over the years. When you get 3 calls a day, and file a complaint on each one, and NOTHING ever gets done... what is the purpose? DNC does no good, and these same callers go on and on and on.
After I have been reporting these same calls for 8 years.. why should I waste my time anymore? it does no good.

DNL is only helping reduce calls from maybe 5-10% of legitimate businesses, the other 90%+ of the people calling you are a) illegal/fraudulent businesses or b) entities those DNL law do do apply e.g. government and charities. This is why we need to protect our own phone-lines with devices such as call blockers.

Like VMS, there are several others out there, including government agencies and charities that invade the privacy of US citizens every day. This is why consumers need to take control of their own phonelines using products such as call blockers. Call blockers are inexpensive devices that can block unwanted calls permanently. For example, in Amazon, there is a cheap call blocker device (e.g. T-Lock N2 version selling for $60) that can block up to 1,500 unwanted phone numbers -- this device has helped thousands of citizens protect themselves against companies like VMS.

I DO GET ALL SORTS OF CALLS ROBO, I PRESSED 1 TO TELL CARD SERVICES ,AND I HAVE A SNAP SHOT I TOOK FROM THE CALLER ID . WHEN I PROCEDED TO TELL THE MAN I AM ON THE DO NOT CALL LIST WITH THE GOVERNMENT & THE STATES ATT. GEN. LIST HE YELLED AT ME 3 TIMES (SHUT UP ),I COULD NOT BELIVE WHAT I WAS HEARING ! I CALLED AND FILED A COMPLAINT WITH THE (FCC) I GET 3 TO 6 CALLS PER DAY BUT THIS GUY WAS THE STRAW THAT BROKE THE CAMELS BACK ! WHEN I GET UNSOLICITED CALLS NON ROBO TELAMARKERTER CALLS I JUST TELL THEM I AM ON THE DO NOT CALL LIST , THEY HANG UP VERY QUICKLEY . BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEY ARE BREAKING THE LAW . THIS OTHER CRAZY CO. NOW I WILL MAKE THEM GET FINED FOR SAYING SUCH THINGS TO ME .

3/10/14 , 4:20 dinner time robo call , i pressed 1 to tell CARD SERVICES NO. ON CALLER ID 360-322-6687 ,I AM ON THE GOV. DO NOT CALL LIST HE SAID (SHUT UP) ,& I TOLD HIM I AM ALSO REGESTERED WITH THE PA. STATES ATT. GENRAL LIST TOO, HE YELLED (SHUT UP) AND (SHUT UP )AT ME AGAIN .I CALLED THE FCC TO REPORT THEM , I TOOK A SNAP SHOT WITH MY CELL PHONE OF THE CALLER ID TOO . I HOPE THEY GET A NICE FINE , THIS IS ABUSE ! I ALWAYS GET THESE CALLS , I TELL THEM I'M ON THE DO NOT CALL LIST AND THEY HANG UP QUICK , THIS MAN IS THE LAST STRAW IN MY BOOKS ! THE OTHERS ARE JUST ANNOING , THEY NEVER STOP , BUT AT LEAST THEY NEVER ABUSED ME LIKE THIS CRAZY MAN DID .

Xabier, thank you for posting the number here. I will add it to my list of fraud numbers linked to fraud so that people who buy the t-lock call blocker know about it!

I also get from 3-5 calls from credit services each week, also for time share sales. I have filed complaints but I notice that the numbers change each time, so there is no way that these people can be trapped. By the way I have gone the route of politely asking them not to call that I'm not a good lead (have no debt, have no timeshare), but still I get the calls. I have also tried putting them on terminal hold, still they call. I can not use a call block because I run a business out of my home and I cannot have my clients and prospects deterred in any way. Any help would be appreciated.

I am receiving annoying calls from all these random numbers 313-483-8665, 415-466-2093, 725-265-9984,836-457-88197 (even a 11 digit number), 381-208-4624, I wished they would stop, they just wont.

I had to place my number back on the list here although I hadn't taken it off. Somehow it had been removed. I put it back because a tellemarketer for some power supplyer called and I hung up after I told her Im on both state and federal do not call regestry lists. She called up and said she can call anyway because she has a right to offer this discount and started to swear and threaten me. The number is 917)383-1019. from down south from the accent. What valgur and anoying behavour. I hope you nail them. I am going now to also report it to my state dnc reg. Thanks,I had recieved less calls since I firsst registered but strangly they started again. Please look into how my number was taken off.

I feel like there's no hope for stopping illegal callers who just use calling cards and throw away cell phones. I get a call at least once a day from someone telling me it's 'the last day to lower my interest payment.' It will never be the last day it seems. This has been going on for months. Now I am getting these same calls on my cell phone. When I start to say, "do not call..", the hang up. I looked up the number 714-551-6939 (and other numbers that have called me)on the White Page reverse call website, there are many others complaining about this same caller. I end up missing legitimate calls now because I don't know who to screen anymore.

Here are some strategies I use for scofflaws who ignore DNC:
-- Ask if they can hold for a minute, then set the phone down until they hang up.
-- Pretend I can't quite hear them so they speak louder and louder. No matter how loudly they yell, I tell them I can't quite hear them. This one can be a lot of fun.
-- Pretend to be interested, but when they ask for any kind of commitment or information, ask them to clarify, explain, give me more information, or just run it by my again. Repeat until they hang up.

I'm hard of hearing and cant understand what is being said on my phone, so I don't have any "minutes" phone plan, just data. But every once a while some telemarketer tries to call me. When that happens, I just pick up, yell/scream or blow a air horn or whatever, then hang up. It usually works. I guess they think they stumbled on a deranged individual or a murder in progress or something and don't want to be involved (especially if illegally calling). So far I've been really lucky that I very rarely get calls - but then again - I've kept the same phone number for many years. I recently got a video phone and the old number was used by somebody else

Payback: I have Verizon FiOS. I can go online and block up to 10 numbers; helps some. The new thing I do is utilize the call forwarding feature; but SELECTIVE call forwarding. Take Card Services phone number, enter it as the phone number to forward the call to; and then enter the same phone number to 'forward calls from specific numbers"; what this does is forward the caller from that number, back to the caller! He he! BE SURE the radio button is checked for Forward Calls from Specific Numbers. Now... you can only do this with one number; or add up to 10 numbers to be forward to Card Services; who cares; keeps your phone from ringing.

This won't work if the caller's phone number is spoofed, as it usually is. It just leads to a number that is not in service. Also, as described elsewhere in these comments, telemarketers are now using the caller's phone number as the number that appears in the caller ID.

Bravo sphinxrb! I love your suggestion with the call forwarding! We've got Verizon too, but going to see if there's a way we can do that with our home phone. We get calls repeatedly and usually I simply don't answer, but now we have a great weapon to fight back with your idea! Gives new meaning to the phrase 'what comes around, goes around'.

Can't wait to start setting this up on my phone. Guess it's time to 'share' the love with those annoying calls!

Thanks again sphinxrb! Absolutely brilliant!

The FTC doesn't care about this at all. If they did, they would do the below.

1. Change penalties from civil to criminal for telemarketing violations.
2. Mandate that all telcos MUST have noborobo available for customers to use.
3. Mandate Implementation of anti-spoofing systems on all POTS and wireless carriers

With the NSA collecting so much data , I am sure they would be able to track this down in less than a month and have it fixed, but alas...we are the ones that are stuck with being harassed and it won't stop until the above is implemented and someone high up in the bureaucracy starts getting harassed on their personal line.

I got 5 calls from this company in May 2014; the lawsuit didn't work.

I have been receiving these calls for years. I started blowing a whistle in the phone on Card Services and it did help. However one day I received 13 calls, from the same guy,in a row each time blowing the whistle and that he was breaking the law. The most disturbing call from Card Services showed up on Caller ID from my home phone number. Today I told them that I was on DNCL and he told me it didn't apply to them because they worked for the banks who issued my credit cards and when I signed the contract I authorized them to call me. I sincerely hope he is wrong.

Here's the thing: registering your phone in the National Do Not Call Registry will stop most telemarketing calls, but not all.

Calls from or on behalf of political organizations, charities,and telephone surveyors would still be permitted, as would calls from companies with which you have an existing business relationship, or those to whom you’ve provided express agreement in writing to receive their calls. This is because of jurisdiction limitations of the FTC and the FCC. 

However, if you ask a company with which you have an existing business relationship to place your number on its own do-not-call list, it must honor your request. You should keep a record of the date you make the request ansd you can always report violations to the National Do Not Call Registry to the FTC.

I also received a call today that Caller ID showed as MY home phone!
It was a Robo-Call that we've received several times -- "Hello, this is Rachel/Heather, (this time it said Rachel) there is no emergency about your credit card, but you do need to call me immediately about a money-saving opportunity."

I hung up at this point, & called my carrier. YES, it IS illegal for any company to lie about their identity on Caller ID. (& robocalls are supposed to be illegal also.)
YES, there is very little that can actually be done once your # gets out there.

I complained that I have been getting many calls recently, despite being on the Do-Not-Call List since its inception, as well as having a private #. I check every few months to make sure our numbers are still there.

The main thing I learned is that your carrier has other lists they can be sure you have been either removed from or added to in order to make your # even more private.

It seems that the number of scams has risen drastically lately, all masquerading as legit. Most pretend to be "surveys" or a company you already do business with so it's legal to call.

I have noticed an increase in the # of strange Caller IDs -- things like "Unavailable 1" -- because I can't block a 1-digit phone number! FYI: Today this was the Microsoft scam.

Here is another #518-278-0333 for "card services". have been sworn at, hung up on. this # is listed to Hudson Communications, Clifton NY-they claim they no longer own this # and can not give out info. They are preying on the elderly here in Fl. My Mom is 83 with dementia, I can't stop her from answering these calls and she is always afraid she owes someone money. Have reported with "Do not call registry" laughable, have a call to Attorney General in NY and FL, again laughable, How do we stop this??? Our provider can only block local calls. Over this past year have received at least 500 phone calls!!!

When the exceptions "swallow the rule", the DNC List is no longer effective. Get a call blocker from Amazon, especially one that holds up to 1200 numbers. I know it is working when I hear one ring only, then silence. Dinner hour is now reclaimed !!! :-}

Does the FTC actually do anything? I have submitted dozens of complaints over the past two years and I still get just as many robocalls, illegal sales calls, etc. I've never been contacted by the FTC, and I get the same numbers calling me time after time, even after reporting them.

What does it take for the FTC to actually do something and act against a telemarketer? I am about to stop reporting them because I feel like my reports are going into a black hole since nothing ever happens.

I received a robo call yesterday from Rachael at Card Member Services. The uniqueness of this call was that it came from my own phone number (according to caller ID) to the same phone number (my phone number) I tried to report this to the FTC via their website but my complaint was not accepted because of the phone number discrepancy (numbers were the same) Number was obviously spoofed but the FTC website does not understand something that simple. My suggestion would be to work on your website so that it does accept unusual inputs and not only what it expects to receive. Maybe in another decade they will figure this out.

I to have been called by someone using my own phone number.

This SO CALLED "DO NOT CALL LIST" is not good enough. I want political calls stopped. Come on FTC get it done. Please!!!!!!!!

I also hate fakes, frauds, liars, scammers, illegal telemarketers etc. who loves them? well maybe their friends and family but most of the decent folk are sick of dealing with them. I am not suggesting anyone go as far as I have gone in chasing down the repeat call offenders for free. yes its the ftc job but they need help = we get the calls personally rarely does a scammer call the ftc trying to scam/annoy them. normally I just stay on phone til I drive scammer crazy and they hang-up. I just saved someone getting a call by wasting as much of scammers time as possible. while i also write info of whats said and trying to do a net search on number and anything they tell me. I have in the past put my own money at risk 1k and invested weeks in hunts to get correct address locations of illegal telemarketer organizations. even had dxxxx card fraud department(thankyou) help me in locking my card acct from any charges during a giving week but collect data on any request to access/charge on card to obtain info so I could give the ftc agent more info. i have upset a scammer so bad he left a nasty message on my answering machine and oops used his home phone in winterhaven. when i called the phone number back the next day his wife answered i said i received a call from this number and was wondering if it was a wrong number or was someone trying to reach me i use to live in sarasota bla bla chatting with her? it took a few minutes for her to realize the mistake and switch to playing company employee saying soanso was out of office but 1st few minutes of conversation had already blown that. so yes i sorta scam the scammers to obtain info. hey i didnt create the 1st contact they did. i regularly check incoming numbers, report fraud behavior and all around annoy them back. maybe some day there will be a dontwasteyourtime calling list scammers will share with each other and my number will be at the top. til then happy hunting dont be a victim be proactive.

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