June 16, 2023

Why the Do Not Call List doesn't work to stop spam

Why the Do Not Call List doesn't work to stop spam

Instituted in 2003 to afford consumers the chance to avoid unwanted telemarketing calls, the National Do Not Call List (or Registry) allows Americans to opt out of most types of unsolicited contact. Unfortunately, registering doesn’t eliminate spam calls altogether. Although domestic telemarketing companies must comply with Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations, including not calling numbers on the Do Not Call List, overseas scammers have no such restrictions.

The goal of the Do Not Call List is to notify telemarketers of phone numbers they’re forbidden to call. If you add your number to the list, legitimate telemarketers will face consequences if they call you. Spam callers are not legitimate telemarketers, however, and the Registry does little to deter international scammers from trying to steal people’s information.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Do Not Call List and how to keep yourself safe from unwanted calls.

What is the Do Not Call Registry?

The Do Not Call Registry is a database maintained by the United States government that lists telephone numbers telemarketers are not permitted to call. It was created as a result of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and was designed to help consumers prevent unwanted calls. You can be added to the list by visiting donotcall.gov and entering your home or cell phone number, or you can call 1-888-382-1222 from the number you want to register.

Unfortunately, the Do Not Call Registry comes with significant limitations. The FTC (the organization that manages the registry) can only punish those who violate the Do Not Call List — they can’t block calls themselves. There are also some exceptions and exemptions, so even if you’re registered, you may still receive certain types of calls.

Why the Do Not Call List is not working for you

So why is the National Do Not Call List not working for you? If it’s the only line of defense between your phone and the spam problem, you’ll need to upgrade your arsenal. The Do Not Call List can be helpful in eliminating legal sales calls, but it’s not how to get your number off spam callers’ call list.

Let’s discuss why the Do Not Call List is not working for you.

Ineffective enforcement measures

The FTC has been hard at work maintaining the Do Not Call List and punishing those who violate the registry. Unfortunately, the 151 enforcement actions that the FTC has taken haven’t eliminated the tens of billions of robocalls — and dollars lost — that Americans experience each year.

Part of the problem is that many spam calls come from overseas, which means the people sending them aren’t aware of or don’t care about our laws. The Do Not Call List is intended to regulate legitimate businesses that follow American laws, not international scammers who profit from breaking them.

Legal exemptions and exceptions

Certain businesses, campaigns, and organizations are not required to abide by the Do Not Call List. For example:

  • Companies you’ve done business with before (or attempted to)
  • Non-profit organizations and charities (but not telemarketers calling on their behalf)
  • Politicians or political campaigns
  • Survey organizations (but beware of fake survey companies)

Although these exemptions exist, you should still be sure that the caller is, in fact, associated with one of these groups. Never give out personal information over the phone before verifying the person’s identity.

What the registry doesn’t do

The Do Not Call Registry is far from a comprehensive solution to the spam problem. Because of its limitations, it leaves consumers open to unwanted calls from legal and illegal entities.

What types of calls are allowed if you are registered on the Do Not Call List?

As we discussed above, certain types of calls are still allowed, even if you’re on the Do Not Call List. You can still legally receive calls from businesses you have engaged with in the past, even if you didn’t make a purchase. You may also get calls from charities asking for donations, political campaigns soliciting support (especially during election seasons), and survey organizations looking for insights. Telemarketers who abide by the Do Not Call List are not allowed to make sales pitches of any kind.

It’s important to note that, like the FTC or FCC, the Do Not Call List cannot outright block calls. It is simply a database of numbers that telemarketers are not allowed to call, so the List itself can’t actually prevent the calls from happening — it only allows the FTC to punish offenders.

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What can you do about illegitimate calls from legitimate companies?

Legitimate companies are obligated to abide by the Do Not Call Registry, but that doesn’t mean they all do. Sometimes you may get calls from legitimate companies that unknowingly — or in some cases, intentionally — break the rules. If this happens, report the incident to the FTC right away.

More commonly, however, people on the Do Not Call List will receive calls that appear to be from legitimate companies, but they’re really from scammers. Legitimate companies face legal action if they violate the Do Not Call List, including thousands of dollars in fines for each call. That means that if you get a call that claims to be from a legitimate organization, there’s a good chance it’s actually a scammer using caller ID spoofing.

Is the Do Not Call List not working? Technically, it’s doing its job — but you’re going to need more help if you want to fully do away with spam, scams, and unwanted calls.

Robocalls and spoofed numbers

One of the reasons the spam problem has gotten so severe is the tactics scammers use. The technology required to make robocalls or spoof your phone number is inexpensive and readily available, so the prerequisites to phone scamming are minimal. Let’s discuss how these two tactics work.

What is caller ID spoofing?

Caller ID spoofing is a spamming tactic in which callers disguise their numbers to appear like they’re calling from a local area code or a reputable company. When the target looks at their phone and sees a number they at least partially recognize, they’re more likely to answer the call and give the spammer an opportunity to pitch their scheme.

Spoofing is one of the largest hurdles the spam problem has on its track because any number can be spoofed, and any spammer is able to do so. If your caller ID tells you you’re getting a call from your bank, doctor, or school, you’re probably going to answer. However, if you call back, you won’t get the same person on the phone. This tactic is extremely difficult to trace, especially all the way overseas.

Why do scammers use robocalls?

A robocall is any type of call that uses a recorded message instead of a live person. While the name might suggest a robotic voice, it doesn’t have to sound like a robot, it just needs to be pre-recorded. There are certain types of legal robocalls — like appointment reminders and school closing announcements — but any unsolicited robocall you get that tries to extract information or get you to purchase something is illegal. In these cases, robocalls are a form of spam or scam call.

Scammers use robocalls because they’re cheap and easy, and when used in combination with caller ID spoofing, they’re tough to track. Scams that cost them less than a penny have a huge potential return on investment; according to our research, the median amount lost per phone scam was $1,382 in 2022. Unfortunately, the Do Not Call Registry can’t protect us from illegal robocalls.

What about cell phone companies?

Cell phone companies work with government agencies like the FCC and FTC to crack down on spam in a number of ways. Perhaps most importantly, they work together to implement and uphold the STIR/SHAKEN framework, which aims to authenticate calls and help reduce caller ID spoofing. Unfortunately, this framework hasn’t had the comprehensive effect that was hoped for — at least not so far.

Cell phone companies can’t stop robocalls themselves. Although they can cooperate with government agencies and help educate consumers about how to stay protected from scammers, cell phone companies and voice service providers are only a tiny piece of the puzzle. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how to protect yourself from spammers and their scams.

What to do if you’re still getting spam calls

If you rely on the Do Not Call List as your primary spam blocker, you may still be getting several spam calls a day. The good news is that there are other steps you can take to bolster your defense and keep scammers off of your phone and out of your bank account. You can build an impenetrable wall between the scammers and your privacy by ignoring, blocking, and reporting suspicious numbers and using a third-party spam blocker like Robokiller.

Block suspicious numbers

Whether you get a voicemail that’s obviously from a spammer or you unwittingly answer a call from a “bank representative” that turns out to be a fraud, don’t hesitate to block suspicious numbers. If you’ve already answered the call, hang up as soon as your gut tells you something’s off. From there, you can look up the number online or call the company being imitated at an official number to check if they actually wanted to contact you.

Follow these links and learn how to block suspicious numbers on Android and iPhone.

File a report

When you recognize a number as spam, don’t forget to report it. Reporting known spammers can help protect others and prevent them from contacting you or anyone else again in the future.

  • If you lost money to a spam call or have information about the scammers, you can report it at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
  • If you were targeted by a spam call but didn’t lose money, you can report it using the form at DoNotCall.gov.
  • Notify your phone carrier that you’ve been targeted by a phone scam.
  • Report spam calls to the FCC’s Consumer Complaint Center.
  • Report spam texts by forwarding them to 7726 (“SPAM”) — a spammer who texts you can just as easily call you.

Don’t answer

It might be tempting to answer an obvious spam call just to give them a taste of their own medicine, but in the long run, it will only show the spammer that your number is active. When you ignore and report spam calls instead, you don’t give the spammer any indication that they should try again in the future. This goes for text messages, too — even if the message says something like “Reply STOP to unsubscribe,” it’s best to block the number and report it as a scam.

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Use a third-party app: Robokiller eliminates 99% of unwanted calls

The Do Not Call List can help you avoid a small group of unwanted calls, but it doesn’t offer much protection against dangerous, illegal ones. Third-party apps like Robokiller, on the other hand, are designed to detect and block spam and scam calls before they become a threat to you or your family.

Robokiller uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to create and trace audio fingerprints, offering an actionable, effective solution to caller ID spoofing. The app also draws from a global blocklist of over 1.5 billion numbers and can identify and shut down spam calls in a fraction of a second.

Here are some other bright spots on Robokiller’s impressive resume:

  • $78 million prevented losses to scam calls in 2022
  • 99% effective spam call and spam text blocking
  • Award-winning audio fingerprinting technology
  • Customizable block and allow lists
  • Hilarious Answer Bots that waste scammers' time

The end of spam as you know it

Thanks to tactics like caller ID spoofing and social engineering (or manipulating people into giving away personal information), avoiding scams is much easier said than done. In many cases, victims don’t even realize they’ve engaged with a scammer until they’ve already fallen for the scheme. 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to eliminate spam and the risks it poses to you and your family. Governmental regulations and communications policies like the Do Not Call Registry may not have fully solved the issue yet, but a combination of understanding, vigilance, and a third-party spam blocker like Robokiller can help you secure your privacy and your peace of mind.

Unlock 99% effective spam protection today when you start your free 7-day trial.


What is the Do Not Call List?

The Do Not Call List is a database of numbers that telemarketers are not allowed to contact. It can help consumers avoid annoying and unwanted phone calls. However, its reach is limited to legal calls, so it’s not very effective in protecting people from spam.

How long does it take for the Do Not Call List to take effect?

When you opt out of telemarketing calls by registering for the Do Not Call List, your number should appear in the database the next day. However, it may take up to 31 days to stop receiving calls from legal telemarketers.

How long does a number stay on the Do Not Call List?

Unless your number is reassigned to someone else or you decide to remove it, it will stay on the Do Not Call List. There’s no need to renew your registration or take any further action in the future.

What if I am on the Do Not Call List and still get calls?

The Do Not Call List does not prevent all unwanted calls — only legal telemarketing calls from legitimate businesses. If you received an unwanted call from a legitimate telemarketer after having been on the list for 31 days, report it to the FTC.

*The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, the information made available on this site is for general informational purposes only. Please refrain from acting on the basis of information on this site without first seeking legal advice from legal counsel.

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