Let’s Put Teeth Back Into the Do Not Call Program

I tweeted the other day about my frustration with callers breaking the DoNotCall program rules using spoofed numbers and increasing hitting not only our home phone, but increasingly, my cell.

To me, these boiler-room and auto-dial marketers make a mockery of the law.  I don’t know enough about number spoofing to know if it can be stopped.  I do know that reporting a violating call from an unknown company using a spoofed number seems pointless.

In response to my tweet, a friend/colleague told me he shared the same frustration and recently wrote his congresswoman about it.  Here’s a copy of his letter.

—- LETTER A FRIEND WROTE TO THEIR REPRESENTATIVE —

Dear Congresswoman:

The Do Not Call list was a great success for its first decade. Even today, there is excellent compliance by responsible businesses. However, there is a growing scourge of a handful of businesses using automated dialers who flaunt the law. I have two land lines in my house and they each receive 4-8 calls daily from a handful of companies. Government channels established to handle complaints are useless because these violators use phony caller ID numbers and identifiers. Making a complaint that will successfully identify the company making the call, therefore, is impossible and a waste of time. You can find a litany of complaints from people here: http://800notes.com/forum/

I could buy a device that would mainly screen out these calls but I think I (and the millions who are subjected to these calls) deserve law enforcement. My wife is so fed up, she wants to get rid of our main phone number and just use our cell phones.

I thought I remembered that – in the wake of multiplying spam faxes in the 1980s – there was some legal requirement that faxes have an accurate ID and telephone number. Moreover, that deliberate use of an inaccurate ID constituted fraud. Having done some research, I’m not all sure about this; it might have been suggested but never enacted.

Nonetheless, it strikes me that deliberate use of inaccurate caller ID information is plainly wire fraud when it is intended to mask the identity of a caller looking to evade the do not call list restrictions. Even in a gridlocked Congress, a law making this a felony subject to fines should be a no-brainer to pass.

Enforcement also should part of the program. I would be more than willing to participate in a federal or state program where I used a smartphone app or some website to provide an enforcement agency date and time information of when I received a call that violated the DNC provisions. By matching the date and time of my number with the actual originating number (readily available from phone companies), it would be very straightforward to identify the calling number. With only hundreds of volunteers (and I reckon the actual number would be in the tens of thousands) it would be relatively easy using pretty straightforward analytical techniques to establish the identity of the business and a pattern sufficiently pervasive to demonstrate a willful violation.

One response to “Let’s Put Teeth Back Into the Do Not Call Program

  1. I’m thinking that if anything like this is to have a shot at passing, President Obama needs to not say one word about it until it hits his desk. Any expression of support for much of anything will doom it in R quarters at this point.

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