People upset over robo calls, say Do Not Call Registry doesn't work

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- You're just sitting down to dinner when the phone rings with a number you don't know.

Those telemarketing or robo calls are annoying. Almost a decade ago, the Federal Trade Commission started the Do Not Call Registry to block those unwanted telemarketers, but the number of calls is on the rise. The F.T.C. said the registry works just fine. KCRG-TV9 News talked with one man in Cedar Rapids who begs to differ. He put his number on the registry but is still getting dozens of robo calls.

"Phone calls elevated to 10-20 a day. Then it became 40-50 a day," said Gerald Wilkie of Cedar Rapids.

Wilkie has had enough of robo calls.

"It just came to the point where we couldn't even use our phone," said Wilkie, "If my daughter needs to come home from school sick, they can't get through. If I'm waiting for my doctor's office to call me, they can't get through."

Wilkie blocked as many numbers as he could and added his number to the Do Not Call Registry, but the calls kept coming. Despite that, the Federal Trade Commission said don’t blame the registry.

"The do not call registry works great and is very effective in preventing telemarketing calls from legitimate companies," said Janice Kopec, a staff attorney with the Federal Trade Commission.

The issue is scams and businesses overseas.

"Well first off, they're not afraid of law enforcement because they're not subject to our laws," said Chris Coleman, the president of the Better Business Bureau of Iowa.

The Better Business Bureau of Iowa said technology makes robo calls cheap for scammers. Wilkie said he's noticed certain characteristics from the robo calls he gets.

"If they say they're calling from the IRS and they have a thick accent and they're calling you on government holidays, that's kind of a red flag," said Wilkie.

And if that's the case...

"Hang up. Don't talk to them. Don't engage. Don't press one," said Kopec.

"By hitting any buttons, it pings their database and proves that you're a real, live person and sometimes it gives them permission to do some things to your cell phone or to continue to call you," said Coleman.

The F.T.C. said the NoMo Robo app is helps filter out robo calls being received. Coleman said he likes NoMo Robo because people can choose which numbers to allow to come through.

"You've exempted this from the Do Not Call List. If you specifically allow it to come through on your white list, it will be an approved number," said Coleman.

Coleman said the next step is for the F.T.C. to crack down on third party callers who claim they're affiliated with legitimate companies.

"They'll sell your information to other people and that's when the robo calls will escalate," said Coleman.

The F.T.C. said while the Do Not Call Registry doesn't eliminate all calls, it's still better to be on the list than not.