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Is New York enforcing the 'Do Not Call' list?

November 21, 2018 07:22 PM

If you are receiving more calls from robocallers and telemarketers on your cell phone than ever before, you are not alone. Next year, almost every other mobile call is expected to be fraudulent.

The New York State Comptroller's Office wanted to know what the state Division of Consumer Protection was doing about enforcing the Do Not Call Registry. The office performed an audit, and auditors found issues.

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The Do Not Call List has been around in New York since 2001. If you put your number on it, telemarketers are not supposed to call you. If they do, the state can fine them up to $11,000 per call.

Fourteen million phone numbers in New York are on the Do Not Call Registry.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers file complaints about telemarketers, scammers, and robocalls. Last year, there were about 450,000 complaints. In all of 2017, the division only sent one case to their lawyers. Compare that to 2015, when the division referred 14 cases to counsel.

There are legitimate companies making calls and then there are scammers.  Both are just an annoyance to most people, but the FTC estimates that Americans are swindled out of $9.5 billion a year by scammers.

Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, D-NYC, who is chair of the Assembly's Sub-Committee on Consumer Fraud Protection shared three voicemails with us. A scammer left them on the answering machine of a 90-year-old in New York City. The scam worked, and the 90-year-old mailed $20,000 in cash to the scammer who said she had won a Publishers Clearing House drawing. 

Nowadays, robocalls are incredibly easy and cheap to make. NewsChannel 13 found a website offering to make them for one cent per call.

In a recent investigative report, NBC News had a computer programmer quickly create a robocall program that could call dozens of phones at once.

Using a technique called spoofing, robocallers can change their numbers to make it look like a local number in your caller ID.

The Division of Consumer Protection is facing a growing and increasingly sophisticated problem.

In its report, the comptroller’s office noted that the staff to take on those 450,000 complaints is just five people. Auditors found two of those positions were both vacant for over a year.

Auditors found missing and incomplete data. They also noted a lack of benchmarks to measure how well the division is doing at enforcement.

We wanted to meet the division in charge of enforcing the Do Not Call List in person.

Department of State press person Lee Park wouldn't make anyone available for an interview or answer our questions himself.

He gave us this statement:

"The issues brought up in the audit were addressed by the Division of Consumer Protection long before it was released. Protecting all New Yorkers is the Division's number one priority and we've already made improvements - including hiring a seasoned telemarketing professional to oversee Do Not Call investigations."

Comptroller’s Officer Audit Manager Sharon Salembier is optimistic. She says the Division was very receptive to recommendations.

“It was an effort that I think will result in better consumer protection for people in New York State,” said Salembier, Audit Manager.

The best approach to stopping those robocalls, telemarketers, and scammers may be to take it into your own hands. Below is a list of apps to block unwanted calls:

For the full comptroller report, CLICK HERE. 

Credits

Asa Stackel

Copyright 2018 WNYT-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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