DENVER (CBS4) – Frank Horvath complained that his phone rings all the time; day, night, at home, his cell. The calls are unsolicited telemarketers, and he’s tired of it.
“For probably the last six months or so, I get these calls. It’s three, four, five times a week, long distance number from different area codes. It’s a robo-call that says if you’d like to lower your credit card rates,” Horvath told CBS4.
Judie Wass has the same problem, but different telemarketers. She gets calls two or three times a day from a company called Pacifictel, offering debt consolidation.
“It’s very, very upsetting because financially I’ve struggled and I’ve tried really hard to straighten it out and this just brings it all back,” Wass said.
A Google search brings up hundreds of the same complaints about Pacifictel; aggressive robo-calls with various numbers showing up on caller ID. CBS4 couldn’t find any information on a legitimate company offering debt consolidation under the name Pacifictel.
“If you’re on the no-call list and you’re getting automated calls chances are those are bogus,” said Jan Zavislan, Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Consumer Protection Section.
The Colorado No-Call List was created in 2002, and the National Do Not Call Registry was created at about the same time. Both were designed to cut down on the number of unwanted solicitation calls. Telemarketers are supposed to scrub their call sheets of any phone numbers that appear on the no-call lists. Horvath and Wass are signed up on the no-call lists and still their phones ring.
“Even when this was first adopted back in 2002, we made it very clear that this was going to make a significant difference, but there will always be companies that operate outside the law,” Zavislan said.
Tracking down bogus callers is nearly impossible. The number that appears on the caller ID is usually not the number the call is coming from. It’s called “caller ID spoofing” and companies use it hide their location.
“The telemarketing companies are using technology that is illegal to make it appear on caller ID that the number that is doing the calling is different than what it really is,” Zavislan explained.
If you call the number on your caller ID to try to make the telemarketers stop, you usually get a busy signal, or a recorded message, or you could end up talking to Bill Benegar.
“I’ve got four pages of calls here, all from different days,” Benegar told CBS4.
Benegar believes his private cellphone number showed up on caller ID’s all over the country, as Pacifictel solicited credit information. He’s been inundated with calls from people saying they were contacted by Pacifictel.
“A couple of them were pretty nasty to me and they said some pretty bad things,” Benegar said.
He got so many angry calls he had to stop answering his phone; it was eating up his minutes. Benegar says he was able to work with the Federal Communications Commission to get the calls to his phone to stop, so he didn’t have to change his phone number.
“I just want everyone to know, don’t pick up the phone to telemarketers,” Benegar said.
That’s good advice. The Colorado Attorney General’s Office advises people if there is a message on your answering machine to delete it and if it’s an automated call, just hang up.
Sometimes the robo-call gives you the option of pushing a button to be taken off the list, but the AG’s Office says don’t fall for that one.
“They tell you to push three and I pushed it, and pushed it, and pushed it. Next day I get calls again,” Wass explained.
“All you’re doing is you’re letting a telemarketer somewhere know that you’re a potential live consumer. So you’re increasing the value of your name and number to the telemarketer,” Zavislan said.
There are some things you can do to keep those unwanted calls to a minimum:
— Make sure all your phone numbers are registered with the Colorado No-Call List.
— Make sure all your phone numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry.
— Be cautious about filling out sweepstakes entries or online surveys, those companies often sell your information to telemarketers.
— Consider getting a “No Solicitation” recording on your phone, that will help stop the robo-calls but it does come with a cost.
If you do continue to get unsolicited calls from telemarketers, the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission want to hear from you. They want you to file a complaint on their website and include the number on your caller ID, even if it’s bogus. If these agencies get enough similar complaints they will investigate and sometimes successfully shut down telemarketers that operate illegally.
RELATED: More Reports By 4 On Your Side Consumer Investigator Jodi Brooks
– Written for the Web by CBS4 Special Projects Producer Libby Smith