Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why Do Not Call Does Not Work

From a business etiquette point of view, I would categorize SPAM as any communication that is unsolicited, unwanted and impersonal.  And it's not limited to e-mail.  Telemarketing calls are a particularly invasive form of SPAM, which are, by all accounts, universally hated.  

When I heard that the federal government was instituting a National Do Not Call Registry (NDNC) I was hopeful because our government was taking steps to protect the privacy of its citizens but concerned that it would end up being a toothless tiger due to the public sector's inability to take a hard line on things and the fact that it turned management of the list over to a Telecom giant with a spotty customer service record.

So, it was with mixed emotions that, I added our household to the list 16 months ago.  Could it possibly be that after the requisite 30-day clearance period, we could enjoy relaxing evenings free of interruptions from charities, newspapers and politicians?  Alas, no! For reasons not readily apparent, these groups are exempt from the NDNC registry.  Since they represented at least 75 per cent of the telemarketing calls we received before registering, things were not looking good.  I called the Canadian Radio & Television Commission to ask why they had chosen to allow some of the most prodigious telemarketers to continue their shenanigans but a recorded message informed me that all of their lines were busy and to leave a message.  I gave up. 

But it's important to stay positive right?  At least I'd finally be free of those endless calls from my bank and credit card providers with their "amazing, limited-time offers" to buy cheap life insurance or that pesky lawn aeration company I hired a year ago and didn't like.  Woops, wrong again! Frustratingly, organizations that I have done business with at any point in the past 18 months are also exempt from the list.  That meant I would continue to hear from any number of companies that I have a relationship with because, as a person participating in society, I need to have credit cards, put money in a bank, stay in  hotels, etc.

That second list of exemptions were responsible for another 20 per cent of our pre-NDNC registration calls, bringing the quantity of unwelcome calls I would continue to receive to around 95 per cent of the calls I was already receiving. It turns out the only calls that would truly disappear, were those from a random group of moving companies, landscapers and telephone fraudsters.  While those have decreased since we registered, we continue to receive a nightly call from an organization calling "on behalf of Microsoft" informing us that our computer is at risk and we need to immediately download $400 worth of software to protect our network from impending doom.  A quick Google search, revealed unsurprisingly, that this is a huge fraud and suprisingly that it has actually worked on many Canadians.

With this knowledge, I called the NDNC office to file a complaint.  Foiled again!  The nice person who answered the phone asked for the name and phone number of the telemarketer.  The funny thing about people operating telephone fraud scams is that they usually don't share this info.  I gave him the limited details I had and he told me that he would submit the complaint on my behalf but could not guarantee anything since it was likely outside of their jurisdiction. He suggested I call Phonebusters, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.  I called six times over the course of one day and got a busy signal every time.  Not, an opportunity to be placed on hold while waiting for a representative but an actual, old-fashioned busy signal.  Again, I gave up.

While fraud schemes seem to operate outside legal boundaries, I don't see why the Do Not Call registry can't provide Canadians with the option to eliminate all unwanted calls.  Since I haven't been able to get an answer from the CRTC, can anyone shed light on why so many organizations are exempt from the process? 


  1. Found your post after googling for the scam you mention. I have been on the Do Not Call List for a while and it had reduced the number of marketing calls, Lately, I have been receiving some so yesterday, I checked my registration, thinking it had expired. I was on since 2008 and expiring in 2013. Since I was already on the site, I decided to renew my registration which pushed me out to 2016.

    Today, I received a call from someone saying they were a “Windows Service Provider” and that my PC was infected with a virus. I cut him short because I knew it was a scam. I can’t help but find it odd that this would happen the very next day after I renewed my DNCL registration.

    As stated on the CRTC web site: “When you register, your phone number is added to the National DNCL within 24 hours. Telemarketers have 31 days to update their own lists”. For me, this confirms one thing: the good companies will remove you from their marketing list; the bad companies will use this as their new list of numbers to call today. It is basically feeding the scammer’s database.

    Instead of getting calls during diner from companies you don’t care for, trying to sell you stuff you don’t want, you get calls from companies you can’t track, trying to catch you off guard to steal your money. I’ll abide by my rule: I answer nothing and provide no information over the phone unless I know for sure who I am taking to.

  2. Thanks for reading my post. It would be great if the Do Not Call List people could stumble upon it. That's so bizarre and disturbing that you suddenly got that Windows Service call after re-registering with the DNCL. I remember when they launched I heard something about scammers mining the list but I didn't personally experience that.

  3. Read your post. Laughed out loud a few times. Well done.

    (We let our children deal with the telemarketers now... They are fairly young and were positively delighted to learn that in this one instance Mom and Dad advocated for rudely hanging up on callers... So they both now race to the phone when it rings hoping desperately it is a telemarketer so they can hang up rudely and then giggle... Of course, more than once, they've hung up on legitimate callers... Ah well, I'm not much of a phone person so it serves them right.)

  4. The CAPTCHA just now was "mankil".

    I'm sure it meant nothing.

  5. Thanks Colleen. I have a hard time being rude to the charities when they call. My husband just hangs up but I usually let them go through their spiel and then politely say that I'm not interested. I just can't bring myself to interrupt them in the middle of their pitch but maybe it's worse to get their hopes up by letting them think they have a "live one". I just don't know.

  6. Thank goodness for caller ID . I just don't answer numbers that I am not familiar with. Maybe I have overlooked some really great stuff, but oh well. A few times in a risky mood, if it's an actual person I have said "Would you hold on a minute?" Then lay the phone down and go about my business. It keeps their line tied up for a bit and mercifully mine, too. I have registered with the NDCL but it seems to have made little or no difference.