Imposter Scam Calls Again Top FTC's Consumer Complaint List

Most American adults are on the list, but with little apparent effect

James R. Hood
James R. Hood

There are about 333 million people in the United States, the Census Bureau says, and nearly 245 million telephone numbers on the Federal Trade Commission's Do Not Call list.

While it's no doubt true that some people have registered more than one telephone number on the list, one could safely say that most adults have signed up to be free of nuisance calls – you know, the ones about your car's extended warranty, threatening calls from IRS imposters and other bothersome and even fraudulent issues.

The FTC has been maintaining the list for 13 years so you might think it would have had some effect by now.  But the FTC's latest report shows phones continue ringing off the hook, with consumers filing nearly 594,000 complaints during the last fiscal year, ending on Sept. 30, 2021.

The FTC calls its annual report that Do Not Call Registry Data Book. You know a problem is out of hand when the feds have to write a book to describe it. If sleep aids have failed you, you might want to take a look at it.

Most Unwanted Calls

Not surprisingly, most of the complaints are about imposters of various kinds. After all, someone trying to scam you is probably not going to give you her or his or their real name.

The least original imposters tried to pass themselves off as being from the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service, or business entities like Microsoft.

Of course, you can't really blame the imposters for sounding like a machine. Many of them are. In fact, most of the complaints were about robocalls, the recorded or computer generated calls that rival pornography for the most common use of modern telecom technology.

Robocalls really hit their stride last March, generating 347,000 complaints, a high point for the year.

Whether live or recorded, calls about warranties and protection plans were second on consumers' hit list, followed by debt reduction schemes, medical and prescription issues and computer issues like tech support.

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Much effort, little progress

While the FTC and other agencies have strained mightily, the flood of annoying, illegal and aggravating calls continues unabated. Besides the FTC's list, the Federal Communications Commission has enacted numerous regulations that, among other things, require telephone companies to ensure that calls are coming from the number they claim they're coming from.

Quite a bit is known about who the phony callers are, even though no one seems to be able to do anything about them. On the other hand, quite a bit is known about the consumers who have added themselves to the list as well.

The top five states for DNC registrations are Maryland, Delaware, Arizona, Colorado and Virginia. Interestingly, Maryland and Virginia – and possibly Delaware, depending on how you look at it – are in the federal government's backyard. Perhaps residents of those states have more confidence in the federal government's ability to solve problems than their more complacent neighbors?

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Scams

James R. Hood

Jim is a publishing entrepreneur and journalist. He founded ConsumerAffairs in 1998 and earlier was the founder of Zapnews, after holding executive posts at the Associated Press.