The ‘Do Not Call Registry’- Silencing Rachel
By:   //  News Briefs, US News

by Carol Thompson

If you live in the United States, chances are you’ve received a robocall from “Rachel” offering to lower your credit card rates—even if you don’t have a credit card—and despite the option to opt out of receiving the calls, Rachel persists.

As do hundreds of other telemarketing firms who completely ignore the U.S. National Do Not Call Act. Ten years since its enactment, consumers are seeing little relief.

Robo Rachel, who purports to be from Cardholder Services, has called people at all hours of the day, often from different area codes, making it difficult for consumers because they can’t block the number.

As of Sept. 2013, there were more than 223 million active consumer registrations, according to the FTC’s annual report and Rachel accounted for many of those complaints.

While to some it may seem that the Do Not Call Registry doesn’t work, since 2009 when all telemarketing robocalls were made illegal, the FTC says it has stopped one billion calls, imposed $117 million civil penalties on violators and recovered $28.2 million for consumers who were defrauded.

The FTC report states that the agency received 3.8 million complaints in 2012 and 3.7 million complaints in 2013, according to the report. Complaints from both years were up substantially from 2011, with 2.3 million complaints received that year.

Rachel has earned the tag of the FTC’s “public enemy number one” because of the number of consumer complaints. There is even a “Stop Rachel from Card Services” Facebook page that is not affiliated with the FTC.

The calls from Cardholder Services purport to have an important message regarding an opportunity to reduce high credit card interest rates. Consumers are urged to “press 1” to connect with a live representative, or to “press 2” to discontinue the calls. Consumers who press 1 are connected to a live telemarketer and those who press 2 find that it doesn’t do anything to stop the calls.

Some consumers have pressed 2 so that they could tell a representative that they are on the Do Not Call Registry. They would either be promptly hung up on, and in some instances, called a vulgar name or two before the call disconnected.

According to the FTC, consumers who reached a live telemarketer were offered the opportunity to have their credit card interest rates reduced. But there was a catch—they had to pay for the reduction and telemarketers would make the pitch that the consumer would still save money. The fees ranged from several hundred dollar to nearly $3,000.

The FTC has been trying to stop the perpetrators. In August the FTC held a “Zapping Rachel Robocall Contest” in hopes that a hacker could come up with a solution to the evasive company or companies responsible for the calls. The FTC asked contestants to build a next-generation robocall “honeypot,” a system designed to lure in and identify the perpetrators of illegal robocalls

In June, the FTC reported that the calls have slowed, however, the agency is still receiving approximately 150,000 complaints per month pertaining to Rachel.

Image: Flickr squarularkumquats3


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