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RoboCops Needed for Robocalls?

PHOTO: old telephone wrapped in cord. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: old telephone wrapped in cord. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
July 16, 2012

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - As the political season heats up, so do the automated phone calls called robocalls. With the candidates bad-mouthing each other every chance they get, it won't be long before your telephone rings and you'll hear something like this on the line: "...or by Restore America's Voice PAC. One thing I can tell you, Obamacare would bankrupt the nation. And it will be repealed. Press 1 to donate now or press 9 to be removed."

Such political robocalls are exempt from the National Do Not Call Registry. Shaun Dakin used to make such calls, he says.

"When I actually got them on the phone line, people were particularly angry and cursed me out - used profanity - and often told me they would vote for the opposition."

Dakin is offering people an option: sign up at www.StopPoliticalCalls.org. The organization asks political groups to not call voters who have registered, hoping the groups realize it is not in their best interest to continue calling. Experts say pressing 9 to be removed does not work and may put your number on an active list, meaning you could get even more calls.

Dakin also tried something else to turn the political robocall tide. He created reverserobocall.com.

"Reverserobocall.com was a business that allowed voters to record their own robocalls and send them to one or thousands of politicians at once."

Since it cost the voter money, it failed as a business, but Dakin wants to offer the technology to nonprofit organizations so they can flood their representatives' offices with messages.

Non-political marketing calls are also a continuing problem. Kati Daffan, a staff lawyer at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), says the FTC has heard plenty of complaints about non-political calls that continue, despite people being on the "Do Not Call" list.

"There's going to be a summit on October 18 in Washington, D. C., to develop solutions to the increase in illegal robocalls."

The political registry is at www.stoppoliticalcalls.org. The telemarketer registry is at www.donotcall.gov.

Renee Blake/Beth Blakeman, Public News Service - NM