DENVER - They are the annoying phone calls no one wants to get.
Calls offering to lower your rates seem to be among the most persistent.
One of the more relentless robotic calls starts with, "Hello, this is Rachel with cardholder services."
There are 3.5 million Coloradans registered on the no-call list, yet the telemarketers and robo-calls keep coming more now than they have in the last nine years.
"For two months they were trying to lower my credit rates, or my credit interest rates, and I had no cards," said Marti Pedigo, who said she is being harassed by telemarketers.
"This, I have no idea who that is. I don't know what that is. I don't know what those are. See how many?" she asked CALL7 Investigator Theresa Marchetta while flipping through screens full of numbers on her cell phone.
Pedigo registered both her cell and home phone numbers on the no call list as soon as it became available.
"When you say, 'Don't call me again,' what do they do?" Marchetta asked.
"One lady hung up on me," said Pedigo, "It's frustrating. It angers me because I can't stop it."
She says telemarketers are wasting the money she spends for cell phone minutes and putting her life in danger, calling while she is driving.
"It startled me because I thought it must be an emergency so as I tried to reach for the phone and answer it, I swerved enough to scare myself and probably other drivers," Pedigo said.
Marietta Ballard also said she is getting more calls than ever.
"I get them constantly. I don't know how they get your information if you don't give it to them, but there they are," said Ballard.
Youre on the no call list? asked Marchetta.
Yes, but for what? laughed Ballard. I get them constantly.
When the no call list went into effect 10 years ago, the number of complaints started to decline from more than 1,000 to an average of about 400 complaints a month.
Since last August, the CALL7 Investigators found that number has almost doubled, so Marchetta went to the Attorney Generals Office for answers.
The problem for us is putting a face or a person to that phone number. The phone numbers are oftentimes completely bogus. They show up on Caller ID as something and that's not where they are. It's all designed to make it tough for law enforcement to find out where they are, said Jan Zavislan, head of the Consumer Protection Division responsible for enforcing violations of the no-call list.
When's the last time you caught somebody or sued someone or requested charges be filed? Has there been a recent case where you've gone after these companies? Marchetta asked.
No. Recently? Not at all, said Zavislan.
The Call7 Investigators found the Colorado Attorney Generals Office has taken in 64,000 complaints since July 2002.
In response, they have sent just 334 cease and desist letters over an 8-year period to companies breaking the law.
"These are people who are objecting that they are getting a call when they're on the no-call list, that's a bad thing in of itself. These are not people who are necessarily, who are victims that have lost money to a scheme, said Zavislan.
I have a prepaid (phone), so when I was answering the phone they are using up my minutes and now I have to buy more minutes. Over time I don't know how many they've used up, she said.
Some of these people have lost money. We talked to a woman today who prepays for her telephone. She's in her 70s, Marchetta told Zavislan.
We definitely have some victims, Zavislan said.
She's losing money every time and she's getting a half dozen of these calls a day. So people are losing money. There are victims here, Marchetta added.
While the calls and complaints have increased, the Call7 Investigators found money to fund enforcement has dropped dramatically, from nearly $72,000 in 2007 to less than $30,000 last year.
But Zavislan said that is not what is causing the spike in telemarketing calls.
What we've seen is an increase in telemarketing activity from what is probably massive telemarketing centers located off shore and overseas that may have 200 clients for whom they're doing automatic calls for, so that can quickly jump up the number of calls that are on the no call list, Zavislan said.
While nothing will stop all the calls completely, making sure all your numbers are on both the state and national list will help.
Reporting the violators so state and federal agencies can track them down is critical to curb the problem.
Still, calls will get though as companies continue to thumb their nose at the law.
Telemarketer texting also violates the no call list.
Right now, the Attorney General's Office devotes fewer than one full-time staff member to chasing down no-call list violators, with no immediate plans to change that.
- To get on the Federal No Call List, call 888-382-1222
- To get on the state no call list, go to ColoradoNoCall.com
- To block a text, forward text to 7726