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What You Need To Know About Robocalls

The Do Not Call list, created by the Federal Trade Commission in 2003 after public outcry over unwanted marketing calls, has slowed the avalanche of telemarketing calls from legitimate companies. More than 222 million phone numbers are on the list – for perspective, the entire U.S. population is about 319 million.

222 million

Phone numbers on the Do Not Call list

$350 million

Lost by consumers to phone scams in 2011

3+ million

Complaints about Do Not Call violations in 2015

77 percent

Of consumers “highly annoyed” by robocalls

But last year the FTC still received over 3 million complaints about unwanted calls. The problem? Some legitimate companies still aren’t respecting the Do Not Call list. And many of the unwanted calls are from scammers or non-legit companies, who don’t care if they violate the law. Many operate overseas, making prosecution even tougher. So far, the FTC has collected less than 9 percent of the $1.2 billion in fines for violating the Do Not Call list.Sadly, it’s getting easier for scammers to trick you into answering the phone. New technology makes it easy to “spoof” a phone number, so that a scammer can show up on your caller ID as an apparently legitimate number. Robocalls can be quickly set up, and illegal scammers find it easy to avoid detection.

Worse, telephone scammers target vulnerable consumers, including the elderly. Consumers lost some $350 million to scams in 2011, according to the latest available FTC data.


Why the Do Not Call list isn’t effective

Technology made it easier to “spoof” phone numbers

Many scammers overseas; don’t worry about violating the law

Robocalls are fairly inexpensive to set up and take down

Many phone companies resist technologies to effectively block illegal robocalls
The gimmicks include the ‘IRS scam,’ in which the caller claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service and demands money from the victim for unpaid taxes. The federal government reports that about 5,000 consumers have fallen victim to this crime, losing some $26.5 million. Other scams include “Rachel from Cardholder Services,” a recorded message that promises to lower your credit card interest rates, the Microsoft computer scam, and phony medical alert offers. All are tricks to get your hard-earned money.

The Law

  • Many telemarketing robocalls are illegal without prior, express written consent from you.
  • Nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations, political calls, and emergency robocalls are legal for landline phone numbers without written consent.


  • Nonprofits and most political organizations need your consent to call mobile phone numbers.
  • Emergency or health-related robocalls are exempt for both landlines and mobile phones.
It’s time to end the scourge of robocalls. Three out of four consumers told Consumer Reports they’re “highly annoyed” by robocalls, and we’ve received more than 25,000 of your stories complaining about calls and scams.Learn more about how we plan to end illegal robocalls with your help, and make sure to share this with those in your network.