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Here’s the Truth About the Do Not Call List

Is there really a "Do Not Call" List? If so, does it even work? Here are the answers you need to stop the barrage of sales calls.

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Yes, there is a Do Not Call List

You’ve probably learned that responding to an unwanted phone call with a “Don’t call this number” and hanging up won’t do much to stop unwanted calls. What could help is registering for the “Do Not Call List” the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) opened 15 years ago. Well over 200 million phone numbers are registered. Learn how to get rid of those annoying telemarketers.

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The DNC List only prohibits sales calls

An important thing to know about the Do Not Call List—it can only stop sales calls. You may continue to receive:

  • political calls
  • charitable calls
  • debt collection calls
  • informational calls
  • telephone survey calls

Be aware of these phone scams that could steal your money.

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Not all sales calls are prohibited

Even if you’re on the Do Not Call List, you may still get sales calls from companies with whom you’ve recently done business; likewise, you may receive calls if you’ve given a company written permission to call you. To stop these calls, you will have to ask the company not to call you again—preferably in writing. At that point, the company is legally required to honor your request.

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Not all companies are operating legally

Most legitimate companies will observe the Do Not Call List and not call if you’re registered. However, since 2009 the FTC has seen a significant increase in the volume of illegal sales calls, including from companies that flat-out ignore the DNC List. One reason for this is the rise of robocalling, a practice that is completely illegal for the purpose of sales. Robocalling is permitted only by political candidates and charities.

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What to do if you get an unwanted phone call

If you receive a sales call despite being on the Do Not Call List, or if you ever receive a sales robocall, you should hang up immediately, recommends the FTC. In addition to the call being illegal, it’s likely the company is promoting some sort of scam. In addition, the FTC encourages you to file a complaint.

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What you should never do if you get an unwanted phone call

Don’t speak. Don’t press buttons. Don’t follow any directions, and please be aware that no company making a sales call has the power to put you on the Do Not Call List. Remember that any company offering to take you off its call list by following directions (pressing buttons, speaking to a live representative, etc.), is probably going to continue calling you, and perhaps even more often, according to the FTC. Also, keep an eye out for these other phone scams.

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What the FTC does when you file a complaint

Anyone who violates the list can be fined up to $41,484 per call, the FTC states. So far, the FTC has sued hundreds of companies responsible for unwanted calls and has obtained over a billion dollars in judgments against violators. So by registering, you’re helping to provide the FTC with more ammunition in the fight against illegal phone calls. Plus: 16 signs you’re about to be hacked.

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How to register

The easiest way to register for the Do Not Call List is to call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register (TTY: 1-866-290-4236). You can also register by visiting If you register online, you’ll receive an email containing a link you’ll need to click on within 72 hours, or your registration will not be completed.

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Don’t let—or pay—someone to do it for you

The FTC urges everyone to register only their own number and to never pay anyone who claims they will register your number. You—and only you—should register your phone number with the DNC List.

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How many numbers can you register at a time?

If you use the Do Not Call List link, you can register up to three phone numbers at any given time. If you have more than three to register, you will have to go through the registration process again. For each number you register, you will receive an email. If you wish to register more than three numbers, you can make another registration.

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Please be patient because there could be a lag

The FTC says that although your registration will be completed on the spot, the info can take up to 31 days to reach companies and for them to stop calling.

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Do you have to give the FTC your email?

If you register for the DNC List online, yes. But the FTC specifies, “While we do collect an email address, it is collected only to confirm your registration. We do not keep it or store it with your phone number.”

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The list is only for personal phone numbers

Business-to-business calls and faxes are not covered. However, you might be able to find a way in these tips on opting out of basically everything.

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Don’t believe the viral lies about the Do Not Call List

Please don’t believe the false rumors circulating about the registry:

  • The government is not releasing cell phone numbers to telemarketers.
  • There isn’t a deadline for registering a cell phone number on the DNC List.
  • There is only one DNC List, and it’s operated by the FTC.
  • The DNC List accepts registrations from both cell phones and landlines.

If you have registered a mobile or other telephone number already, you’ll never need to re-register.

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You can take your number off the list

You can delete your number by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number you want to delete. Your number will be off the registry the next day, and telemarketing lists will be updated within 31 days.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly in The Huffington Post as well as a variety of other publications since 2008 on such topics as life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. She is also a writer of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.