KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - If annoying robo- and telemarketing calls seem to be ringing your phone more frequently, you're not imagining it.
The Tennessee Do Not Call Registry has been around for 19 years and millions are signed up. There is also a National Do Not Call Registry. If you signed up for it, you are also put on the list in Tennessee.
When you look at the numbers, the registry's success is faltering. A new study from the Federal Trade Commission says reports of telemarketing calls illegally placed to number son the registry have increased steadily since 2014.
Those calls were made either by a live person or an automated script - a robocall. There are a number of factors that drive up unwanted calls for those on the registry.
Often during the week, when Rev. Rick McIntee begins to prepare for his Sunday sermon at his office in North Knox County, he'll be interrupted by a phone call. Rev. McIntee registered his cell phone on Tennessee's Do Not Call Registry years ago, but he continues to get unwanted calls.
The registry, operated by the Tennessee Public Utility Commission is designed to "provide relief from unwanted telemarketing calls to registered phones."
"The problem I have with the Do Not Call list is, it doesn't seem to be working," said Rev. McIntee.
McIntee says he'll get several calls a week, and quite a variety.
"Some of them want to lower your credit card rate percentage rate. Trips, travel trips, hearing aids," he said.
McIntee sometimes talks to them.
"I ask them their name. I'll give my name. I'll talk gently with them, I don't yell or raise my voice. One time, one guy, he started yelling and cussing at me because I said, "How did you get my number?" He must have had a bad day," said McIntee.
He asks how they got his number, since his number is on the list.
"It doesn't surprise me that it doesn't appear to be working. I was hoping it was working. If it's not working, why are we doing it? Why is there a list there at all?" he asked.
"A lot of people wonder if it is working. I would come back with, 'Are you getting calls from the legitimate companies?'" said Jimmie Hughes, the person in charge of Tennessee's Do Not Call list. "It covers a solicitation call where the caller is soliciting either a product or a service."
Hughes explained that if you've had a business relationship with someone, they can call you for up to 12 months.
"We have almost 250 solicitors who are registered here in the state of Tennessee and the Do Not Call List is successful in keeping those solicitors from calling you if you are on the list," he said.
The FTC says the most common unwanted calls in 2017, at 12 percent, involved some sort of debt-reduction service with pitches such as, "Is the IRS hounding you?, we can help."
Just above 4.2 percent are complaints about vacation and timeshare services like, "You've won a free cruise!" Just below 4 percent are warranties and protection plans. "Has the warranty expired on your car?"
McIntee had some direct questions for Hughes.
"I registered my number, it's on the registry, why do I still get these calls when I'm not supposed to?" asked McIntee.
":A lot of people think, 'Okay I'm on the Do Not Call List and it is going to stop any calls that I don't want.' It is not a blocking service. All it does is it sends your phone number to the companies that are registered with us," said Hughes.
"I want to know what I can do to stop unwanted calls," replied McIntee.
"Steps to actually get the calls stopped its like trying to stop the junk mail that comes to your house," said Hughes.
The key is if you get a call you don't want, don't interact with them and don't press any buttons.
"The main thing they're looking for is they are trying to gather information," said Hughes.
If you don't have an answering machine so you can screen calls, it's touch to stop scammers from calling you. The FTC says new technology makes it easier to spoof local telephone numbers and rapidly place a high volume of calls from any location, including those outside North America.