Do (Not?) Call Lists

The Toronto Globe and Mail reports that Canada’s do-not-call registry is being sold for next to nothing to international scammers who are barraging these households with phone calls, but are largely beyond the reach of Canadian law.

Two things don’t ring true to me about this story. The first is the implicit claim that, prior to folks registering for the do-not-call list, the scammers had trouble getting access to these people’s phone numbers.

That might be true for the unlisted numbers, but I would think that you could buy every listed phone number in Canada for a few thousand dollars.

The second thing that feels wrong about this article is that relative to any other list of phone numbers you could find, the do-not-call registry must be the least profitable one imaginable. Why would a scammer want to call a list made up of people who have made it clear they do not want to be solicited over the phone?

(Hat tip: Gord Wait)

Mike M

Some companies may recognize an opportunity. If no one else is calling, and the person answering does not expect a solicitor to be on the other end it may provide a window to deliver a pitch. Sometimes all a good salesperson needs is a small opening.

My brother used to cold call business as a part of a B2B sales job, and he said he always had the most success getting an appointment with the businesses that had "no solicitation" on the door for that very reason. I don't know how ethical/legal that is, but it worked.


Many scammers do not "solicit" but will pretend to be from their credit card, bank, car dealership, .... most are not trying to do the simple sale. While I would presume that DNC phone numbers will be more aware of these issues it's not a certainty, in fact some may even be biased to believe them since they "are on the DNC list".


For your first thing: mobile phone numbers were never listed before. Some Canadians added their mobile phone numbers on the do-not-call list. So for the first time, the telemarketers can get hold of mobile phones.

For the second thing: you have to ask telemarketers. I mean, even people who hadn't register their numbers do not wish to get calls from them. Why would this industry even existed in the first place?

I feel that it is like internet spam. They are doing more damage to others than profit to themselves.


This Do Not Call list is a fiasco and very frustrating. I initially did not register my number, since it was a cell number and not listed anywhere. The only solicitations I got were from my own credit card company, who I had to give my phone number to.

Then one day, I got a call from a telemarketer. At that point, I went and registered my number with the Do Not Call list. Now, the news is coming out that my number is being sold, and it makes me LIVID, because otherwise my number would not be accessible.

So, there you go... It's trusting people whose numbers wouldn't otherwise be out there that the companies are getting.


For the scammers to stay in business, their default assumption has to be that people don't want to be called, but if you get through and have an offer that sounds good enough, they'll buy anyway. If their business model is not based on that assumption, I can't imagine how they are profitable.

On first pass, the list might be treasured. If they are on the do-not-call list, and you have their number, you must be the only person calling them! What an opportunity. There is the small matter that the company who is selling the list has other customers. But then you are back to: people don't want me to call, but if I can get a chance to present a great deal, they will buy.

The do-not-call list is a list of phone numbers that are actually in use and people wanted to safeguard. You could buy a list of all listed numbers, and that list would include 40 phone numbers my company bought for future use but have not yet associated with a phone. You would get my summer cottage that only has a person there 8 weekends a year.

Finally, I have to mention the scam that has been calling me four times a week. It's probably using an automatic number generator to dial all combinations of numbers. It's a recording that says, "You auto warranty is about to expire." My auto warranty expired years ago, and I didn't have my current phone number when I bought the car. It can't be targeted marketing in any way shape or form. They are just taking money from anybody willing to shell it out without thinking. Their victims are people who think they are continuing an existing business relationship. Do-not-call lists specifically allow businesses to continue doing business. That list may be a list of people who have a false sense of security.


Chris L

Primarily it is just a very reliable list of names linked to phone numbers. From what I hear, having this is incredibly valuable information to telemarketers.

Also it includes cell phone numbers that are unlisted in Canada, but that people have registered for the list despite not really needing to in the first place.

Chris G

I'm one of those who cannot relate in any way with any individual who would buy something because they got interrupted in their home to learn of a product they all of a sudden realized was just what was needed.

Nonetheless, there must be more people out there that would do just that than I'm aware of, because I have to believe that if there weren't an opportunity, companies wouldn't do sales that way.


The article notes that you can purchase a list of names covering all of Toronto for C$50. Realistically, how much would it cost someone to make automated calls to the names on this list? Even if they manage to successfully scam just a handful out of the 600,000 or so numbers they've purchased, I'd imagine they could cover their costs and then some, with no real threat of fine or imprisonment.


Canadians (myself included) were encouraged to put not only home phone numbers but previously inaccessible cell phone number on the list (as a precaution.)

I fell for it, and my mobile phone which had never been a target of telemarketers before now gets automated calls telling me that I've won a free cruise.

I agree that it seems counterintuitive to target people who have expressly opted out of telemarketing, but isn't telemarketing success is pretty rare anyways? I think that for spam e-mail the expectation is that somewhere around a couple of tenths of a percent will respond and buy; but people still do it because the overhead is so cheap. I assume this principle applies here too.

It really is cruel to tease freezing Canadians with the promise of a free cruise in a warm destination. That should be punishable by international law.

Gregory L

I'd imagine the telemarketing industry is much like that of email spam; there are scammers that buy lists from brokers.

Brokers are not looking for customer demographics; they are paid for sheer volume of working, up-to-date phone numbers, and what list could be more pristine and accurate than a DNC list?

(Disclosure: I'm signed up on this list and yes, I get the fake auto warranty call and the "you've won a free cruise" scam)


Even more bizarre is the political campaign that calls without checking against (and eliminating) the Do Not Call registry. When asked, they're quick to point out that the U.S. law exempts them from Do Not Call compliance. Sure, that's true, but what kind of moron calls someone who has explicitly said "Never call me!" to say "Hey, sorry to interrupt you against your wishes, but, um, vote for me!"

It seems even stupider to me than when telemarketers do it. I wish someone would publish a study on good call outcomes for regular calls vs. Do Not Call calls so that all of these idiots would go away.


It's like the fake "click here if you do not want to receive any more email" that shows up in spam. It gives the spammers an up to date list of valid email addresses to use and or sell.
Knowing that, I don't know what I was thinking signing up for the telephone equivalent!
It's like a user comment on slashdot - sign up here for the "Do Not Burgle" list, make sure you indicate the hours that you are not home!

Gord Wait


Even here in India, we have this National Do Not Call Registry. I think it would be more effective to have a can-call list where I don't care who they sell the database to. Maybe they can even make some money in the process and reduce my tax :p

What I don't get is - why is a do-not-call list better than a can-call list ?


As a direct marketing professional, I can tell you that whenever I read Direct Marketing Response Rate reports, year-in-year-out telemarketing is the most profitable DM channel. They wouldn't do it if it didn't work.

Mitch Trachtenberg

Simple and inevitable solution: machines that route all calls to voice mail, unless the person at the other end can enter your privacy code or call from a whitelisted number.


I would dispute your assertion that people on the do-not-call list would be the most unprofitable group of people to call.

In my experience in sales, the people who put up the highest resistance at first, are often the ones who KNOW they are vulnerable to a good salesperson.

My guess is that the DNC list has a disproportionate number of lonely elderly people, and people who have been ripped off before. AKA - the perfect customers.


Perhaps there is some pitch the folks on the list are unusually vulnerable to.


just hang up

NY'rs dont even say hello......


My solution is simple: if I don't recognize the number, I don't answer. Most computerized calls won't go into voicemail (at least from my experience). If it's someone I know, I call them back!


They have the solution to this but want to make us pay extra as if privacy were some luxury:

Call blocking. In my cell phone (I've abandoned land lines for there telemarketer abuses), I should be able to block at the local cellphone any list of numbers, locations, and identities I choose too. Just type in block ALL 'unknown' and type in each number I want into a blocked list.

Besides that phones should be programmable to hide caller ID to every outgoing 800 number or to every number not in my contact list & so on...

Why isn't this available?

The government needs to start serving citizens and not businesses as the current mess shows.