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Here’s the Truth About the National Do Not Call List

Updated: Jul. 19, 2023

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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What to know about the National Do Not Call List

It’s no secret that we live in a world where spam calls are all too common. According to robocall blocking app YouMail, U.S. phones received more than 50 billion (yes, billion) robocalls in 2021, a 10% increase from 2020. More than 40% of those robocalls were estimated to come from phone scams, but 17% of them were estimated to come from telemarketers. Telemarketers are estimated to have made billions of calls to consumers in 2021 (you may have even received a call or two), but there are ways to get rid of telemarketers and their constant communications. One easy step to take is registering for the National Do Not Call List.

The National Do Not Call List was opened by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) 19 years ago, and more than 240 million phone numbers are currently registered for it. But what exactly does it mean to be on the National Do Not Call List? And what does it actually do? Read on and get the scoop before registering. Then, learn how telemarketers get your phone number in the first place.

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The DNC List only prohibits sales calls

An important thing to know about the National 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

Putting your number on the National Do Not Call List can help stop telemarketing calls, but it can’t block those scam phone numbers coming through from swindlers. However, there are steps you can take to block unwanted spam calls.

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Not all sales calls are prohibited

Even if you’re on the National 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. Here’s how to stop spam texts, by the way.

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Not all companies are operating legally

Most legitimate companies will observe the National 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. Looking to clean up your inbox? Here’s how to block emails for good.

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What to do if you get an unwanted phone call

If you receive a sales call despite being on the National 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. Learn how to prevent data brokers from buying and selling your personal information.

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What the FTC does when you file a complaint

Anyone who violates the list can be fined up to $43,792 per call, the FTC states. So far, the FTC has sued hundreds of companies responsible for unwanted calls and has obtained more than $290 million in judgments against violators. So by registering, you’re helping provide the FTC with more ammunition in the fight against illegal phone calls. Have a smartphone? Here’s a guide on smartphone security.

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How to register for the National Do Not Call List

The easiest way to register for the National Do Not Call List is to call 888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register (TTY: 866-290-4236). You can also register by visiting donotcall.gov. 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. This is what hackers can do with just your email address, by the way.

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Don’t let someone (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. Don’t miss these online scams to be aware of—and how to avoid them.

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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. Need to find a number that recently called? Here’s how to view your iPhone’s call history.

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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. Remember this, if you end up rejecting some calls within those 31 days.

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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 among these tips for opting out of basically everything

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

Please don’t believe the misinformation 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 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. Next, learn how to stop getting those car extended warranty calls.