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Attack of the Robocalls

Q. I still get unwanted telemarketing robocalls, which makes me wonder: Are certain phone numbers or area codes targeted more often than others?

A. When it comes to registrants of the National Do Not Call Registry, a new report finds that certain area codes generate the most complaints about prerecorded robocalls, which are made with automated calling systems that dial phone numbers in sequence. In 2009, area code 480 in Arizona topped the list, followed by Georgia’s 770, Virginia’s 703, Maryland’s 410, and New York’s 718.

The Federal Trade Commission has taken steps to try to stop robocalls—especially since new rules went into effect on Sept. 1 that bar most calls made to any consumer who doesn’t provide written permission. In December, the FTC sued three companies for violating Do Not Call rules, alleging that they made hundreds of thousands of robocalls falsely promising reduced interest rates on credit cards.

Legitimate telemarketers are following the new rules and updating their calling lists every month as required by FTC regulations. But less-than-honorable marketers continue to make illegal live calls and robocalls to registrants, often peddling fraudulent schemes.

Your best bet: Do not answer your phone if your caller ID indicates a hidden or unrecognized phone number.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.