Robocalls skyrocketing despite the 'Do Not Call Registry'

Telemarketers in a call center. (PhotoAlto via AP Images)

WASHINGTON (ABC News) - If you thought the creation of the "Do Not Call Registry" had solved the problem of telemarketers bombarding people with unwanted calls, think again.

Complaints about telemarketers have continued to climb since the Federal Trade Commission established the registry 2003. They now stand at an all time high, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

What can you do to fight back? Experts say you can use new technology - a phone spam filter - that detects and deflects telemarketing calls automatically.

Intrusive calls fall into two categories. The first are calls from legitimate telemarketers, in which the pitch comes straight from a real live person. he FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection says it has been "tremendously successful" in preventing those calls to the millions of people on th registry.

Changes in telemarketing technology, however, have introduced calls that fall into a second category. These fully automated solicitations -- so-called robocalls -- are sent out by the milliosn by computers.

A pre-recorded solicitation asks the consumer to respond by, say, pressing "1" on his or her keypad. Only after that does a human pitchman comes on the line. For that reason, experts say if you get an unwanted call you should avoid pressing any buttons on your phone.

Robocalls, according to the FTC, are illegal -- unless the consumer has first given his or her express permission, in writing, to receive them. Many robocalls also peddle fraudulent goods and services that cause significant economic harm, the agency said.

Many such callers don't care about the Do Not Call list, officials told ABC News either because they're overseas, and thus beyond the FTC's reach, or because it's easy for them, when shut down by authorities, to spring back into action in a new venue. They're more like email spammers than traditional telemarketers, officials said.