I received three consecutive phone calls today from unknown numbers—all of them from areas where I’m positive I don’t know a soul. Had to be telemarketers. I blocked all of these strange numbers of course, but it had me thinking about the ongoing kabuki we have to perform just to maintain some peace in our private lives.
In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the far-reaching law creating the Do Not Call Registry. And yet, we still receive plenty of annoying calls that are most certainly illegal. The perpetrators apparently must have found enough cheap and easy ways to elude detection to make the effort worth it nonetheless.
As of August 2016, the penalties for violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule increased from $16,000 per violation to $40,000—still not enough to stop the hucksters who are angling to sell you all those timeshares and magazine subscriptions. The law in and of itself was not enough. The initial financial penalty was not enough, and now the higher penalty apparently is still not enough.
As the addiction treatment industry wrestles to fight the illegal and unethical practices of profiteers looking to broker patients, it begs the question of what sort of penalties will be enough to deter them. And even if leaders could arrive at the right financial penalty and the optimal amount of jail time, they’d still need to catch the bad guys in the first place.
For every stop put in place, for every injunction, for every arrest, there are new bad guys and new ways of getting around the system. It certainly is playing out that way in telemarketing.
It seems to me the only way to truly stop the offenders is to make their craft obsolete.
We know catching the bad guy is too little too late—the patient has already been hurt by then. Maybe the real investment should be in educating the public with an unprecedented campaign to empower everyone to hang up on brokers and turn away from phony help lines. It would take an effort greater than the one that taught Americans about HIV/AIDS, greater than the one that drove women to get annual mammograms, and certainly much greater than the one that created the Do Not Call Registry.