Action 9 investigates new telemarketing target

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ORLANDO,Fla. - It's Florida's No. 1 consumer complaint -- telemarketing calls. Now those telemarketers are targeting cellphones.

A Lake County man can't believe how these companies get his private cellphone number.

Steve Verno assumed a cellphone protected him.

"I bought this cellphone thinking it's my number and it's not being given out to anybody," said Verno.

But Verno claims telemarketers are calling and trying to sell to him at least three times a day.

"How can I be protected from these predators?" said Verno.

Increasingly telemarketers call cellphones because users have given their number to another company that sold or shared it.

Retail and grocery store loyalty programs ask for cell numbers. New car, electronic and appliance warranties also require it.

Online contests and mobile apps collect your cellphone number.

"There are a handful of people out there creating applications and surveys and contests just to collect that number," said Jonathan Sasse of Privacy Star.

Privacy Star developed technology to block cellphone number access.

Sasse said consumers would be amazed how telemarketers collect numbers. They even gather them from emails.

"They put their phone numbers in their email signatures and emails are readily circulated and available," said Sasse.

It happens despite federal laws to restrict cellphone telemarketing and the federal and Florida Do Not Call lists.

Verno filed a dozen complaints with the state, all of which closed without success.

"No one is going after them. If they're going to dismiss my complaint, what good are they?" said Verno.

State records show that Florida Do Not Call complaints have nearly tripled since 2007 and cellphones are a big reason why.

State officials said fines against offenders increased, as did the number of consumers who signed up for protection.