It's morning. You have the day off, so you decide to sleep in a little bit. The phone rings. The voice on the other end:

"Hello. This is Credit Card Services. We are calling about you..."

You hang up because you realize it's a telemarketer ... even though you are on the state's "do not call" list. At least you think you are.

Moments later, the phone rings again.

"This is Myra from ABC Electric Company. You have PPL but we want to save you money."

In the evening and on weekends, it's the same thing.

It's frustrating. How do they get my number? Why are they calling me?

Sometimes the calls are obviously phishing schemes, wanting to obtain information for devious purposes.

Usually you can't call back the number displayed on the screen. The FBI recently warned that there's a scheme whereby if you call the number that called you, the receiving party can use the phone service to rack-up high, international phone bills. The FBI said the scheme originates from Nigeria or Russia or some other foreign country, which makes it very difficult for officials to prosecute.

It's not just happening on home-based phones. It even happens on cell phones. This is especially bad for people who have plans billed on specific minutes of usage, such as Trac Phones.

When the "do not call" list was first established, officials were gung-ho on enforcement.

Con artists have avoided arrests by operating with blocks of generic numbers which they can briefly rent or from having their telemarketing operations based in overseas countries.

What's most frightening is how the elderly are most targeted by cold-hearted con artists who peddle anything from fake insurance policies to credit car scams. They get the individuals who answer the phone to release personal information which results in them getting ripped-off, either through a raid of their banking account of receiving items they don't really want.

The "do not call" program isn't working.

The problem seems worse now than it ever has. Is there anything lawmakers can do to help the consumer?

Probably not. The only solution is to be forceful when telemarketers call and keep hanging up on them.

By all means, don't give away any personal information over the telephone. Don't try to play a game of wits, because they'll beat you with experience. And don't keep them on the phone because there's a better chance you'll fall victim to their antics.

By RON GOWER

rgower@tnonline.com