The Aggravation of Robocalls

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You’re in the middle of work, or perhaps trying to enjoy time with friends or family. A number you don’t recognize, but appears to be from your area code or city, calls you. You pick up the phone. A pre-recorded or artificial voice tries to scare you with messages about an arrest warrant for you. Or perhaps there’s a supposed IRS fine you haven’t paid or a message about your car’s warranty. If you answer the phone and hear a pre-recorded message instead of a live person, it's a robocall. If the recording is a sales message and you haven't given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal.

It’s a rampant problem and an annoying one. Often the number that appears to be calling you is not really the number the call is coming from. Scammers use digital technology to disguise a phone number. The practice of using an actual but different phone number to mask the call is called “spoofing.” Your own number might’ve been spoofed for a call, leading to confusing return calls from a stranger who thinks you were trying to reach them. Some people have even received calls from “themselves”!

What To Do
So when you get an illegal robocall, here's what to do: hang up the phone. Don't press one to speak to a live operator. And don't press any other number to get off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls. Usually, these calls are from scammers who are trying to phish for information or are trying to fool you into gaining access to your credit cards or bank account. Although the messages sometime claim to be from government agencies, the fact is that if you really owe money to the IRS or your social security number has been “canceled,” those government agencies would contact you by mail, not by phone.

What’s Next?
So what is the government doing about robocalls? The current FCC chairman has made combating robocalls a top priority. The FCC is working to change policies and support bills that will help phone companies better combat the robocall problem. They are also increasing the enforcement of existing phone scam laws. As these new policies roll out and become implemented, the stream of robocalls may be curbed. In the meantime, here is a list of tips from the FCC on dealing with robocalls:

°Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.

°If the caller claims to be from a legitimate company or organization, hang up and call them back using a valid number found on their website or on your latest bill if you do business with them.

°If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to press a button to stop receiving calls or asks you to say "yes" in response to a question, don’t do or say anything. Hang up the phone. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target live respondents, or to use your "yes" to apply unauthorized charges on your bill.

°Be Aware: Caller ID showing a "local" number no longer means it is necessarily a local caller.

°If you answer and the caller asks for payment using a gift card, it's likely a scam. Legitimate organizations like law enforcement will not ask for payment with a gift card.

°If you receive a scam call, file a complaint with the FCC Consumer Complaint Center by selecting the "phone" option and selecting "unwanted calls." The data they collect helps the FCC track trends and supports their enforcement investigations.

°If you have lost money because of a scam call, contact your local law enforcement agency for assistance.

°Ask your phone company if it offers a robocall blocking service. If not, encourage them to offer one. You can also visit the FCC's website for more information about illegal robocalls and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help reduce unwanted calls.

°Consider registering your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry. Lawful telemarketers use this list to avoid calling consumers on the list.

These tips will help you deal with the aggravation of robocalls.