Robocalls: those annoying, seemingly endless automated calls that many of us receive on a weekly basis. Nearly 2.4 billion robocalls are made every month, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The number has increased significantly in the past few years because internet-powered phone systems have made it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal calls and display fake caller ID information.
Callers use a computerized auto-dialer to deliver a pre-recorded message to a home landline or wireless number. Many different scams use robocalls, from bogus companies claiming to lower utility bills or credit card rates, government grants, vacation packages and calls from individuals posing as IRS agents.
There are some robocalls that are legal. In the U.S., recorded messages regarding candidates running for office or charities asking for donations are allowed. Messages that are solely informational, for example a reminder from your doctor’s office, are permitted. Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the organizations make the calls themselves.
An immediate red flag a call is illegal is if the recording is trying to sell you something. 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.
According to Federal Communications Commission, telemarketers must have your written consent, whether through paper or electronic means, to receive a call or message. Simply buying a product, or contacting a business with a question, does not gives them legal permission to call you. The new rules also require telemarketers to allow you to opt out of receiving additional telemarketing robocalls immediately during a prerecorded telemarketing call through an automated menu.
The Better Business Bureau receives questions on a daily basis of how to stop these calls, here are a few tips:
Use Caller ID to screen calls. Consider not answering unfamiliar numbers. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message, and you can call back. Know that caller ID can be spoofed, and scammers use this tactic to impersonate the phone numbers and names of legitimate companies.
Just hang up: If you answer a robocall, ignore recorded prompts to press digits on your telephone keypad to be taken off their calling list. If you press a key, it tells the scammers you have an active number. Your number will then be sold to others and the frequency of calls will increase.
Get onto the Do Not Call Registry. You will receive fewer marketing calls and this makes it easier to identify the fraudulent ones. You can call 888-382-1222 or register online at donotcall.gov.
Consumers can report these calls and scams to bbb.org/scamtracker.