Robocall Telemarketing On the Rise: What Can We Do To Stop It?
Are robocalls — those automated messages that come in on your landline and cell phone at all hours of the day and night — driving you nuts?
If so, you’re not alone.
Data from the Federal Trade Commission shows the number of complaints about robocalls continues to climb despite do-not-call lists.
In October 2015 there were 188,748 robocall complaints filed with the FTC. In July of this year, the most recent data available, the FTC received 313,153 robocall complaints.
“It’s a problem that’s really brought on by internet powered phone systems that have really made it cheap and easy for rogue operations to make illegal sales robocalls from anywhere in the world,” said Janice Kopec, the Do Not Call registry enforcement program coordinator at the FTC.
Hard to trace
She stressed catching the scammers who are behind the robocalls is challenging.
“They can make them from anywhere in the world, so sometimes it’s hard for us to go after them if they’re outside the United States,” she said.
Kopec says robocallers frequently fake their caller ID information, so what comes up on your home phone or your cell is a “spoofed” number that looks local but may be from a foreign country.
“It can appear like it’s from a trusted source, when actually it’s not, so consumers really have to be on guard,” she said.
Don't get trapped!
Kopec explained the folks making these robocalls won’t let you opt out, even if they claim to offer this as one possible option, because they don’t obey the law to begin with.
“They’re trying to confirm your personal information or they’re trying to [steal] your personal information or pass you along to try and sell you something, so what we advise consumers is, as tempting as it is, don’t engage. Hang up, don’t press 1, don’t confirm any information, don’t talk or respond,” she said.
“All of those things could lead to getting even more calls.”
She stressed the FTC is working hard to address the problem.
“Just because these guys are hard to get it doesn’t mean we don’t try and do it,” she said. “We can track them down and in many cases we do track them down. We’ve brought over 126 cases that have shut down operations responsible for literally billions of illegal robocalls.”
Kopec said consumers should file complaints because that's how the feds go after the scammers.
There are some ways to get relief, including call-blocking services offered by phone carriers.
“There’s call-blocking applications that you download to your mobile phone if you are experiencing these calls on your mobile device. Many of them are free or they cost only a few dollars,” she said.
She added people may feel hopeless about this, but there is hope.
“Technology has created this problem, but technology can also help fix the problem,” she said.