Special Report: Have you noticed more & more robocalls or out & out spam phone calls making it to your mobile device? If you have – you are not alone. This has been getting on my nerves for a while now so I looked into just what was going on and why – these annoying calls are becoming more frequent.
An estimated 2.5 billion automated calls are being made each month, according to YouMail, which offers a robocall-blocking app. Three quarters of wireless customers feel like the number of unwanted calls has increased over the past year, and the calls cost Americans an estimated $350 million each year, according to Consumers Union.
There is some good news. The FCC has reported that it wants to crack down on unwanted robocalls and the federal agency looking at ways to help us block them. It’s also been stepping up enforcement of illegal robocalls. Last week, the agency voted to fine a New Mexico-based company $2.88 million for making unlawful robocalls. And last month, the FCC fined a Florida resident $120 million for allegedly making almost 100 million illegal robocalls in a three-month period.
However ridding the world of robocalls entirely is tricky because some legitimate communications are made using automated call technology. That includes weather alerts and messages from schools, public utilities and political organizations. Phone companies don’t want to block legitimate calls that consumers may want to receive.
Here’s what you need to know to understand what’s going on with robocalls.
Annoying Calls Explained
Telemarketing tech that uses automated dialers to make so-called robocalls is pretty simple and inexpensive to set up and run. All you need is a computer connected to a modem and a program that selects and dials numbers from a database. Other features can be added too, such as recording calls or detecting when a person has answered.
Because the cost of making these calls has pretty much come down to zero and it’s possible to make the calls from offshore — where they’re harder to trace and crack down on — it’s become an easy and attractive method for scammers.
Why Are We Getting These Calls?
There are a few reasons.
- You may have actually given your consent to a company to make these calls. And maybe you didn’t know you’d done so.
- Your phone number has been reassigned and the previous person who had that number had consented to getting marketing calls and the company calling you hasn’t updated its list. (The FCC is currently considering a proposal to fix this issue. I’ll explain what they’re doing below.)
- The people calling you are scammers and they don’t care about the law. This is probably the most likely answer to this question.
We May Have Done This To Ourselves!
If you have ever checked a box when signing up for a service, website or at a retailer asking if they can market directly to you, you may have given consent to receive marketing calls. Always double chec
FCC’s Recent Robocall Action Explained
Last week, the commission voted on two items related to ridding the world of unwanted robocalls.
First, it voted to evaluate a system that would let phone companies check if a number calling you is legit. This call authentication system could help improve third-party apps that allow consumers to block unwanted calls and allow phone companies to offer call blocking as a service.
The second thing it voted on was a proposal to consider how to prevent unwanted calls after a number has been reassigned to a different customer. Currently, legitimate companies that make telemarketing calls have no way of knowing if a phone number has been reassigned. This means customers who haven’t given consent for marketing calls are getting them. It also means that legitimate companies making these calls to customers who don’t want the calls are in violation of the law and are subject to stiff penalties.
To help resolve this issue, the FCC is considering whether wireless companies should be required to report when numbers have been reassigned so a database can be created. Companies could access the database so they aren’t calling numbers that have been reassigned to a new customer.
What We Can Do Now?
Ask your phone company to offer robocall-blocking technology — most of them offer some form of protection, although a few will charge you a fee.
If you use a robocall-blocking app or your carrier provides technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others. I have been using the “truecaller” app for a few months now which has seemed to help quite a bit in respect to identifying robo & spam calls. With this app, your phone still rings, however the caller identification reports the callers as “spam caller” which at least helps you avoid answering one of these calls. Check out truecaller here.
Don’t pick up the phone when someone from an unknown or suspicious number is calling you. This is often how scammers know it’s a legit number to target and they may sell your number to other telemarketers and scammers.
File a complaint with the FCC or the FTC. The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the do-not-call rules. But it doesn’t award individual damages. The FTC can file lawsuits against companies or individuals violating its rules.
Consider filing a lawsuit, if you can find out who is making the calls. Companies are “strictly” liable for unwanted robocalls made without explicit written consent. And since damages start at a minimum of $500 per unwanted robocall, the penalties can add up.
Forward spam text messages sent from a phone number to 7726 (or SPAM). This free text exchange with the wireless carrier reports the spam number and you’ll receive a response from the carrier thanking you for reporting the spam.
If you need more information, check out the FCC’s website here.