Answering the phone and being met by a pre-recorded message is frustrating and annoying. Robocalls
are the unrelenting automated telephone calls used by telemarketers, debt collectors, and scammers, says the National Center on Law & Elder Rights.
This article can help you understand how to defend yourself from robocalls.
What is a Robocall?
A robocall is an automated telephone call generated by a computer program called an autodialer
. Once you answer the call, the program plays a pre-recorded message. Instead of speaking with a real person, you are interacting with a robot.
Telemarketers and scammers often misuse this technology to provide unwanted and frequently misleading messages to innocent recipients. These messages have numerous goals—to provide unnecessary information, advertise products, or even scam you.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that they receive over 200,000 complaints
— nearly 60 percent of all the complaints they receive—each year regarding unwanted calls. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC ) reports that they received 2.8 million complaints
about robocalls in 2020.
Legal versus Illegal Robocalls
The FCC has forbidden robocalls except if the recipient has granted their written permission. While nearly all robocalls are prohibited, there are five types of
allowed under the FTC rules without
- 1. Informational messages. These calls serve as a reminder or a notification. Robocalls about a flight cancellation, appointment reminders, or messages from a school fall into this category. Callers may not solicit goods or services.
- 2. Debt collection messages. Debt collectors may utilize robocalls. However, robocalls trying to sell you services to lower your debt are illegal.
- 3. Political messages. Political robocalls are allowed but infrequent and are usually received during an election season.
- 4. Donation requests from charities. Charitable organizations may place robocalls to send messages or fundraise, but only to its members or prior donors, and along with an opt-out option for future calls.
- 5. Health care provider messages. Providers may send messages, including reminders about appointments or prescription refills.
Have you received an illegal robocall
? Companies must
receive your written consent to contact you with a robocall. Requests to purchase services or acquire your personal information is also improper.
What Happens If You Answer a Robocall?
When you answer a call and interact with the robocaller or press a button, the company learns that your number is operational. They can then sell your number to another business or start targeting your phone number more often.
How Do You Stop Robocalls?
Robocalls are annoying, but you can outsmart these troublesome autodialers. Here are some tips and tools you can
use to stop robocalls
the risk of becoming a telephone scam victim.
- Don’t answer. You may not be able to know immediately if an incoming call is a robocall from a spoofed number. Spoofing is when a caller intentionally misrepresents the information sent to your caller ID display to conceal their true identity, says the FCC. Scammers frequently use neighbor spoofing, which makes the incoming call appear to originate from a local number. Do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize.
- Hang Up. If ever in doubt, hang up. If you recognize that the conversation sounds unusual or that the caller is asking dishonest and bizarre questions, hang up immediately. The less you engage with the robocall, the safer.
- Don’t give out personal information. Rarely might a reputable company request your confirmation of confidential information—account numbers, addresses, social security number, mother’s maiden name, passwords, credit card numbers, or other personal information. Use caution if you are being asked to provide this information.
- Don’t press buttons. A robocall may ask you to press a number to speak to a live representative. By pressing buttons, you may potentially mark your telephone number as one to continue to call. Use caution if the message suggests you can opt-out of future calls by pressing a specific button.
- Don’t say “Yes.” Do not answer any questions, specifically those that can be answered with a “Yes.” One trick robocallers use is to begin the call with a simple question, such as “Hello, can you hear me?” This encourages you to say “Yes” without a second thought. The robocall can save the recording as your positive confirmation to receive future calls.
- Be skeptical. Be very suspicious of any unsolicited telephone call without your permission. The damage that many of these robocalls can do is significant. Even if you do not give out your credit card info, they waste your valuable time. Be vigilant every time you see an unknown number on your caller ID. If someone calls you and claims to be from a business, hang up and call the company yourself. You can find their official contact number on your statement or their website.
- Check with your provider. Currently, the four major wireless carriers offer anti-spam features.
- Verizon’s Call Filter is a free app that offers spam detection, a spam filter, a call log for blocked or spam calls, the capability to allow calls from specific numbers, and the opportunity to report numbers. Extra features are available for an additional cost.
- AT&T’s Call Protect is a free app for customers that blocks spam and fraud calls, offers nuisance warnings labels, blocks unknown callers, and allows you to create a call-blocking list. Extra features are available for an additional cost.
- T-Mobile’s Scam Shield is a free anti-spam feature to shield you from robocalls such as full caller ID, scam reporting, and scam blocking.
- Sprint’s Call Screener Sprint’s Call Screener is a free service that recognizes, and tags or blocks suspected spam calls and allows you to report spam numbers.
- Call-blocking apps. There are numerous third-party mobile call-blocking apps available to download to your mobile device. Call-blocking apps act like filters by allowing the app creator to employ user reports to predict which calls are illegal robocalls or possible scams, says the FTC. Call-blocking apps can be installed on Jitterbug smartphones.
- Do Not Call List. To help limit telemarketing calls, register your number on the National Do Not Call list. Lawful telemarketers consult this list to avoid calling landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.
When it comes to your safety, information is power. Awareness of your rights and what you can do to prevent pesky robocalls and spam calls are the key to fraud prevention. Even if you once gave authorization to a company to contact you to receive robocalls, if the calls become annoying or bothersome, you can always opt-out of future calls later.