The New York Times has recently published a report on a new type of consumer scourge: artificial telemarketers, or “robocallers.” If you’ve recently been getting calls from unfamiliar numbers—with a strange pause after you answered—then you’ve been contacted by an automated system trying (badly) to sound like a person. You’re not alone: the FCC reports that consumers got 2.4 billion robocalls a month in 2016.
Because the internet has made phone networks and automatic telesystems more powerful and accessible than ever before, the ability to reach users with telemarketing has seen a huge uptick, according to a senior VP at Proofpoint—a cybersecurity firm in Northern California. There were 2.3 billion robocalls in December 2016 alone—up from 1.5 billion in December 2015. Scammers have also made use of robocalls, with a notable scam making the rounds that fools consumers into believing that the IRS is demanding back taxes from them. This single scam has cost consumers $54 million.
Below, here are a few strategies you can use to combat robocalls!
#1: Don’t Answer the Phone
Interacting with the telemarketers is a bad idea. Just don’t pick up calls from unfamiliar numbers. If you often get legitimate calls from unknown sources, it wouldn’t hurt to let it go to voicemail as a way of vetting callers. If that’s not an option for you, below we list some apps that block suspected robocallers.
Whatever you do, don’t press a number to “opt out” if a robocaller dials you—this indicates that your number is legitimate and could invite further calls.
#2: List Your Phone on the Do Not Call Registry
Register your number with the National Do Not Call Registry. It takes two minutes, and your registration never expires. Unfortunately, that doesn’t protect you from all calls, at least not as much as it used to. There are operations today making upwards of 1 million calls in a day—chasing down these operations and fining them (especially as many of them are international) is unlikely, according to the report’s sources.
#3: Download an App
There are a number of apps on the market that block calls from known or suspected telemarketers and robocallers. Phone companies like T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T also offer ways to stop robocalls from reaching your phone.
Here are just a few that the New York Times reported:
- Mr. Number
- The Jolly Roger Telephone Company
The Jolly Roger Telephone Company is notable because they use robots to frustrate live telemarketers. Users can even choose “personalities” with startlingly human tics and pauses. The robot uses these human characteristics to keep telemarketers engaged until they are eventually frustrated enough to hang up (and ideally never call again).
#4: Don’t Use the Word “Yes”
One robocall scheme compelled consumers to say “yes” in response to innocuous questions—and then used the recording of their answer to approve fraudulent credit card charges. The most common question that these schemes use is “Can you hear me?” Proofpoint’s expert recommends using whole and specific answers, such as “I can hear you.”
#5: Don’t (Necessarily) Trust Local Numbers
Some of these schemes get around blocked numbers and the Do Not Call list by generating numbers for each call. A lot of these generated numbers use local area codes because people naturally trust local numbers. If you’re getting a call from an unfamiliar number, the fact that it’s “local” doesn’t necessarily mean it’s trustworthy.
To hear more about what’s coming up for robocalling and what you can do to prepare, read the New York Times report here.
Our Chicago consumer law attorney at Atlas Consumer Law wants to protect your rights and take a stand against intrusive (and potentially fraudulent) businesses. Let us fight for you—call (312) 313-1613 or contact us online with our simple form today.