A robocall is a phone call that delivers a pre-recorded message to the receiver of the call. Identifying a robocall is easy. When you pick up a call and hear a recorded message at the other end instead of a real person, it’s a robocall. Many robocalls are related to political and telemarketing phone campaigns. When you receive robocalls convincing you to purchase their products or services, these are spam calls. There is also a possibility these calls are illegal. If a robocall tries to sell you something on the phone, it’s illegal unless you have given written permission to the company.
Robocalls in December 2019:
In December 2019, around 4.17 billion robocalls were made in the United States. That means around 942 million robocalls per week. Ultimately, turns out every person in the US received around 18 spam calls in December 2019!
Areas with most robocalls in December 2019:
Texas (Area Code: 214) was the most targeted area by robocallers and spammers in December 2019 with around 66 million robocalls. Following it is Texas (Area Code: 817) with close to 54 million robocalls. Texas (Area Code: 832) follows just behind with just over 53 million robocalls. Overall, Texas, Nevada, and Georgia were the favorite targets of robocallers in December 2019.
The legality of robocalls:
The first and foremost aspect which makes most of the robocalls illegal is that they are scammy and uninformative for the receiver. Almost all the illegal robocalls will be trying to scam money out of you or trying to obtain your private or confidential information. Telemarketing calls also make some robocalls illegal if they are against your consent. If companies have your written agreement, they can robocall you. However, you have permission to change up your mind later and the company will have to follow.
Looking at the increasing number of robocalls through the last few years, it’s common to have many questions related to robocalls in your mind. Looking for answers? Look no further. Here’s everything you need to get your questions answered about robocalls and spam calls:
What is the purpose of robocalls?
So, you have been wondering what is the purpose of all these robocalls in the first place. To answer this question, let’s first guide you through some statistics. Around 25% of the total robocalls are pure scams and are not wanted by anyone. The scam aspect of these calls makes that type of robocalls illegal instantly. Around 15% of robocalls are telemarketing campaigns. Around 33% of your robocalls are debt collectors or payment reminders. The remaining 27% are reminders and alerts that people actually want to get.
It only takes a small percentage of call recipients to accept the offer to make these robocalls profitable for the company. It’s like you print one million offers and send them out to people. Even if 3% of these people accept your offer, it’s a profitable deal for you. That’s what motivates robocallers to invest in this fraudulent activity in the first place.
Is there a free robocall blocker?
Yes, there are many free robocall blockers available on the internet for free. One such tool is “Hiya: Caller ID & Spam Blocker”. Its basic package is available for free on the iOS App Store and Android’s Play Store. However, you can unlock the premium features for $2.99/month or $14.99/year. Hiya is supported in every country around the globe and has a huge database of spam calls. When you receive a call from an unknown number, Hiya runs a check for the number in its database and blocks it in case it’s a spam call. It also offers the feature to report a new robocall number to Hiya’s database for future protection.
Why is my Do Not Call registry not working?
One common complaint people have about robocalls is “My Do Not Call registry does not work!”. Let’s get this out of the way right now, your Do Not Call registry is indeed working. But this registry has certain limitations of its own. FTC cannot block any calls from reaching your phone. Do Not Call list provides legitimate companies with a list of numbers that aren’t willing to receive telemarketing calls and text messages. Scammers and companies which don’t follow the registry can still call you. To make you understand a bit better, here’s a list of a few facts about the registry you must know:
- Cannot stop all unwanted calls:
This registry provides real companies with a list of numbers not to call. Fake companies and scammers do not follow this list and as a result, you end up receiving calls from them.
- Companies which can still call you:
Despite being a real and legitimate company and your number is in the registry, you might still end up getting some telemarketing calls from them. That’s because companies which have recently been in business with you, are allowed to call you for a limited period of time. In addition, if you opted in you receive telemarketing calls yourself at some point, you will receive these calls. However, if you ask them not to call you, they will have to stop.
- Types of calls still allowed:
The FTC rules still allow the following calls to reach you, even if your number is on the registry:
- Political calls
- Charitable calls
- Debt collection calls
- Purely informational calls
- Survey calls
How to stop robocalls?
You are using a robocall blocker but still, many unwanted spam calls rush right through it and eventually land on your phone. Then maybe it’s time to learn some tips supported by FCC to stop or at least minimize robocalls on your own. Here are some of these nifty tips for you if you want no more robocalls or scams:
- Do not answer calls from unknown numbers
Before we dive into the importance of not attending calls from unknown numbers, let’s look at how these scam companies get your number in the first place. The most prominent sources to obtain your number are your social media accounts. Remember when you made your Facebook account and didn’t pay attention to the privacy of your number? That may be the reason robocallers got your number.
Many robocallers call random numbers using an autodialer. When you pick up their call, you essentially confirm to them that your number is real and they can spam call you in the future. They tag different random numbers as real or fake depending on whether these numbers pick up their calls or not. That’s exactly why you should not pick up calls from unknown numbers. If you accidentally end up picking up one such call, hang up immediately. This might be the most important step in your “no more robocalls” resolution.
- Do not get trapped
Robocallers can identify you as a potential target and can trap you into a web of spam calls by a simple method. When you pick up their call, they might ask you to press a certain button to stop receiving future calls from them. Never press any button they ask you to press. When you do press a button on their demand, you’re actually confirming to them that you are a potential target. Never let that happen if you want no more robocalls.
- Do not answer any questions
If you pick up a robocall and the recording asks you certain questions, do not answer them. Especially pay attention to questions that can be answered with “Yes” or “No”.
- Do not give out personal information
If you do not want to be a victim of a scam, never give out your personal information to any unknown caller. It’s obvious you should protect your passwords and should not give them to anyone, but you must also pay attention to your identifying information which can be used to reset your passwords. This information can be as simple as the name of your first pet, or the name of your mother’s maiden.
- Confirm identities of the company personnel
If you receive a call from an unknown number and they say that they represent a company or a government agency, hang up the call and call the respective company or government agency immediately. Ask them to confirm the authenticity of the unknown caller by giving them his number. Proceed with the inquiry of the caller only after their authenticity has been confirmed.
- Use call-blocking tools
If you are acting upon all these tips and you still receive many spam calls, it might be the time to get your hands on a call-blocking tool. If you want no more robocalls, one such tool is a must-have. Either ask your phone company for one such tool or download an authentic tool from the internet.
- Help your call-blocking tool’s company
If you are already using a call-blocking service, it might be a good idea to provide them with feedback once in a while. Especially when spam calls get through their service and end up on your phone, make sure to report these numbers to your call-blocking tool’s company. It will help them update their tool and you and other customers of the service will be benefited.
- Register your number on the Do Not Call list
In order to block telemarketing calls, make sure to register your number on the Do Not Call list. Legitimate telemarketers consult this list before telemarketing. This makes sure you do not receive unwanted telemarketing calls or text messages from companies, at least the legitimate ones.
Can someone hack your phone by calling you?
Simply put, NO. Someone cannot hack into your phone just by calling you from an unknown number. Phone calls, your phone number, carrier signals, or anything else related to phone calls doesn’t carry any relevant security information about you. Your pins, passwords, security credentials, personal information, security questions, nothing is stored in that part of your phone.
However, there might be a way you might expose yourself to a potential phone hack through a phone call. Suppose you receive a phone call from someone and they ask you to install a certain application on your phone, or they ask you to log in a certain account on your phone. If you install that certain application or login that certain account, you might open a potential backdoor for the hackers. The application you installed, or the account logged in can enable the hackers to steal your personal or security information. So, make sure you never install any application an unknown number offers you to install.
What is robocall spoofing?
Spoofing can be most simply defined as a phone number in disguise. You might have noticed many robocalls display a very similar number to yours i.e they might have the same area code and even the same first 3 digits. Their intention is to trick you into thinking that you are receiving a call from someone living close to you, maybe your coworker or a local business. But when you pick up the call, it turns out to be a pre-recorded message or a scammer at the other end. What’s the result? Now they know you number is active and will try to spam call you even more in the future. They might also try to trick you into giving away your personal or security information.
Spoofing technology itself is legal. It’s useful and allowed in situations like when you need to call a client from your personal number but want to disguise it as your business number. But the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) strictly prohibits the use of spoofing in telemarketing.
Another problem that could arise from robocall spoofing is that robocallers might use a number that is currently in use. For example, a robocaller or scammer might use your number to target your neighbor. It can result in serious complications and headaches.
So, make sure you don’t pick up phone calls from unknown numbers which even feel very local if you want no more robocalls or scams.
What to do if a scammer calls you?
Scammers have figured out countless ways of scamming you. They might pretend to be very helpful to you, they might threaten you, or they might offer you a prize for a small fee. These are just a couple of examples of how scammers can trick you to pay them money. Here are a few things to keep in mind to protect yourself from scammers:
- You haven’t won a lottery: Scammers will often trick you to pay money by saying that you have won a lottery, or you have been selected for a free vacation, or you have won a special discount for your next shopping. Then they will say you need to pay a small fee to receive your “lottery” or other free stuff. Never fall for that! You haven’t won anything, they will make you pay the fee and you wouldn’t get anything thereafter.
- Don’t be scared: Scammers might try to trick you by saying that you will be arrested, deported, or fined for not paying taxes or some other dues right away. They will pretend to be a government law enforcer. But remember, government law enforcers will never call and threaten you.
- You don’t have to decide right away: Some scammers might call and say you have won a special offer but you need to decide and pay right now to avail the offer. Do not trust such calls. Legitimate businesses will give you time to think about the offer and you wouldn’t have to pay anything right away to avail it.
- You don’t have to give away sensitive information: Scammers may also pretend to be a government agent and may try to make you give away your sensitive information. For example, they may pretend to be Social Security Agent and will ask you for your Social Security Number. Do not give away your information in these cases. Hang up the call immediately and go on to report the number to FTC and your call-blocking service.
- Hang up the call: After you have figured out there’s a scammer at the other end of the phone, immediately hang up the phone.
- Report the number: It’s a good practice to report the number to FCC and your call-blocking service. After research, they will make sure the same number doesn’t bother you or other people again.
Can telemarketers call cell phones?
According to the Federal Telemarketing Sales (FTS) rule, pre-recorded calls to cell phones are strictly prohibited even if the number is not on the Do Not Call list. The same goes for text messages, you won’t receive any telemarketing text messages on your cell phone. However, there are a few exceptions you must know. Telemarketers are allowed to call you in case of an emergency. In addition, if you opt in to receive telemarketing calls yourself, then they can call you and FTS rule won’t be applied to them. Political and polling organizations, as well as charities, are allowed to call you on your cell phone even if your number is on the Do Not Call list.
Can you sue telemarketers?
The simple answer is YES. You can sue telemarketers if you know they are breaking the law. It’s a great idea to study FTC rules about telemarketers before you actually go on to sue them. You might actually be able to earn some cash on the way if they are breaking the law.
Although an automated message can be a useful tool for marketing and political means, the fact that Americans are bombarded with these calls on a daily basis, probably means that the time for this type of marketing for legitimate reasons is numbered.
We have yet to see whether the TRACED Act will reduce the number of unwanted Robocalls but the FTC is optimistic. However the best way to stop this from happening is to sue. If the telemarketers are hit by a law suit of $500 per nuisance call, it seems likely that they will stop using this annoying marketing trend.
The scams are not so easy to stop. Even if the TRACED Act manages to stop violations from US based businesses, the overseas scammers are unlikely to stop using robocalls. Stay safe and stay on your guard. CWP
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