You may not mind if a legitimate robocall provides a helpful announcement from your child’s school or an appointment reminder from a doctor’s office. But sadly, criminals often use robocalls to collect consumers’ personal information and/or conduct various scams. Newer “spoofing” technology displays fake numbers to make it look as though calls are local, rather than coming from overseas, which could trick more people into answering the phone.
Robocalls have been illegal since 2009 (unless the telemarketer has the consumer’s prior consent). In mid-2017, federal agencies announced they are ramping up enforcement by fining violators and encouraging blocking technologies. What should you do if you want to help put an end to this nuisance?
- Don’t answer calls when you don’t recognize the phone number. If you pick up an unwanted robocall, just hang up. Don’t answer “yes” or “no” questions, provide personal information, or press a number to “opt out.” Responding to the call in any way verifies that it has reached a real number and could prompt additional calls.
- Look into robocall blocking solutions that may be offered by your phone service provider. If they’re available, you may need to follow specific instructions to “opt in.” Otherwise, consider a mobile app or cloud-based service designed to block robocalls; some of them are free or cost just a few dollars.
Consider registering your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry. While taking this step can help mitigate the amount of robocalls you receive, it’s only a partial solution to the problem. The Federal Trade Commission advises consumers whose numbers are on the registry but still receive unwanted calls to report robocall violations at complaints.donotcall.gov. The phone numbers provided by consumers will be released each day to companies that are working on call-blocking technologies, which largely depend on “blacklists” with numbers associated with multiple complaints.