Answering 'Yes' to Robocalls - What Can Go Wrong?

Answering ‘Yes’ to Robocalls: What Can Go Wrong?

Robocalls are on the rise, although chances are you’ve already noticed. Unsolicited phone calls have increased dramatically in recent years and many people report receiving them despite being on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. According to the website callblockerusa.com, “Almost nine out of ten people (89%) in America receive nuisance calls each month, according to a recent survey.”

They go on to say: “the survey also revealed the top five nuisance calls received by U.S. adults last year are: Robocalls/automated messages, 66%; credit card/loan arrangers, 28%; charitable causes, 23%; telephone/long distance call providers, 11%; lottery/sweepstake providers, 10%. While not all calls are scams, the shocking statistics show that organizations making these unwanted calls are ignoring consumers’ requests to be removed from call lists as 60% claim to receive repeated calls from the same organization despite telling them to stop calling.”

How Are Robocalls Dangerous?

While the calls used to be mostly limited to sales or political calls, they have recently become much more dangerous. “The YouGov survey commissioned by CPR Call Blocker, also revealed that 13% of U.S. adults have been a victim of a telephone scam. Of those who have been scammed, almost half (48%) said they had lost between $100 and $10,000 as a result, with 4% having lost more than $10,000.”

One particular scam that has recently achieved national notoriety as a result of its use of the famous Verizon marketing phrase “Can you hear me now?”, pervasive nature and potential to do financial harm. According to an article on USA Today published March 27, 2017, “The Federal Communications Commission Monday issued a consumer alert against just such scammers. When a caller says, ‘Yes,’ that they can hear the robocall, their reply is recorded and used to authorize fraudulent charges via telephone on the victim’s utility or credit card account, the FCC says.”

The article continues “Robocalls are the number one consumer complaint to the FCC from the public. And it’s no wonder: Every month, U.S. consumers are bombarded by an estimated 2.4 billion robocalls,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai last week at the agency’s March meeting, during which the commission voted to begin a rulemaking process to eliminate robocalls.

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What To Do When You Get Robocalls

What should you do if you receive such a call? Hang up immediately, or better yet, don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.

If you think you may have been targeted by this or another scam, check your credit card, telephone and utility bills. You can also report the incident to the FCC Consumer Help Center and the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.

The FCC also has the following recommendations:

  • Hang up if a caller asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls. According to the USA Today article, “It’s often a recording. Scammers often use that tactic to identify and target live respondents.”
  • If you answer a call that is questionable, record the number and add that to your FCC complaint.
  • Ask your telephone service provider if it has a robocall blocking service. If it doesn’t, recommend it get one. You can also lobby your elected representatives to take legislative action.
  • Register your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry, even though it appears to have diminished success. But if and when the FTC or FCC takes action, your registered number may help increase the amount of the fine levied against the perpetrator(s).
  • If you receive robocalls on your smart phone, consider installing an app to help block or at least alert you to them. There are plenty to choose from on both the Android and Apple platforms.

And just for fun, you can see the commercial that launched the famous “Can You Hear Me Now?” phrase here.

Michael Wangerin

Michael Wangerin

Michael Wangerin has been working in IT for 30 years in engineering and management positions and is currently getting his MS in Information Management online from the iSchool. He was the founder of a successful computer consulting firm, operating it for over 16 years and earning the Microsoft Gold Certified Partner designation before selling it in 2010. His experience includes application development, infrastructure, and security. He has earned numerous certifications including Sage Certified Pro Series ERP Consultant, SonicWALL Certified Security Administrator, and multiple Microsoft Certified Professional Certifications.

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