When you read that word just now, your blood pressure rose, didn’t it? Automated phone calls are universally detested. It’s the one thing everyone in our country can agree on – unsolicited phone calls are annoying. They’re the main reason I no longer have a landline.
The Federal Trade Commission has received as many as 200,000 complaints about automated calls in a single month. A huge number of those calls targeted senior citizens with deceptive scams.
The Federal Communications Commission fields more complaints about robocalls than any other issue. That’s probably why its commissioners recently voted to allow landline, wireless and VOIP providers to offer products and services that let consumers block them.
The only problem with that ruling is it basically has no effect on the calls you or I receive each day, and it won’t for a while. All it does is allow service providers to offer call-blocking technology – it doesn’t require it.
Phone carriers don’t even have these services in place, and it will take them a while to develop them – if that’s what they decide to do. Worse, many robocalls come from overseas, where the FCC has no jurisdiction. Government legislation, including the creation of the National Do-Not-Call Registry, has done little to stop the calls, especially from companies overseas that use technology to dial thousands of numbers per second.
Here’s what you can do:
Add your name to the Do-Not-Call list. Yes, even though I basically just said it’s useless. It will take 31 days to take effect, and it won’t stop the calls completely, but it will get rid of some of them. Do it online, DoNotCall.gov, or call (888) 382-1222 from the phone you want to register. If a caller violates the “don’t call” rules, you can file a complaint against them with the FCC at complaints.donotcall.gov or (888) 225-5322, and take legal action. But by law, political organizations, charities, surveyors, and debt collectors can still call without penalty, even if you’re on the list. You’re on your own when it comes to calls from your in-laws.
Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize. “Spoofing” technology lets scammers display fake info on your caller ID, disguising it to look like, say, a call from a local cell phone.
Take back your permission. In doing business with a company, you may have consented (probably in a user agreement) to be contacted by them. They have the written consumer approval they need by law to robocall the daylights out of you. Contact the company to revoke your permission. If the calls keep coming, you can take legal action.
Use smartphone apps, such as YouMail. Using this free app, you ignore calls from numbers you don’t recognize. The app detects which ones are robocalls and tricks them into thinking your number is disconnected. It plays one of those “this number has been disconnected” messages, about the only thing that will prevent return calls.
Another app, Nomorobo.com, won an FTC contest for best call-blocking app. Once a robocall is identified, the app disconnects the call after one ring.
If you answer a robocall, hang up. Sometimes they will give you the option of pressing a number to be removed from the call list. It doesn’t work. But it does let them know there is a live person there answering the call, which makes your phone number more valuable when they sell it to other robocallers.
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