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
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
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
#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 Sulaiman Law Group, LTD. 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.