You probably receive numerous phone calls from unknown numbers that end up being salespeople trying to talk to you on a product, or a political candidate asking you to endorse them. Even in the digital age, telemarketing continues to be used as a communication method for many organizations. However, this also invites cybercriminals to use robocalls as a way to scam consumers.
What are Robocalls?
Robocalls are automated phone calls that are pre-recorded using computer software and mass delivered to millions of phone numbers across the world. When the receiver picks up the line, the message automatically plays and can lead to further call options if they are indicated by dialing other numbers.
Not all robocalls are bad – schools, airlines, doctor’s offices, banks, and other institutions use these to deliver pre-recorded messages to their customers. Other calls from non-profits or debt collectors are also allowed to call you without permission, making it difficult to distinguish a legitimate call from a fake one.
Signs of an Illegal Robocall
Under the Telemarketing and Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), there are strict legal guidelines that prevent unwanted calls for consumers. This doesn’t necessarily stop scammers from sending out illegal robocalls. Some of these signs, highlighted by the Consumer Action Law Group (CALG), include:
- Calls made before 8AM and after 9PM in your time zone
- Calls made to landline phone numbers without having established a business relationship prior to the call
- Calls made to numbers on the “Do-Not-Call” registry
- Not disclosing the name or organization calling on behalf
- Not disclosing the truth about the goods/services they are selling
What to Do When You Receive a Robocall
- Don’t Answer: It’s as simple as it sounds, but if you don’t recognize the number calling your mobile phone, don’t answer it.
- Report the Call: Make sure to get the name or organization of the caller, the intent of the call, and the date/time of the call. Report this call to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
- Download Preventative Apps: You can download various call prevention apps from the App Store or Google Play Store that stop these calls from hitting your phone number.
- Join the Do-Not-Call Registry: The FTC’s “Do-Not-Call” registry officially enters your number into their database, prohibiting you to a wide variety of unsolicited robocalls. Note: This will not prohibit other legal robocalls from dialing your number.
- Know Your Rights: Consumers have the power when it comes to combating unsolicited robocalls. Take legal action if you know your rights are being infringed upon by the persistence of these robocallers.
The FTC has a guide that further explains how to block unwanted calls here.