Are the ‘robocalls‘ getting to you, too? Have you just about had it with the Health Insurance scams, the IRS scams, the Chinese Consulate scam, and the Vacation Club scams? The AARP found that “Nearly half of respondents to a May 2019 AARP survey reported getting seven or more automated calls a week.” It’s time for us to stop robocalls as much as possible.
Robocalls are generated by software and automated computer programs sensitive enough to know if the caller has answered and then directs the caller to a live person. The recorded message entices the recipient to say on the line. They can even leave a voicemail that litters your voicemail inbox. Seniors and vulnerable people are a big target for robocalls.
On October 8, 2018, Attorney Generals from many states – 35 of them – led by North Carolina’s AG, Josh Stein, signed a bipartisan letter to the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) asking to “Target and Eliminate Unlawful RoboCalls.”
I was receiving more than 9 calls a day for a three-week period. This computer-generated voice called me to market health insurance. It disrupted my day, my work, and my writing. I was mad.
After getting fed up, I actually wrote to Joshua Stein, NC’s Attorney General. He wrote me back! He asked me to send him the numbers from the Albemarle, NC exchange that were Robocalls to my iPhone. Evidently, I am not the first to complain. Josh Stein is an acknowledged privacy advocate. I am glad to see that consumer advocates exist in our government.
I also wrote the City Manager of Albemarle, NC. Michael Ferris assigned his captain and detective of the Albemarle Police Department to contact me to get the long list of the annoying calls from their exchange. The pretty town of Albemarle would not want that kind of publicity. The police captain contacted me and was concerned about my calls, noted the list, and wanted to know what measures I had personally taken.
I also assured both the NC Attorney General and the police captain that I was doing all I could to block these callers. I’ve detailed below the steps I used to finally eliminate those particular unwanted calls. It is an ongoing process, however, as I’m adding new numbers each week.
In November 2018 the FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai, ordered the Telecom Industry to develop a solution to the growing number of robocalls made to consumers and businesses. The FCC believes that the telecom industry needs to create a new generation of call authentication software and systems. In September 2018, the FCC filed an $82M lawsuit against telemarketer Philip Roesel and his companies for more than $82 million for illegal caller ID spoofing. Mr. Roesel’s firm made more than 21 million robocalls to market health insurance.
1. Register your number with the Do Not Call Registry.
2. Block every spam call that comes to your phone in “Settings.” You can also block the number from your call list by clicking on the “i” by the number and selecting “Block this Caller.” If you find out later the number is legitimate, then you can unblock them at any time using the same process.
3. Block the calls with your carrier’s app.
4. Consider adding apps specifically for preventing robocalls from your App Store.
The most effective call-blocking apps for me were RoboKiller, Donut Call, and WideProtect. Donut and WideProtect allow you to detect only the area code and exchange without the last 4 numbers needed. This was really effective for me as the calls I was getting just had only a change in the last four digits.
The downside: putting in an exchange and area code may prevent you from receiving legitimate calls from business associates and friends.
I was extremely happy with the responses I received from Joshua Stein, North Carolina’s Attorney General; Michael Ferris, City Manager, Albemarle, NC; and Captain Dulin, Albemarle Police. Be an activist, too. Write to your state attorney general and the local city from which the RoboCalls come.
I hope the states’ attorney generals, all the telecom firms, and the FCC successfully create software to block these unwanted calls for everyone. I also hope they are successful in suing the call perpetrators so that we can all live more peaceful and private lives.
There are additional steps you can take to alleviate the number of spam calls you receive. The AARP has an excellent guide on how to prevent being scammed by robocalls or the criminals behind them. To start, when you receive a call with a recorded message, especially from a company you haven’t given permission to call you, hang up on them. I know it sounds simple, but in a time when information is key sometimes we worry we’ll miss out on something important so we stay on the line. When in doubt: hang up. If it’s a legitimate caller they’ll reach out to you again.
In the instance that you do connect with the caller and they claim to be from the IRS, Social Security, or another entity, ask them to give you their number and then hang up. You can then confirm the number and call them back to ask if they actually contacted you. If it’s legitimate they’ll appreciate your desire to make sure you aren’t being scammed.
When you receive a call from a spammer, report it to the proper authorities. It helps them know what to look out for and how to best warn others to avoid being scammed. I’ve often found that when the information is shared it will often end up on the local news, which helps to inform others in your community that there is a scam going on and it can help your neighbors avoid being taken advantage of. Just because you know better and have learned how to not be taken in by robocalls, there are still those around you that aren’t aware of the dangers of responding to such calls. Your proactivity can help inform others and keep them safe as well.