It is an annoyance many of us deal with daily: incessant robocalls interrupting our lives without adding any value.
According to YouMail, a voicemail software developer, Americans received nearly 60 billion robocalls in 2019, a 22% increase from the previous year. With the 2020 presidential election in full swing, Americans should expect to see another surge in phony calls this fall.
The calls made are well thought out by scammers and try to get you to react by answering or pushing buttons. This is how the scam works:
You answer the phone to hear a recorded voice – one that may sound just like a high-profile candidate running for office. According to the message, rivals have been raising a lot of money. To help your favorite political contender get elected, you need to donate immediately.
If you do decide to give, you’ll be transferred to a live person and asked for your credit card information. But your money won’t end up supporting any political cause. Instead, the phony caller will make off with your money and personal information.
Action is already being taken to stop these and other types of robocalls. In January, President Trump signed into law the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act, or TRACED Act, giving the Federal Communications Commission extra time and added authority to fine scammers up to $10,000 per call.
Additionally, the tech industry has developed advanced call-blocking apps that can detect robocalls before they reach your phone. Wireless service providers have also stepped up, with many now offering effective call-blocking capabilities.
What’s a robocall?
If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall. Calls use a computerized auto dialer to deliver a prerecorded message to a home landline or wireless number. Many different scams use robocalls: bogus companies claiming to lower utility bills or credit card rates or offering government grants, extended vehicle warranties, vacation packages as well as calls from individuals posing as IRS agents.
To make sure you’re avoiding robocalls, Better Business Bureau Northwest and Pacific recommends following these tips:
• Screen your calls. If a call comes in from a number you don’t recognize, don’t answer. If it’s important and legitimate, they will leave a message.
• Don’t respond to unsolicited robocalls. If you receive an unsolicited robocall that seems to come from a legitimate business or organization, be cautious. Scammers can fake a caller ID. Companies are only allowed to call you via robocall with your written permission. If someone is calling you out of the blue, it’s most likely a scam.
• Register with the Do Not Call Registry. This step won’t prevent scammers from calling you, but it will reduce the number of legitimate marketing calls you receive, which will make it easier to identify the fraudulent ones. Register online at Donotcall.gov.
To learn more about how to avoid robocall scams, read BBB.org/RoboCall.
If you’ve been the victim of a robocall scam, report it on the BBB.org/ScamTracker. By doing so, you can help others protect themselves from falling prey to similar scams. Learn more about scams at BBB.org/ScamTips.
You can also find information you can use by going to trust-bbb.org.
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