Robocalls have become a plague. It is estimated that more than 60 billion robocalls were received in the United States alone in the last year. While some robocalls may be legitimate, most may be scams that seek to trick or intimidate people into providing personal information.
At first, robocalls were easy to detect because the calls came from a prefix you didn’t recognise (another country or autonomous community). However, the scam has become much more sophisticated with VoIP, which makes it relatively easy to “spoof” a phone number so that the caller ID shows a different number to the actual caller.
What are Robocalls?
Until relatively recently, a robocall, or automated call, is a telephone call in which a computer auto-dialer uses a pre-recorded message as if it were a robot. But now the term “robocall” has come to mean simply an “unwanted call” or SPAM call. An added problem is that these calls are increasingly difficult to recognise until the call is picked up.
The logic of robocalls is simple. If the call is answered, the number is considered “good“, even if the person does not fall for the scam. Next time, they will try again because they know there is someone on the other end who is a potential victim of the scam. The fewer calls you answer, the fewer calls you will receive in the future.
Often they will try to sell you a product or ask you to sign up for a subscription service. Occasionally, they will try to trick you by pretending to represent government agencies. Other times, you are greeted with silence on the other end. This is one stage of the scheme where a computer collects information about the person to make a list of potential targets for theft.
So why is it so difficult to stop automated phone calls? The internet has made it cheap and easy to call thousands of numbers at once using an internet connection instead of a phone. It is also very easy to spoof caller ID, making the call look legitimate. Some of these illegal calls are even made from abroad, which can make monitoring and enforcement difficult.
There are several ways to detect a robotic call. A robotic voice on the other end may claim to represent a company, a public body or a bank. The message may offer a free holiday, cheap insurance or a new spa opening. It may claim that you have won the lottery. They may also ask you to press a certain key for more information or to remove your number from a call list.
It is important to mention that most automated calls are legal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows them to collect certain information for non-commercial purposes, such as elections, political campaigns, outreach activities of non-profit groups, etc.
Here are some ways to recognise an automated call:
– You receive an automated call from a company that has not given its consent to contact you.
– A pre-recorded message instructs you to press “1” or another button to be removed from the call list.
– The message offers free or suspiciously discounted products or services.
– The warning says you owe taxes or have unpaid bills and could face legal or financial consequences if you don’t pay immediately.
– The message says you’ve won the lottery and tells you to call the number to collect your prize.
– The caller tells you that you have been specially selected for an offer.
– They tell you that you will get a free bonus if you buy their product.
– The caller offers you a low-risk investment offer and gives you a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
– The caller tells you that you have to make an immediate decision.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends asking these questions to help determine whether the call is a scam or not:
Who is calling and why?
- Telemarketers are required by law to inform you at the beginning of the call that it is a sales call and provide you with information such as the name of the seller and what they are selling. If you don’t hear this information, just hang up.
What’s the rush?
- If a person uses pressure tactics over the phone to force you to say yes, it is most likely a scam.
If it’s free, why am I being asked to pay?
- Always question the fees you have to pay to redeem a prize or gift.
Why do I have to confirm my account details or do I give them out?
- Some scammers may have your billing details before they even call you. And they may try to force you to say yes, so they can say you approved new or additional charges.
What time is it?
- The law allows telemarketers to make calls only from 8:00 to 21:00.
How to fight Robocalls?
Although these scams affect only a few people, the minimal cost of the calls to the people behind them is still profitable. Let’s review some preventive measures that can help.
Reject anonymous callers
Most callers display “blocked”, “unknown” or “private” as caller ID, and most businesses and individuals have identifiable phone numbers.
Join the Robinson list
Technically, adding your name and associated phone number to the list makes it illegal for telemarketers to call you.
Some phones automatically block robocalls
Both Android and iOS offer call blocking options that are controlled directly through the operating system and that you can set to prevent calls. Any blocked number can be unblocked at any time.
Report robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission
You can file a complaint on the FTC website.
Use a third-party application
Many third-party apps can help block calls and text messages. Use only trusted apps downloaded from the official Google Play Store or iOS App Store, as you give access to your contact list and possibly other sensitive information.
Give only a VoIP number
Another solution is to purchase a VoIP phone number from us and have another personal number for family and friends. With VoIP features, you can send all calls to your voicemail and thus filter out robocalls.
All in all, this problem is not only annoying, but poses a serious risk, especially when the number of robocalls is skyrocketing. Scams, which make up a large part of robocalls, fool one in ten people. At present, the smart thing to do is to arm yourself with the best tools available until legislators and providers find a solution to put an end to these calls once and for all.