Over 2 billion robocalls are placed every month.
Receiving an occasional robocall call would be no big deal but SPAM wouldn’t be SPAM if it was only occasional. I personally receive 5 to 6 robocalls every day and I am not alone as the number one consumer complaint to the FCC is now telemarketing calls.
I decided to roll up my sleeves and try to get a better understanding of this growing problem and more importantly, what could I and other consumers do to stop robocalls.
Register your phone number on the national DO NOT CALL registry
Register your land line and/or mobile phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov. There is no cost to register your phone number and it typically takes about 1 month for the robocalls to subside. Calls for charities, debt collectors, and political groups will still be allowed to go through.
If you continue to receive robocalls after registering, report this to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Remember that just because you have your phone number listed on the National Do Not Call Registry, it does not guarantee anyone will not call you.
Never say ‘yes' to a robocaller
Robocallers are sometimes just simply looking to get your affirmation. Never say ‘YES’ if a robocaller asks you a question because your entire conversation is being recorded. For example, if the robocaller asks if you would like to not receive any more calls like this, hang up.
If you answer ‘YES’ they may end up using your recorded response to initiate unauthorized charges on your credit card account. Another common trap you may have heard is when the “caller" asks if you can hear them. If you answers ‘YES’, your voice signature may be used for fraudulent purposes.
Simply don’t answer & never opt out
If you do not recognize the number calling you, simply don’t answer. Since robocalls play upon your expectations of known callers by spoofing your local phone exchanges, they do not typically block their caller ID. This actually works as an advantage because they will always use a local number that you do not recognize making them easier to spot. If you are expecting a call from a local number you might not be familiar with, let them leave a message.
Most modern smartphones offer apps or built-in voice message transcription so you do not even have to listen to a long scam before erasing it. If you do happen to answer a robocall, never respond to an invitation to to enter a number to opt out as this will only serve to verify you are a working number and will now likely get more targeted calls.
Ringless voicemails have also arrived
Another trend you may have noticed is the spontaneous voicemail spam without a ring. Some ignore these messages assuming they were simply experiencing bad coverage during the call but in fact, these are a new breed of targeted spam calls that go directly to your voicemail without ringing.
Fortunately, consumer protection groups have successfully argued against telemarketers to include these calls in the national Do Not Call list as well. Of course it goes without saying, never call back any of these “missed” marketing calls. Always listen to the voice message or read the transcript if you are not sure who called.
Robocalls work because it’s a numbers game
So why do I get so many robocalls? The problem is not too far removed from the SPAM email issue. Globally, every day there are over 150 million SPAM emails sent and out of that, 80,000 people click on the attachments. The cost to send millions of SPAM emails is very low and success is dependent upon those foolish enough to click.
This same corollary holds true for robocallers. Robocalls can number in the millions and are extremely cost effective so long as people keep answering these calls. In my research, I have found pricing at 1.3 cents per call for a package of 10,000 robocalls.
Fight back with an app
There are numerous apps available that block robocalls so your phone will not ring. These apps deliver an ‘out-of-service' message to all robocalls. RoboKiller costs $1.99 a month and stops spam calls. This app works even when phone numbers are spoofed. Another popular app is Nomorobo which is also $1.99 per month and works similarly. Numerous other apps all utilize a large database that is continually updated from known identified robocallers.
When a robocaller gets a prospect that answers the phone, they often switch over to a live operator. If this drives you nuts, you can take revenge by wasting the telemarketer's time with your own robot. Jolly Roger Telephone Company utilizes their own robots to create endless dialogue to fool live telemarketers. You can even personalize the robot personality to make it fun. The cost is $2 a month or $6 for a one year subscription.
Many customers also complain directly to their phone providers who have responded by developing their own tools to combat robocalls. By analyzing calling patterns on their network, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile work with law enforcement to stop illegal robocallers. However, phone companies have a conflict of interest since they have paying customers they do not want to lose on either side of the robocall.Our dependence on our smartphones cannot be overstated. Unsolicited calls are a violation and must be treated and fought just like any form of malware.