We seem to get them all the time. The phone rings, we answer it, and a recording makes an offer or tells us we have won something and tells us to call a phone number. We are firmly in the era of “robocalls.”
Some robocalls are legal if they are from political candidates running for office or from charities asking for donations. But if they are selling something, and they do not have your written permission, then the call is illegal. Many illegal robocalls are scams.
Since the beginning of the year, there has been a dramatic increase in robocalls. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) attributes the increase to technology. And, scammers have adopted a new technique to trick you into answering the call.
Called neighbor spoofing, the scammers have programmed their computerized robocall systems to show a phone number like yours on your caller ID. It’s designed to make you think that a neighbor or a local business is calling you. The area code and prefix might be the same as yours with different last four digits.
The FTC suggests that if you receive a robocall, hang up. Often there is a selection to talk to an agent or to be taken off their call list. Do not select any options that the robocall might give you. You might be added to a list, often called a “suckers list,” that tells the scammer, and any other scammers who have purchased your phone number, that you are an easy mark.
The FTC also suggests that you contact your phone provider and ask them to block the number. Some providers might charge for this service. Also report the robocall to the FTC online at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1 or by phone at (888) 382-1222.
Federal Trade Commission:
For an interesting insight to robocalling, check out this podcast episode. Warning, there is some offensive language.
NPR Planet Monday Episode 789: