You’ve received them many times, got irritated and maybe even got scammed through a robocall. If you believe you’ve received more of them in the past months, it’s not just your imagination. Robocallers have become more refined, and they’ve been extending their work and capabilities.
The good news is a recent regulation might reduce their numbers, but there are also a few simple things you can do to get robocalls out of your system.
What are Robocalls?
A robocall is any phone call you receive where you hear a recording of a robot voice or when a machine automatically dials your number, even if there’s a real person on the line. In the latter situation, when you answer, you would hear the sound of a phone ringing or music on hold.
Common robocalls messages are:
- ‘It is urgent that you contact us for lowering your eligibility for your interest rate’
- ‘You have qualified for a free medical alert system’
- ‘This call is to inform you that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against you’
In other cases, messages of this type of phone scam include offers of credit card/auto or student loan relief and home mortgage insurance. Another interesting tactic is jury duty scamming; a scammer pretends to be a court official informing you that you failed to appear for court. They also present you with the ‘good news’ that you can avoid jail time if you pay a fine over the phone via credit or debit card.
Don’t confuse robocalls with telemarketing phone calls! While they’re both unwanted phone calls, telemarketing phones are strictly related to selling products or services, and an actual person is calling. Most robocalls use a recorded voice.
A 2021 US Regulation to Combat and Reduce Robocalls
Robocalls are a nuisance for most American residents, as many of them can receive thousands of these during a year. Yet, most robocalls originate outside the US based on US government analysis.
The end goal of a robocall is to scam people out of their money. Scam calls continue to be the number one complaint to the FCC in 2021. A report from the Federal Trade Commission shows that consumers lost $436 million to fraud over the phone and $86 million to text fraud in 2020. As a result of numerous consumer complaints and high financial losses, the US authorities have decided to counterattack robocalls through a legal procedure.
Starting September 2021, American phone companies must refuse calls from providers that aren’t registered with the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The FCC regulation also imposed phone carriers to implement the STIR (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited)/SHAKEN (Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs) system.
The STIR/SHAKEN technology helps identify spoofed calls that use a fake number to trick you into answering your phone. Phone companies label these fake numbers as a risk or block them as a free and built-in service. Customers don’t even have to make a special request for it.
Robocalls slightly decreased in the past months of 2021, but the fight against them has a long way to go. T-Mobile phone company reported that scam calls had reached record highs in 2021, and they’re more aggressive. As a result, more legal steps need to be made and not just in the United States.
How to Deal with Robocalls and Keep Them at Bay
If you don’t want to waste your time wondering who might be on the other side of an unknown phone number, check these tips that’ll bring you peace of mind:
Enable call filtering
Most phones provide this filtering option allowing you to create a rule on what kind of numbers you want to block. For instance, you can block phone numbers you mark as fake or that don’t show up in your contacts list. Here’s how you can do that on both Android and iPhone:
- Check the steps for blocking numbers in both the general settings and in your ‘Contacts’ section.
- If you want to filter out suspicious calls, look for a fake filter option in settings.
- Toggle ‘On’ the icon you should find under “Caller ID & spam” or a similar category.
Try a call blocker app
First, try the free version, so you can test how well it does the trick. These apps automatically block spam calls, and some also offer options like answering spam calls with prerecorded nonsense messages. You can also create your own responses. Such an app costs, on average, between $2.99 – $4.99/month.
Report Scam Calls to the FTC
Report unwanted calls on the National Do not Call Registry website. Check if the spam phone number you want to report is registered with the Do Not Call Registry; if not, you can add it. Any further information you provide is valuable to the FTC in their combat against robocalls.
Robocalls Best Practices
The golden rule of best practices to avoid robocalls is immediately hang up if no actual person is on the other line. In other words, never engage in a phone conversation with robot sounding voices.
Other best practices are:
- Don’t answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers.
- It’s always best not to assume an incoming call is really from a local number, even if it looks that way.
- Avoid answering ‘Yes’ to any question. If somehow you omitted the golden rule, don’t answer ‘Yes’ to any question; a widespread robocall scam starts with “Hello, can you hear me?” Phone scammers record your confirmation and use it for fraudulent activities. You could actually confirm that you agree to purchase an item or renew or expend a subscription for a service.
- Be wary if you receive a phone call from someone who claims to represent or work for a certain company.
Many times, robocalls claim to be major American businesses, including Amazon, Apple, Google, McAfee, Norton, PayPal, and many more. This is an example of robocall message impersonating PayPal:
‘Dear customer. An iPhone 11 has been purchased from your PayPal account and $699 has been deducted from your account. If it was not you, then please press one.’
Avoid the conversation and do your due diligence. Call the company yourself and check the company’s website to find an official number.
Do you usually get many robocalls? What’s the most common scam technique you faced with robocalls?
Let me know in the comments section below.