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Thwarting those annoying robocalls

New data site to help

Created date

September 29th, 2017
Senior receiving an unwanted robocall.

Senior receiving an unwanted robocall.

How many robocalls do you get in a typical day? Apparently, Americans are getting a lot of them. Unwanted and/or illegal robocalls are the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) number-one complaint category, with more than 1.9 million complaints filed in the first five months of 2017 alone.

Even if you are one of the 222 million Americans who placed their telephone number on the “do not call” list, odds are you’re still getting calls. Since that list was first implemented in 2003, technology has changed, making it easier for unscrupulous scammers to make illegal calls.

Law-breakers are using this technology to make high volumes of calls inexpensively from around the globe. New technology also allows illegal telemarketers to conceal their identity from both consumers and law enforcement officials by using a program that generates a fake number in the caller ID. 

Cheap and easy

And then there are the dreaded robocalls—the ones that use a prerecorded message about debt relief, credit card interest, etc. Automated dialing technology makes it cheap and easy for scammers to make droves of illegal robocalls with very little risk of being caught or fined. 

If you are an honest telemarketer looking to abide by the law, you have to pay the U.S. government to access the registry. That’s the only way to avoid calling the numbers on the list. 

The fees for accessing the list start at $61 for a single area code and go up to $16,714 for all U.S. area codes. Does this make sense? Do any of the dishonest telemarketers pay those fees?

Responding to public outcry, the FTC has announced a new initiative to help combat the national epidemic of unwanted calls.

Each time an unwanted call complaint is filed, the agency records the unwanted caller’s number, general reason for the call (debt reduction, home security, free vacation, etc.), and whether or not the call was a robocall.  

The agency then culls the data from each day’s complaints and releases that data the next day on its website (goo.gl/ozgwbs). The goal is to make the “bad” numbers known to communications carriers so they can create a “blacklist” of numbers that should be blocked.

Communications carriers can filter many of these calls before your phone even rings. For example, if a number is on that blacklist, it will be diverted. 

“Sharing the critical information from consumers’ unwanted call complaints to enable industry innovators to stop illegal robocalls is exactly the type of public-private partnership the FTC champions,” says acting FTC chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen.

The biggest problem is that scammers are tech-savvy, so they change their numbers often. Changing just one digit can help them get through the filter. 

Filing a complaint is quick and easy. You can file a complaint online by visiting complaints.donotcall.gov.

You can also call the FTC to file a complaint at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

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