It is not your imagination! Nuisance calls from telemarketers and scammers have increased nearly 60% between 2017 and 2018 to 48 billion. Last month alone, there were 4.9 billion nuisance calls according to YouMail, a company that tracks and blocks robocalls. Some automated calls are from school districts, utilities, or cities for example and are not illegal. However, the nuisance calls are now following us everywhere on mobile phones regardless of “do not call” lists.
On May 23, 2019, the United States Senate passed a bill regulating nuisance calls with bipartisan support. A bill with some differences in the House of Representatives is pending. Hopefully, federal legislation will pass both houses and become law in all states within 18 months. If the Congress does not act this year, U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai has threatened regulatory action.
As telemarketers fake calls to look like local numbers with similar digits, more people are answering the calls and more people are becoming victims. New laws could empower the FCC to fine telemarketers and to pursue criminal cases against scammers.
Beware! There are many automated scam calls trying to defraud you on topics from credit cards, I.R.S., travel, jury duty, utilities, interest free loans to free services, installation or products. Because calls can be routed through many carriers and networks, it is extremely difficult to find the scammers. Utilizing new technologies, the telecommunication industry will make it easier to find the perpetrators and block calls in the near future.
What can you do while waiting for the telecommunication industry and federal and state regulation to help?
- If you are not already registered, add your name to the FTC “Do Not Call” list. Visit donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 to verify that your number is on the list. Report any calls you get after about 31 days.
- Your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” setting will block all calls except those on your contact list, if you are willing to block all new calls.
- Block any new robocalls as they come in by going into the caller’s contact information on your phone.
- Never speak or press any number (even to be taken off a list) if you answer a nuisance call. Hang up and file a complaint with the FTC.
- Never answer questions with “yes”, as it may be used as a voice signature to authorize credit card charges.
- Some mobile phones, such as Samsung’s Galaxy S. and Google’s Pixel, advise you when a call is a scam, allowing you to not answer.
- Ask your carrier for Caller ID options for your particular phone that will help you identify nuisance calls.
- Purchase third party apps like Nomorobo, Hiya, or RoboKiller. These apps charge a fee to block telemarketers and robocallers, usually $2 to $3 per month.
Remember, never give personal information over the phone. You never know to whom you are really speaking! Initiate a call yourself directly to any credit card company, business or government agency with a number that you have on file.