It’s Sunday afternoon, and my phone has already rung a handful of times.
It could be Microsoft, alerting me that my software license has expired.
Or PECO, suggesting I stay on the line to talk to a representative about lowering my energy bill.
Or a credit card company, stressing that my credit is fine but I might be able to lower my interest rate.
Or the federal government, advising me that I owe income taxes and a warrant has been issued for my arrest.
It’s maddening, right?
The number of robocalls made in the United States continues to climb at a disturbing rate. In 2018, an estimated 47.8 billion of them were logged, an increase of more than 50 percent over the year prior.
YouMail is a free robocall blocking company that conducts this research. According to its CEO, Alex Quilici, “We’re now talking about 150 or more robocalls for every adult in the U.S. over the course of the year, and many of these robocallers are unwanted scammers trying to trick people out of their money or personal data.”
In fact, nearly 27 million of those 2018 calls — about half — were classified as scams or telemarketing.
But some are legal, despite the annoyance. Political and charity calls are permitted. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you are affiliated with a party or if you are even registered to vote. It also doesn’t matter if you’ve made a charitable contribution in the past.
Robocalls are the top consumer complaint at the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, according to an NBC report, which stated the FTC “received 4.5 million robocall complaints in 2017, up from 3.4 million in 2016. And this is only the tip of the iceberg, since most people bothered by robocalls never file a complaint.”
So far, just one call made to my landline today was legitimate. It was CVS, reminding me that a prescription was ready for pickup. I recognized that number, so I answered it.
The trouble is, these robocallers have figured out ways to prompt you to also take their calls. They “spoof” the phone number, making the caller ID show any number or name they choose. They can even use the three-digit exchange for your community, possibly tricking you into thinking the person on the other end might be a neighbor. I’ve even gotten a call on my cellphone from my own cellphone number.
Robocallers can dial millions of people daily. The calls are cheap and easy to make. And so many of them have figured out ways to dodge the system and avoid the law that they’re willing to continue taking their chances.
In fact, YouMail projects between 60 and 75 billion robocalls will be made by year’s end.
So how do we stop this, since the callers always seem to be one step ahead?
Many wireless carriers now have a security system in place to limit the number of incoming calls, according to a spokesman for Verizon. This helps to verify that the number on the caller ID is the same as the number associated with the originating caller and isn’t a “spoofed” number.
My wireless carrier alerts me of a suspicious call by showing me the caller’s name as “Scam Likely.”
And there are apps out there for both Apple and Android phones that can help to block unwanted calls.
The federal Do Not Call registry is still active, and you can always add your number to it. Here’s how:
Call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. The process takes less than one minute.
Not sure if it’s worth taking the time to do it? Consider this: In the month of June, 5.3 billion robocalls, about 22 per person, were made. That’s a total of 237,675 calls in just that one minute.