Not surprisingly, a recent AARP survey found that an overwhelming number of U.S. adults find robocalls “annoying” and “disruptive.” Robocalls have now made their way to both our cell phones and landlines. The article published on the AARP website in May 2019 noted that “since 2016, the volume of calls has increased from just over 29 billion to nearly 48 billion calls in 2018.” Furthermore, “one in ten adults surveyed has fallen prey to a telephone scam at some point.” These scams have cost U.S. consumers well over $400 million in 2018.
Some robocalls are intended to provide important and legitimate information such as severe weather notifications, local crime alerts, results of medical tests, travel and restaurant reservation confirmations, but many others are scams or unwanted calls. Regardless of their intention, robocalls are an extremely efficient and cost-effective method of contacting many people at once. Researchers found that respondents were more likely to respond to calls with negative messaging like notifications of financial or personal nonpublic information being compromised.
Just like other cyber hacking techniques such as phishing, scammers are evolving with the technology and using “spoofing” to trick consumers into answering a call. Current popular tactics used by phone scammers are using area codes that appear to be a local caller, using similar number patterns from phone numbers already in your contact list, or using first and last names on a caller ID rather than displaying unknown or no caller information.
What can we do to take control of these unwanted calls?
- Use common sense. Reject anonymous or unknown calls. If the call is important, they will leave a message.
- Join the National Do Not Call Registry. Enter any landline or cellular number you want to list. You can also dial 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you wish to list to be added to the National Do Not Call Registry. Scammers do not always follow the rules but being added to the list is an added layer of protection. *Note, there are exceptions to organizations that can still contact you, even if you are on the Do Not Call list.
- Take advantage of your phone carrier’s tools to block calls. Some of these tools require additional monthly fees but other options may be free of charge. Contact your phone carrier for additional information on services that may be available to you.
- Consider downloading and using a robocall blocking app on your cell phone. The top robocall blocking apps as published in USA Today include Nomorobo, Truecaller, Hiya – Caller ID & Block, or Call Control – Call Blocker.
- Report any suspected scams to the Federal Trade Commission or the state attorney general.