RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN0 – We have all received robocalls from a telemarketer or a scammer. And if you think they’re on the increase – the federal government says you are right.
The calls come in at all hours, disrupting your day.
Sometimes they have no caller ID associated with them, sometimes they have phone numbers from across the country, sometimes the caller ID says it’s from right in your town.
Experts call that last technique “Neighbor Spoofing.”
But, no matter what you call it, it’s annoying and it turns out, Robocalls are the number one complaint to the Federal Trade Commission which logged more than seven million reports of unwanted calls in 2017.
And it turns out, the National Do Not Call Registry isn’t helping to stop many calls anymore.
“We had great success about 13 years ago with the do not call list,” says North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. “For about 5 years it worked really well”
So how did the telecommunications landscape become a phone free-for-all?
“The problem is many of these criminal are not in the U.S., they’re abroad and they don’t care for the niceties of our law,” said Stein. As a result, they call us with impunity.
Raleigh resident Jay Shapiro tracks the number of robocalls he gets.
“I decided to keep a log of junk calls that came in. There were over 500 last year,” he said.
His log shows most of them went to his home phone, but a significant number of them also went to his cell phone. And, for smartphones, there are apps that can help.
The free You Mail app plays a message to callers telling them the number they have dialed is not in service. Hiya is also free and says it allows the calls you want to take and blocks the numbers and texts you want to avoid.
But, perhaps the most inventive call interceptor is a pay app called Robokiller.
For $2.99 a month, the Robokiller app will send suspicious and non-programmed numbers to voicemail where they get hit with a variety of humorous messages.
“Our attitude is, if we can waste their time, we can take money out of their pocket and put them out of business,” says Ethan Garr who is with Teletech, the company that invented Robokiller.
Meanwhile, telecommunications companies are being pressured by law enforcement to help.
“The phone companies have to step up and gives the tools we need to protect ourselves to block our lines from criminals,” says AG Stein.
Towards that end, he joined with Attorney’s General from 29 other states urging the FCC to adopt rules that would allow telephone providers to block illegal robocalls.
Currently, regulations block telecommunications companies from preventing many illegal robocalls, so at the moment, it’s up to you to protect yourself.