Technology That Improves Phones Also Means Scam Calls Are Easy And Dirt Cheap

Image courtesy of Spider Mann

The same technology that means you can talk to friends or loved ones anywhere in the world for pennies per minute or for free has a harmful downside: it also means that scammers anywhere in the world can call you cheaply, too, using overseas call centers and an utter lack of human empathy to drain the pockets of victims, who are mostly senior citizens.

We’ve shared stories about most of these scam types in the past, from IRS scams to grandparent scams to lottery scams and tech support scams. The fraudulent calls simply don’t stop, and experts agree that the best way to get rid of them is with robocall-blocking devices, to keep them away from vulnerable people altogether.

The combination of cheap technology to make calls and block one’s number is perfect for scammers, who once would have had to invest tens of thousands of dollars for a system to block or to “spoof” their caller ID. Today, robocalling technology is cheap. It’s hard to catch phone scammers and harder still to prosecute them when they work abroad.

Members of the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging have been encouraging phone companies to add robocall-blocking, as have our policy-minded colleagues down the hall at Consumers Union. Unfortunately, educating the public through outreach and news stories isn’t working well enough.

How bad is the problem? The Federal Trade Commission reports that they received a record 1.7 million complaints during the first four months of 2016. Those are just the people who took the time to complain.

Part of that may be greater awareness of the problem and more people reporting the calls they do receive to the FTC, but the calls simply aren’t going away.

Phone Scam ‘Onslaught’ Has Authorities Scrambling [Wall Street Journal]