As if auto-dialed, pre-recorded robocalls weren’t bad enough, scammers are now blasting out robocalls that use poorly synthesized text-to-talk programs in an effort to try to frighten people into thinking they are being sued.
The following recording is just one of many robot-voiced robocalls we’ve received in recent weeks from scammers. They all claim that we are facing legal action. This one mentions a “criminal lawsuit” and provides some bogus docket number, but no reference to any actual crime; others have claimed to be from the FBI, IRS, or other agencies:
What’s interesting about the calls is that the call-back number provided in the recorded message matches the number that shows up on Caller ID. Usually a scam robocaller uses spoofing technology to hide behind a fake Caller ID number and then provides a different phone number for calling back. These calls are either coming from someone who doesn’t care/know enough to spoof a number or is using tech to reroute calls to that number to yet another phone.
Out of curiosity, we called the number back on a public phone with a blocked number. The call connected but no one ever answered. NOTE: Don’t call any of these numbers back from your phone or any phone you don’t want to end up identified as being a potential victim.
We’ve filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission about some of these calls, as they violate both the Do Not Call registry and telemarketing laws; the calls impersonating the IRS and FBI break additional laws. But it can take a while for authorities to actually track down the source of robocalls; even then it may be difficult to connect them to a human being that can be punished.
That’s why so many Americans just want some easy-to-use way to block these calls from ever reaching our phones in the first place.
The End Robocalls campaign by our colleagues at Consumers Union has reached a milestone, gathering some 750,000 names from American consumers who want the phone companies to know they are tired of answering the phone and not knowing if that unfamiliar number is a friend, family member, some other important caller, or a jerk trying to con them out of their money or personal information.
And if you think “that’ll never happen to me,” maybe you’re right, but it’s happening to a lot of people, with an estimated $350 million a year lost to telemarketing scams.
While the telecom industry recently partnered with the FCC to create an anti-robocall strike force to combat these unwanted calls, these same companies had long balked at actually offering robo-blocking tools to their customers.
Meanwhile, third-party blockers have not yet proven to be the answer. Add-on devices often cost money and may not work the way you wish. One of the best-regarded blockers, Nomorobo, is free to use, but only on certain types of landline phones. There are wireless versions of Nomorobo and other blocking-apps, but they generally cost money. All this hassle, just to block calls that are likely illegal.
“Consumers are sick and tired of being harassed by robocalls and anxious for the phone companies to deliver real relief,” says Tim Marvin, who heads up the End Robocalls campaign. “As the Robocall Strike Force works on longer term efforts to combat unwanted calls, the phone companies should start offering the best call-blocking tools currently available and make sure that all of their customers get the protection they deserve.”
Before agreeing to form the strike force, the telecom industry often claimed it couldn’t offer blocking services on a widespread basis because they couldn’t possibly block all robocalls. CU’s Marvin says that no one expects perfection; just fewer calls.
“While no robocall solution will be 100% effective,” says Marvin, “it’s clear that the phone companies could be doing so much more today to stop these nuisance calls.”
Even if the blockers worked for just 75% of robocalls, that could mean a significant reduction in Nuisance calls for many Americans.
According to a recent Consumer Reports survey, around 7-in-10 customers at each of the major landline providers (AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink) told CR they get at least six robocalls a week, while around 40% of these folks say they get upwards of 10 robocalls each week. Who wouldn’t want a free, easy-to-use tool that could cut those numbers down at least a bit?
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