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July 16, 2019

Robocalls: The Latest Stats and How to Stop Them

Definition of a robocall: “a telephone call from an automated source that delivers a prerecorded message to a large number of people” (Merriam-Webster.com)

If you have a phone, then you’ve almost certainly received unwanted robocalls. In May 2019 alone, there were approximately 4.7 billion of these calls made in the United States. AAPR.org breaks this down even further to provide some startling context:

  • This equals nearly 153 million of these calls every single day of the month.
  • Breaking this down even further, that’s almost 6.4 million every hour . . .
  • . . . which is almost 1,800 every single second.

The overall number of robocalls keep increasing. In 2018, there were more than 47.8 billion of them — but there are 62 billion of them estimated for 2019.

Although not all robocalls are illegal, many are. For example, if you receive telemarketing call and you haven’t given the company written permission to call you, then it’s illegal.

Because illegal robocalls have become overwhelming, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently given phone companies the ability to block this type of call without the need for customers to give their permission. Before this announcement, customers needed to specifically request call blocking. This, in effect reverses the process, as consumers will now need to opt out of call blocking, rather than opting in for that service.

Reasons why someone might want to prevent call blocking — even if he or she would like to avoid telemarketing calls — is because blocking calls might mean they won’t get important ones like medical appointment reminders. Phone companies will have the ability to charge consumers for call blocking but are not required to do so.

Federal Communications Commission Tips

The FCC offers tips to help consumers avoid the hassle of telemarketing calls and other unwanted ones, including to not answer calls from an unknown phone number. Note that just because caller ID shows a local number, this doesn’t mean it’s actually from a local caller.

If you answer a call and it’s an unwanted robocall, don’t respond to any questions, especially ones that require a “yes” response. Instead, simply hang up.

If you do speak to someone, do not give out any personal information, such as your Social Security number, account numbers, passwords and so forth. If the caller claims to be from a governmental agency or company, hang up and call the phone number provided in the phone book, on the appropriate website, or on a bill or statement you have. This allows you to verify the authenticity of the call.

Do Not Call Registry

You can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry, a service of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that focuses on weeding out telemarketing calls. You can also file a complaint about an abusive call.

There’s an App for That

Major wireless carriers provide apps that block spam calls and/or give you the ability to list phone numbers as suspicious so you don’t answer them in the future. In the past, these typically came with a charge but are increasingly becoming free — and now, thanks to the FCC announcement, these may simply become part of your overall wireless service. There are also third-party apps that can block a phone number, and ConsumerReports.org provides information that can help you block unwanted robocalls.

None of these strategies will completely block robocalls that are illegal, but this more concerted effort should help reduce the number of them and give you tools to help prevent them from calling your phone number.

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