“How do I stop them?” “My phone just won’t stop ringing.” These are the phrases many of us utter daily. Robocalls are so frustrating, but it does look like some relief may be in sight. The Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules that would make it easier for telecom giants to block suspected spam calls on behalf of their subscribers. That means they could crack down on the ever-increasing robocallers who have called Americans nearly 5 billion times.
These calls have increased in recent years because technology has made it cheap and easy for robocallers to make calls from anywhere in the world. And, also hiding their identities by displaying fake information. Right now, the Better Business Bureau is seeing an uptick in robocalls impersonating the Social Security Administration. In one robocall version of the scam, an automated recording declares your Social Security number (SSN), “has been suspended for suspicion of illegal activity,” and advises to contact a specific phone number immediately. The robocall also warns if you don’t call back, your assets or benefits will be frozen until your alleged issue is resolved.
Robocalls from scammers pretending to be from government agencies, like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), continue to be problematic. Cheap and easy, they allow thieves to reach the largest number of victims possible. Another phone call you may be receiving involves a student loan company that tells you they can get you the "best" interest rate and loan terms, but you have to pay a "small" fee up front for this service. If you come across this offer - RUN! There are no circumstances in which you should have to pay money to get money. Legitimate student loans, even from private lenders, do not require any fees up front.
How to avoid robocall scams:
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• Use Caller ID to screen calls. Consider not answering unfamiliar numbers. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message, and you can call back. But also know that you can't always believe your caller ID. Scammers can spoof the phone numbers and names of legitimate companies on Caller ID. This lends credibility to their pitches.
• Just hang up: If you answer a robocall, ignore recorded prompts to press digits on your telephone keypad to be taken off their calling list. If you press a key, it tells the scammers they have an active number. Your number will then be sold to other telemarketers and the frequency of calls will increase.
Consumers can also report robocalls to bbb.org/scamtracker. BBB shares Scam Tracker information with government and law enforcement agencies, so every piece of information is helpful in tracking down scammers.
(Dawn Johnson is with the Better Business Bureau Northwest.)