Have you ever received a robocall? Do you know how to protect yourself from scammers who are increasingly using robocalls to steal consumer information? Here are some things to consider:
What is a robocall? Robocalls are calls made with an autodialer or that contain a message made with a prerecorded or artificial voice. Advances in technology have unfortunately allowed illegal and spoofed robocalls to be made from anywhere in the world and more cheaply and easily than ever before. That's why it's become more of a problem for consumers, and a more difficult problem to solve.
How are robocalls used to scam consumers? Some companies continue to make robocalls to people who have signed up for the Do Not Call Registry, using fake “caller IDs” that make them hard to identify or trace. These calls might be scams. Additionally, Caller ID spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally.
What should I do if I receive a robocall? If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press “1” to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to (supposedly) get your phone number off a call list. Doing so will probably just lead to more robocalls. Never give out personal identification information over the phone unless you initiate the call and know the other party is reputable. This includes bank account and credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, account passwords and PIN numbers.
Here are a few red flags that can help you spot a scam:
- You’re told to send money or provide bank account information before you receive anything in return;
- You sense a reluctance on the part of the caller to answer questions or provide written information; and
- You’re told you already agreed to pay money but you don’t remember doing so.
If you think you’re a victim, file a complaint with the FTC (at www.ftc.gov/complaint or toll-free at 1-877-382-4357) and with your police. For more tips on topics like reducing robocalls, avoiding phone scams and stopping unwanted mail and calls, start at the FTC’s Web site (www.ftc.gov).
How else can I protect myself against phone scams like robocalls? There are a number of proactive steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers targeting you through your phone.
- Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
- If the caller claims to be from a legitimate company or organization, hang up and call them back using a valid number found on their website or on your latest bill if you do business with them.
- If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to press a button to stop receiving calls, or asks you to say "yes" in response to a question, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents, or to use your "yes" to apply unauthorized charges on your bill.
- Be Aware: Caller ID showing a "local" number no longer means it is necessarily a local caller.
- If you answer and the caller asks for payment using a gift card, it's likely a scam. Legitimate organizations like law enforcement will not ask for payment with a gift card.
- If you receive a scam call, file a complaint with the FCC Consumer Complaint Center by selecting the "phone" option and selecting "unwanted calls." The data we collect helps us track trends and supports our enforcement investigations.
- Ask your phone company if it offers a robocall blocking service. If not, encourage them to offer one. You can also visit the FCC's website for more information about illegal robocalls and resources on available robocall blocking tools to help reduce unwanted calls.
- Consider registering your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry. Lawful telemarketers use this list to avoid calling consumers on the list.