Illegal Robocalls? Hang Up, Block & Report

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(BBB) – Has your phone been ringing off the hook lately? But, when you go to answer, it is a pre-recorded message instead of a live person. Well, it’s a robocall and probably a scam.

According to Federal Trade Commission regulations, in the United States, a select few types of robocalls are legal. These include debt collection calls and informational messages from health care providers, political groups and charities.

Any other type of call that is a sales pitch from a business that you did not agree to have them call you is in fact, illegal. Most robocalls are from scammers offering extended auto warranties, vacations and lower rates on bill payments, and posing as agents from the IRS and Social Security Administration.

Better Business Bureau recommends the following steps to reduce the amount of robocalls you receive:

  • Register your telephone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry or List. In the U.S. the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) runs the National Do Not Call Registry. In Canada, it’s the National Do Not Call List. Once you’re registered, you can be sure that any company using robocalls to try to sell you something without your permission is not obeying the law.
  • Report illegal robocalls. In the U.S., report these calls to the FTC and Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In Canada, you can file a complaint here. This will help federal agencies to identify the source of unwanted calls and take legal actions against offenders.
  • If you don’t recognize a number, or the caller ID appears as “unknown,” don’t pick up the phone. Let the call go to voicemail. Return the call only after you’ve determined the caller is legitimate.
  • Watch out for neighbor spoofing. Many scammers use numbers conspicuously similar to your own to try to convince you to answer the call. Remember, con artists can easily fake caller ID numbers so don’t answer calls from someone you don’t know – even if the call appears to be coming from someone who lives in your area.
  • Ask your phone service provider what they do to block illegal robocalls. They may already include certain call blocking options in your current service plan. If so, make sure the functions are activated on your device. Or your service provider may offer additional scam and robocall blocking protection for a reasonable fee.
  • If you answer an illegal robocall by accident, hang up immediately. Some robocalls ask you to press a button to stop receiving calls or say “yes” in reply to a question. These are tricks scammers use to identify and target live respondents. They may even use your “yes” to authorize charges to which you haven’t agreed.

What you can do to stop robocalls:

Consumers can help the government combat robocall scams by reporting the calls they receive. Follow the FCC guidelines and advice regarding robocalls. Additional information can be found on the FCC Consumer Help Center. The Federal Trade Commission initiative provides telecommunications companies and other partners with known robocallers’ telephone numbers every day. Report a scam call here.  

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.

Sources: BBB.org, FTC.gov, FCC.gov. To find a business you can trust, check out BBB.org.

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