By Carl Demas
One thing I can expect on any average day is robocalls — lots of them. In spite of all I do, I continue to get them in increasing number and attitude on the part of the caller. So, I decided to study the matter and came up with several things that I feel worthwhile to pass on to you.
In a Consumer Reports article, I found out that in 2017 alone, more than 30 billion robocalls were made in the U.S., as estimated by YouMail, a provider of voicemail and call-blocking services. Recently, the Federal Trade Commission took another step to reduce the number of illegal robocalls you receive. As a result, the agency has filed a formal complaint in federal court against a few companies the FTC says facilitates billions of these calls. According to the FTC, many robocaller companies use phone numbers from the Do Not Call Registry with spoofed caller IDs, which make it look like it is coming from a neighbor. You’ve got them pitching solar, computer deficiencies, debt-relief, credit card interest reductions, IRS, and on and on.
The FTC’s complaint mentions three people: James Christiano, Aaron Michael Jones, and Andrew Salisbury. Their company TelWeb operates an automated dialing platform responsible for selecting the calls to your phone. While the complaint is good news for consumers, the case will ultimately be decided by the court.
Mahoney, a policy analyst for Consumers Union, the advocacy division of Consumer Reports, has been calling for telephone companies to provide free robocall blocking technology and for both the industry and the federal government to do more to stop these annoying calls. Meanwhile, there are steps you can take to minimize the annoyance of these calls.
Use call blocking. Several technologies are available including services from your phone company, third-party equipment that you purchase, and apps that you install on your cell phone. The best systems update their list of numbers regularly. Some call-blocking services and apps are free or have a one-time cost of just a dollar or two. Nomorobo, a call-blocking service, is free for landlines and costs cell phone users $2 after a two-week free trial. Check with your telephone provider or search the web to explore call-blocking.
Do not answer unfamiliar calls. If you do not recognize the caller, use an answering machine to screen it. Let the caller leave a message. If you decide to return the call but are uncertain about its legitimacy, don’t use the number as it will lead you back to the scammer.
Block anonymous calls. Some phone companies will allow you to block anonymous calls. The downside is that friends, relatives, associates, etc. who do not want to be identified will be blocked as well.
Don’t engage. Engagement only fosters more calls. Just hang up.
I know a lot of my friends say that if they don’t recognize the name, they don’t answer. You may encourage your friends to identify themselves with caller input otherwise you will not answer unless they leave a message. Hopefully this will help you to deal with the interrupting phone ringer and bring more peace to your household. I know it did mine.
— Carl Demas is the board president of the Serra Mesa Community Council.