If you live in the modern world and/or own a smartphone device, you know what a robocall is, and that fact alone speaks to the pervasiveness of today’s most hated scourge.
America, a nation of 328.7 million people, gets 98 million robocalls every day. There isn’t a tracking method but there are estimates of two billion calls monthly. Every day 400,000 people call the Federal Trade Commission to complain, but the robocalls continue, and its driving us all mad.
It’s estimated Houston-area residents rack up 100 million calls a month, the 713, 832, and 281 area codes having demonstrated what fruitful grounds we are, waiting to be harvested by crooks with a scam.
“It’s not what people think. It’s not that they’re buying lists, finding lists or mining lists. For the most part they’re picking area codes where they’re getting good results and then they’re auto-dialing, not quite randomly but in a very scattershot kind of way,” explains Ethan Garr, whose robocall-busting company is called Robokiller. The basic fee is around $3 a month, and the company says they can not only shield you from receiving robocalls, but for the sheer joy of it will makes the lives of those making the calls miserable, intercepting your call. “And we answer those calls with answer bots, which actually talk to the scammers and waste their time back.”
But in the meantime, you’re still getting calls. What should you do? They’ll offer you an opportunity to opt-out of future calls - good idea? Garr suggests: “If you’re going to answer you’re better off not pressing any button, or saying anything. But you probably shouldn’t answer. You’re better off trying to protect yourself with some service.”
There are more than 500 apps available to help consumers protect themselves, while telecommunications companies work to develop effective technologies against their constantly shape-shifting violators and federal agencies like the FTC and FCC explore fines and legal remedies. The agencies are holding a Stop Illegal Robocalls Tech Expo in Washington April 23.
You can put your name on the National Do Not Call Registry, and should, but know that crooks don’t, by nature, follow the law, and on their website, the agency warns they’re victims of a scam that’s telling people their Do Not Call registration is expiring in phishing expeditions to extract user information.
Short of paying protection-money for your sanity, you’re on your own.