Robocalls are getting worse; what’s being done to stop them?

I-Team

How often do you become the target of robocalls? 1,300 robocalls are made every second and people are getting fed up.

Steve Hayes of West Springfield told the I-Team, it happens to him all of the time. “Oh maybe 2, 3, 4 times a day, it depends.”

Vinnie Rettura of West Springfield had a similar answer, “All of the time, several times a day.”

Robocalls have become a nuisance for everyone with a telephone, and if it seems like it’s getting worse, that’s because it is.

There have been 16-billion robocalls so far this year. Topics can range from solar panels and health insurance, to fake calls from the IRS and FBI. 

Robocallers have one goal, to make money, and they only need a few victims to do that.

Robocallers are now using new, sophisticated technology, to trick you into answering. It’s called spoofing, and it changes phone numbers to make it look as though they’re coming from your local bank, a neighbor, or even the IRS, so you’re more likely to answer the phone.

Spoofing can be hard to spot. The I-Team received several calls from a phone number with a 413 area code. When we called them back, we heard a beeping sound, which indicates the number doesn’t really exist, despite the misleading area code.

Patrick Webre is the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau Chief for the FCC. He told the I-Team, spoofing gives the criminals behind the robocalls a better chance at getting you to answer, “That’s the illegal robocallers main objective, is to get the person to pick up the phone. Once you pick up the call, they have a chance to scam you.”

Many people get frustrated when they sign up for the Do Not Call Registry, then receive robocalls. Webre told the I-Team, the “Do Not Call Registry” cannot block robocalls. The registry is meant for legal telemarketers, and since the people behind the robocalls are criminals, they don’t follow the rules.

He also said the FCC receives 200,000 complaints about robocalls every year, and now they’re hitting back where it hurts… in the wallet. “Over the last year, the FCC has proposed over $200-million in fines against robocallers, and actually impose a $120-million fine just last month, our largest fine ever, against one individual robocaller.”

Milagros Johnson, the director of consumer information at the Springfield Mayor’s Office told the I-Team, they get complaints about robocalls constantly, “We get them often. We get consumers calling in, asking what do I do, these calls just don’t stop. They’re relentless, they’re harassing me.”

Johnson said there may be a solution. If you’re getting bombarded by robocalls, there’s now a few apps for that. “When you download the app it works two ways, you can either send the call right to voicemail, or redirect the call somewhere else, and it blocks the call so at least you’re not getting the ringing. You won’t even know they’re calling you.”

Some of the apps that promise to block robocallers include RoboKiller and Hiya, which are available for smartphone users.

The FCC is working on more permanent solutions, including a new rule that allows phone companies to block obviously fake spoof numbers. 

Webre told the I-Team the FCC is also working on new technology, to block spoof calls all together, “It’s a multi-faceted problem, very complex, and we’re taking a multi-pronged approach. We’re doing strong enforcement activities. We’re also empowering phone companies to block calls before they even reach consumers, and then we’re working on this caller ID protocol authentication, so by the time it’s completed, consumers can have a verified way to know that’s the real number that’s calling me, that’s not a spoof number.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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