Every year, robocalls are the number one complaint made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In the 2022 fiscal year alone, the FTC received 1.8 million of these complaints. In that same timespan, over 2.5 million people signed up for the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, bringing the total number of phone numbers on the list to 246 million.
Yet, the robocalls keep coming.
In November 2022, Americans received an incredible 6.47 billion robocalls — nearly 24 calls for every person in the U.S. Every second, 2,415 robocalls reached Americans’ phones. This came at a time when the median amount of money lost to scams was $1,500, according to the FTC.
Fortunately, there are solutions to help you fight against the surge of intrusive, annoying spam calls. This post will cover everything you need to know to stop robocalls on your cell phone effectively.
Unlike unwanted telemarketer calls, where a real person is reaching out to you for a sales pitch, a robocall is a prerecorded message transmitted automatically through auto-dialing software. So there's little human involvement. Robocalls are quite useful for companies and organizations since they can reach millions of people simultaneously. However, scammers like to use the same technology to get a hold of as many targets as possible. Therefore there are strict regulations for robocalls, and it’s important to differentiate between legal and illegal ones.
As mentioned above, not every phone call with a prerecorded message is illegal. Certain automated calls sent by companies or organizations for urgent or critical notifications are legal, even if you’ve not consented to receive them. These legitimate robocalls may come from doctors' offices, schools, charities, political campaigns, or debt collectors, among others.
If the prerecorded message is not to share an urgent notification but instead to make a sales pitch, it's generally unlawful and, in most situations, a scam. Companies need consent to reach out to you for sales purposes via robocall. If you've never given your written consent or the robocall distinctly stands out as a scam, you should report it.
There are a few ways you might become a target of robocalls. Technology has made it easy to scrape the internet and public databases for personal information, including mobile and landline phone numbers. This information is available for purchase by organizations and spammers alike. Companies may also sell "call lists" with the phone numbers of legitimate leads scraped from social media websites. Those lists are then cross-referenced with the DNC to ensure registered individuals are not called.
Organizations that partake in cold calling or telemarketing can purchase these lists or generate their own but must comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or FTC rules and regulations. Companies that do not comply may face massive fines and reputational damage.
In other instances, there’s no method to the madness: Your phone number might be dialed at random. This is often the strategy of illegal robocallers who might not care who they're targeting as long as someone answers the phone. Using auto-dialing technology, robocalls can be placed in immense volume within seconds. In fact, there are thousands of robocalls placed to U.S. phone numbers every second.
In these circumstances, the first robocall is intended to identify if the dialed number is in use. If you answer, press any dial key, or request removal from the caller’s list, you're actually helping the scammer in their elaborate scheme because they know there’s someone on the other end to be scammed. For this reason, it’s crucial to avoid answering or engaging with unfamiliar calls when possible.
Caller ID spoofing — the practice of falsifying the information that appears on caller ID — is arguably the biggest challenge in fighting robocalls. Illegal robocallers utilize caller ID spoofing because it’s deceptive and incredibly difficult to trace.
By spoofing their phone number, nearly any scammer can call you from any phone number. This tactic allows them to get you on the phone under false pretenses. Scammers often place calls from phone numbers that appear to be in your area code — known as neighbor spoofing — so that you’re more likely to believe it’s a legitimate call from a doctor's office, mechanic, school, or someone else non-threatening.
The economics of caller ID spoofing, unfortunately, attract scammers. All it takes to scam unsuspecting victims is a telephone and cheap auto-dialing technology. So, the barrier to entry is quite low.
While the telecommunications industry, including mobile providers, works on methods to reduce the negative impact of spam calls and robocalls, the problem remains unresolved. In the end, it's mostly on you to stop these annoyances. The good news is, you can take some precautionary measures and utilize specific tools to pull the plug on robocalls and spam calls once and for all.
The Do Not Call Registry was created as part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and is monitored by the FTC and FCC. This national list of cell phone and landline telephone numbers represents consumers who do not wish to be called by telemarketers. They have actively added their numbers to the list.
The TCPA makes any robocalls to phone numbers on the DNC a violation of the law. Signing up for the DNC is as easy as visiting https://www.donotcall.gov/ and registering online. You can also report unwanted calls online.
The DNC applies to domestic companies only, as it is a law in the U.S. and can't extend beyond its borders. The registry applies to any campaign or plans to sell goods or services but allows for calls from charities and political campaigns, among others. Domestic companies that violate the DNC are subject to substantial fines of up to $43,792 per call. Robocallers from outside the country, however, can generally operate without fear of penalty under U.S. law.
A robocall or spam call blocker app complements registering with the DNC as it stops the callers that evade the law. It’s an essential and invaluable tool because it puts the power to block calls in your hands.
Some of the significant benefits you'll realize from a call blocker app include:
As you can see, using a robocall blocker app impacts the fight against robocalls that scam Americans out of billions of dollars yearly. Even the FTC acknowledges the benefits of call blocker apps. A great example is Robokiller, an award-winning robocall blocker app that includes a unique feature, Answer Bots, that wastes scammers’ time by stringing them along on the phone. The results are millions of minutes lost for scammers, depriving them of ill-gotten gains and preventing them from scamming other victims.
Call blocker apps like Robokiller identify and stop spam calls before they reach your phone. The app blocks not only calls in our global database of known scammers but also uses predictive technology to stay ahead of emerging, never-before-seen scams.
Besides adding your phone number to the DNC registry and using a spam call blocker app like Robokiller, other minor precautions might help to get rid of robocalls. Some of these options include:
We highly recommend signing up for Robokiller as the best solution to stop robocalls for good. Robokiller is the only robocall blocker app that allows you to take the fight to robocallers and scammers. Beyond offering the most effective spam call protection, real-time caller identification, and block/allow list functionality, Robokiller enables you to get revenge on spam callers via Answer Bots.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was created and is monitored by the FTC and FCC to place restrictions on robocalls and prerecorded messages made by telemarketers, businesses, debt collectors, and political campaigns. TCPA regulations restrict the practices of telemarketers and debt collectors and their use of automated dialing and prerecorded voice messages in the form of opt-in consent concerning:
Under the TCPA, telemarketers and debt collectors using an autodialer are also forbidden from other practices including calling the consumer before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. In addition, the caller must provide:
Any robocall made to a phone number on the Do Not Call Registry is considered a violation. The Do Not Call Registry is a national list of phone numbers of consumers that do not wish to be called by telemarketers. The TCPA prohibits solicitation calls to any number of the list.
The Commission's laws and regulations prohibit prerecorded messages for calls made to residential telephone lines. This law applies only to solicitations from telemarketers or sellers with whom the consumer does not have an "established business relationship." If the consumer has done business with a telemarketer or seller within the last 18 months or made an inquiry within the previous three months, it is presumed under the TCPA that the consumer has an established business relationship with that telemarketer or seller.
The TCPA prohibits using robocalls or spam text messages on personal and professional cell phones. A robocaller violates the law whenever they make an automated robocall or send a text message to a consumer's cell phone without consent. The only exception is if the recipient previously gave the robocaller permission to call. In cases where consent has been previously given, the consumer can revoke that consent by notifying the telemarketer or debt collector to stop calling the cell phone. Source: Nolo
The laws and regulations designed to manage telephone communication in the United States are flawed in one significant way: they do not take illegal spam callers into account. The Commission has a two-pronged challenge when battling the annoying robocalls plaguing your phone lines: