I get so many robocalls, my phone goes into call waiting. They literally will ring on top of each other. Many days I want to throw my cell phone in the driveway and run over it with my car about 50 times. My caller id is filled with unknown numbers that appear local, from all over the U.S., Canada, and China. I’ve even had caller ids that aren’t phone numbers but 3,4, or 5 digits.
Why has this gotten so bad so quick?
Back in the stone age of cell phones, the 1990s, were when many of the telemarketing rules were written on who could call and for what reason. The rules were relatively specific to landlines. And over time they expanded to cell phones and pagers for emergency service professions, hospitals, and nursing homes. The rules allowed non-marketing robocalls for political and charity fund raising but that was the extent. While the basic rules for robocalls seem straight forward, the legal interpretations are full of loops holes. But simply put, no automated or pre-recorded messages and no fake names.
In the early 2000’s cell phones were becoming adopted more mainstream and telemarketing call center figured out to make calls appear from a local area code regardless of where it originated from. Even this practice was banned in 2009 with the Truth in Caller ID Act. But as we know, the practice rages on.
The penalties for those that break the FCC or FTC rules for robocalls are relatively unenforced. It its very hard to identify the offenders and very hard to collect the fines when they are identified. As of 2018, the FTC has issued $1.5 billion in fines for violations and have only collected $122 million. The FCC has issued over $200 million in fines and have yet to collect a single dollar.
The tools are more advanced now allowing individuals or small teams of people to make millions of calls. The most public case I have come across is Adrian Abramovic, dubbed the Robocall King, by Alex Palmer of Wired Magazine. He is facing a $120 million fine from the FCC for allegedly making 97 million robocalls. This was done with some simple software, buying bulk personal data, and as much bandwidth he could afford to automate the dialing.
Tips to cut down on unwanted calls:
The first step is ensuring you are registered with the FTC’s Do Not Call List registry. For companies that follow the law, this will reduce those types of unwanted phones. Check with your cell cellular carrier on any free tools not activated yet on your account. Verizon has a free service named Call Filter, but also a more advanced service for $2.99 per month. AT&T has two services called Call Protect and Smart Limits. T-Mobile and Sprint have similar services thru their apps.
There are also a variety of paid 3rd party services that have monthly fees associated. Some of the more well know programs include: Nomorobo, Hiya Caller ID, RoboKiller, and Truecaller. Be aware that pricing and availability will vary based on the brand and model of the cell phone you carry.
I personally recommend paying for additional identity privacy protection services for certain items you buy that require you to give your phone number or email. Registering a new website domain is a prime example. By adding the privacy for an additional $7.99, I don’t get slammed with spam email or phone calls. The times I have forgotten to check the privacy add-on box, my phone rings non-stop for weeks.
Government registry websites are notorious for having their websites scrapped for contact data by automatic bots. My business is registered with state and local contractor websites. Every time I update information on those platforms the robocalls come in bunches. It takes days for the unwanted calls to calm down. I guess it’s the cost of doing business.