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Robocalls & Telemarketing

You may have received robocalls or telemarketing calls on your cell phone that were unwanted or intrusive. Robocalls are automated calls that may be a robot or prerecorded message. Telemarketing calls are phone calls made in an attempt to sell a service or product that usually have a human caller. Robocalls can be intrusive and hard to stop, and with emerging technology, they can be harder to spot before you pick up the phone. Automated technology also lets both legitimate companies and othersĀ  send out thousands of calls a minute, which means you may receive multiple calls a day. Sometimes, robocalls can also be scam calls that can end up costing you more than you anticipated. Thankfully, there are some things you can do to curb the number of these calls to your phone.
Not all robocalls or telemarketing calls are malicious or unsolicited. Certain uses of these types of communications are legitimate. Companies can send automated calls to your phone as long as they are strictly informational and not for marketing purposes. For example, your pharmacy may send an automated call or text message to let you know that your prescription is ready to be picked up. Here are some other calls that may be allowed to send you automated calls and messages:

There are several exceptions to the marketing rule. Companies that you have given permission to may contact you regarding goods or services. For instance, your cable company that you currently have a contract with might contact you about special rates on new services. If you went to a car dealership and left them your phone number, they may call you about new cars on the lot. If you aren’t sure that you’ve given permission to receive these calls, or don’t want to receive them anymore, let the caller know to take your information off their call list. A legitimate company will comply with this request.

For the calls that don’t fit into this category, there are a few things you can do and a few things to keep in mind:

Screen your calls with voicemail.
If you get a call from a phone number you don’t know, you can let it go to voicemail and then listen to what the caller was contacting you about. If it was an important call, you can call back.

Be aware of social engineering schemes.
Scammers may send you threatening calls that tell you if you don’t call back and pay up you’ll get in trouble. Phone calls may make a threat seem more authentic, when in actuality it is not. If you get a call from what seems like an authentic, legitimate institution (a bank, a government agency, etc.), don’t provide them with any sensitive information unless you find an official phone number for the entity and call them back. Do not give in to pressure to divulge personal information or pay fines over the phone until you can confirm that you are speaking to a legitimate organization.

Phone numbers can be spoofed.
Spoofing is the act of masking where a phone call or message is really coming from. A phone number may show up on your caller ID as being local, but you could really be receiving a call from the other side of the world. Computer software makes it easy to mask where a call is actually coming from. Just because a phone number looks to be from your area code doesn’t mean that’s where the call originated. Don’t be trusting just because a phone number looks familiar.

Block recurring robocall numbers.
Most phone plans or cell phone models have options for blocking phone numbers. If you receive numerous harassing phone calls from a certain number, you can block the number from contacting you. Keep in mind that some spam callers change the number they call from and this might not be a solution in every situation.

Use spam filtering apps.
Most cell service carriers provide software that can warn you when an incoming call is potentially a robocall or a scam. Though you will still receive the call, the call will be either labeled as a potential scam or given a scoring of how risky it is to answer.

Hang up.
If you pick up the phone and find an unsolicited automated message on the other end, you can always hang up the phone. You are under no obligation to listen or complete the call, or to even speak with a representative. It may even be beneficial to do so, as certain calls may log how long you stay on the line. The longer you stay, the more interested you look and the more calls you may get. The spammers will also know that they’ve found a good, working number that someone is likely to pick up.

Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry.
The Federal Trade Commission maintains a registry of callers who have requested not to receive marketing calls. This mostly applies to legitimate companies who honor the list, and may not stop scammers or actors who reside outside of the United States.
It’s important to remember that most legitimate organizations (your bank, the Internal Revenue Service, Department of Homeland Security, local law enforcement, your internet service provider, and more) will not ask you to confirm personal information over the phone. Additionally, no company or authority will ever ask you to pay fines and invoices solely using wire transfer or gift cards. Anyone calling you and requesting any of these things is most likely trying to scam you. For more information on current scams and how to spot them, visit our section onĀ scams.