(CBS Local) — Most Americans have been on the receiving end of an anonymous phone call from a person or recording offering suspicious deals and services. In recent years, some of these “robocalls” have even turned into verbal threats, falsely promising jail time if the victim didn’t send the caller money.
Robocalls are employed by scammers, telemarketers, and others using automatic dialing equipment to make thousands of calls to potential victims each hour. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the number of robocalls has exploded in the U.S. to around 2.5 billion per month. That is up from a reported 683 million scam calls dialed each month just two years ago.
The FCC is now cracking down on the robocall blitz, instituting new rules for phone companies to use in dealing with the rise of scam calls. On Nov. 16, the commission voted to allow telephone service providers to block calls coming from fraudulent numbers. The move specifically goes after scammers which use “caller ID spoofing,” technology that manipulates Caller ID information to trick people into answering their phone.
“These calls are very likely to be illegal or fraudulent; there’s no legitimate reason for anyone to spoof caller ID to make it seem as if he or she is calling from an unassigned or invalid phone number,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai wrote in a statement after the vote.
Although the government banned many practices tied to robocalling in 2009, the FCC says it still receives nearly 200,000 complaints a year about the unwanted calls. Telecom experts add that there is no perfect solution to protecting yourself against the scam calls but there are several steps you can take to ease the frustration.
Consumer Reports advises costumers to call their carrier and ask to be put on a “do not call list” as well as request call blocking equipment for their phone. The consumer advocate also recommends only answering the phone for numbers you know and invest in call-blocking services which require caller input.
Sentry Active Call Blocker and CenturyLink’s “No Solicitation” service reportedly greets callers with a message requiring them to press 0 or 1 before the call goes through.