Almost every day a client tells me about receiving a phone call that sounds like a scam. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported an increase in “neighbor spoofing”. Neighbor spoofing is when illegal robocallers use tactics to try and trick you into answering calls. Technology advances are behind the surge in calls according to the FCC.
The robocallers hide behind a fake caller ID number that matches your area code and the first three digits of your phone number so you believe the call is local. You may even get a call that matches your phone number to avoid call blocking! A caller may pose as a business, organization or the government to trick you into giving or confirming your personal information which may be used for fraudulent activity.
The Truth Behind Robocalls
The FCC issued its largest fine last year against a perpetrator of an illegal robocall campaign who used neighbor spoofing to make 96 million robocalls during a three-month time frame. When consumers answered the call, they got a prerecorded message that advertised exclusive vacation deals impersonating companies such as Marriott, Expedia or Trip Advisor. When prompted to “press 1”, consumers were transferred to a foreign call center where operators tried to sell them low-quality vacation packages.
Putting your name on the Do Not Call Registry lets you choose to whether to receive sales calls from legitimate companies but does not stop the illegal calls.
It is illegal to make auto-dialed or prerecorded calls to consumers without consent. The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009, FCC rules prohibit any person from “transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value.” Some robocalls are allowed like bank fraud alerts, health care reminders and federal loans.
How to Protect Yourself
- Do not answer a called from a number you do not recognize. If you answer the call, you are verifying that the number is a working number which may subject you to more calls.
- Hang up if you answer and do not recognize the caller. Never press a number to be connected with someone as it may lead to a scam.
- Do not provide or confirm any personal information. Never give out your Social Security number, passwords or any other identifying information unless you are 100% positive you know the call is authentic.
- Block unwanted calls with services your phone may offer. Some services will not charge you while some may cost a fee. Most consumers have cell phones that will allow you to block calls which may already be included with your phone service.
Unwanted Calls Should Be Reported
The FCC and FTC (Federal Trade Commission) work with telecommunication providers to combat illegal calls. By reporting unwanted calls, you help phone carriers and their partners working on call-blocking solutions as well as law enforcement to pursue offenders. You can file complaints with the FCC Consumer Complaints Center and the FTC Complaint Assistant. Report unwanted calls with the National Do Not Call Registry.
Gail Hughes Donaldson is a Managing Partner of the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Montgomery and Opelika, Alabama. She holds a Bachelor of Science from Auburn University at Montgomery, and a Juris Doctorate from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law. She’s been helping families work through the bankruptcy process since she started with Bond & Botes back in 1993 as a paralegal. Read her full bio here.