As I’m sure you do, I cringe every time my cellphone rings and I don’t recognize the number or the caller.
To answer or not to answer? Usually I end the call by rejecting it, realizing if it is important (and legitimate), the person calling will leave a voicemail. Usually the robocallers don’t.
Unfortunately for me, I usually answer all calls from Michigan. That’s because I am the state correspondent with the Forty and Eight veterans’ group and could be getting calls from fellow veterans with needed information.
At least 99% of the calls I do answer result in a few seconds of silence before I realize it is a dreaded robocall. I hear either a very cheery recording telling me … well, I am not sure what the computer on the other end is telling me because I immediately hang up. Worse are the live calls, where a human on the other end begins to tell my about a warranty extension for a car I haven’t owned in 10 years. Those get a quick disconnect as well.
The most unusual call I received in recent days was one from someone who said they were representing the Detroit Tigers and asked how long I had been a fan. When I said I wasn’t a Tigers fan – I am a dedicated and lifelong Cubs fan – the guy on the other end said he liked the Cubs too. Then he turned the conversation back to the Detroit nine, and I hung up.
Now enter the Federal Communications Commission, which recently posted a scam glossary on its website at fcc.gov/scam-glossary.
The glossary is literally an A-to-Z listing of all known scams that the FCC has identified. Some of these are:
- The aforementioned warranty scam, where someone calls you with a sales pitch for renewing your auto warranty or insurance policy. The scammer may have acquired information about your car and its existing warranty to make the offer seem more credible.
- The “Can You Hear Me” scam, where the caller opens by asking a yes-or-no question, such as: “Can you hear me?” or “Is this X?” Their goal is to record you saying “yes” in response. They then may use that recording to authorize charges over the phone.
- The FBI (or other government agency) arrest scam is when scammers spoof FBI field office numbers and call claiming that they have a warrant for your arrest. They then demand payment to rescind the warrant. An alternate version of this scam threatens international students with deportation.
- The family emergency scam, where someone preys on grandparents by claiming their family members are in jail or in trouble and need money quickly. They use stolen personal information such as family member names and hometowns to seem more convincing.
- The jury duty scam, where the callers pose as local law enforcement, claiming they have a warrant for your arrest because you missed jury duty. They may instruct you to pay a fine by wiring money or using gift cards.
In fact, you should never give personal information over the phone – bank account, Social Security number, etc. – unless you initiated the call and trust the entity on the other end of the line, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
You can try to block robocalls by placing your cellphone number on the National Do Not Call Registry to notify marketers that you don’t want to get unsolicited telemarketing calls, the FTC reports.
To register by telephone, call (888) 382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236). You must call from the phone number that you want to register. To register online at donotcall.gov/, you will have to respond to a confirmation email.
Other Do Not Call Registry info:
- The government is not releasing cellphone numbers to telemarketers.
- There is no deadline for registering a cellphone number on the Do Not Call Registry.
- FCC regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cellphone numbers without prior consent. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers’ cellphones without their consent.
- There is only one Do Not Call Registry, operated by the FTC. There is no separate registry for cellphones.
- If you have registered a mobile or other telephone number already, you don’t need to re-register. Once registered, a telephone number stays on the Do Not Call Registry until the registration is canceled or service for the number is discontinued.