Robocalls are getting smarter but these apps can help prevent them
A Federal Trade Commission report ranks Florida third nationwide in unsolicited call complaints. Some are live, but if you hear a recorded message when you answer the phone, you are the target of a robocall. The US government says 99 percent of them are illegal.
Kristie Champchiaro says she is plagued daily by such calls.
“A lot of times, when you answer, no one is there and you’re saying hello three and four times, until somebody comes on the line,” Champchiaro said. “Sometimes I say, ‘Gotta go,’ and I hang up.”
Champchiaro has learned to avoid answering calls from Indiana, Vermont and other unfamiliar area codes.
“I don’t know anybody who lives in Georgia,” Champchiaro said.
But robocallers are getting trickier: Champchiaro says she gets calls showing her local area codes now in what’s known as the “neighbor scam.” This is where a computer software mimics the first six digits of your phone number, making you think a nearby friend or business is calling you.
Tech expert Jessica Nazari warns if you do pick up, watch what you say.
“If the caller calls and asks ‘Can you hear me now?’ and you say ‘Yes,’ they’ll use your voice signature for fraudulent charges,” Nazari said. “So be careful when saying ‘Yes.’”
The FCC, which regulates our phones, is now giving phone companies greater authority to intercept and block spoofed numbers before they reach us.
But, Nazari says prosecuting robocallers is not easy.
“These are scammers,” Nazari said. “What we found so far is that a lot of them are overseas, which makes it very difficult for us to catch.”
Scammers have found ways to get around the “Do Not Call” list, but experts say it’s still wise to register your landline and cell phone number on the FTC’s website, donotcall.gov, to avoid telemarketing calls from businesses that honor the registry.
“So technology is really the problem that is allowing these robocallers to call you, but at the same time, technology is something that will disable these calls as well,” Nazari said.
Downloading and installing robocall-blocking apps like True-Caller, RoboKiller, Mr. Number, Hiya and Nomo-Robo onto smart phones is also recommended.
Some like YouMail will stop the phone from ringing when it suspects a robocall and deliver a message that your number is out of service. Many apps are free, but some upgrades will cost you.
“Of course, they come with a fee, but it’s much better than getting those unsolicited calls,” Nazarian said.
If you do receive a robocall, report that number to the FTC and block it from your phone.