Lawmakers stepping in to stop robocalls

Posted at 7:41 AM, Feb 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-04 11:37:10-05

BOISE, Idaho — Robocalls are a well-known annoyance--with five billion reported robocalls in November 2019 alone. That's almost 2,000 calls per second. Now, lawmakers are stepping in to stop the calls.

The Better Business Bureau reports robocalls are being classified as an annoying epidemic for both consumers and businesses. So much so that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) changed its rules on blocking unwanted calls and creative, tech-savvy individuals are coming up with ways to block the onslaught of calls that continue to haunt our devices. Cell phone providers are also trying to do their part by offering blocking services. Now, there's new legislation to tackle the problem that will put more responsibility on the phone companies to protect their customers.

You might ask yourself--are these calls allowed or legal? Many different scams use robocalls, from bogus companies claiming to lower utility bills or credit card rates, government grants, vacation packages and calls from individuals posing as IRS agents. But not all of these calls are illegal.

Since 2020 is an election year in the United States, keep in mind recorded messages regarding candidates running for office or charities asking for donations are allowed. Messages that are solely informational, for example a reminder from your doctor’s office, are permitted. Prerecorded messages from banks, telephone carriers and charities also are exempt from these rules if the organizations make the calls themselves.

However, when it comes to sales calls, a telemarketer must have your written consent, whether through paper or electronic means, to receive a call or message. The new rules also require telemarketers to allow you to opt out of receiving additional telemarketing robocalls immediately during a prerecorded telemarketing call through an automated menu.

How can you avoid these calls? If you pick up the phone and get a recorded sales pitch, hang up. The call is illegal. Don’t speak to them. Don’t press a button to supposedly remove your name from a list as that could result in even more calls. Furthermore, be on alert if you see a call that says it’s from the IRS or Social Security Administration, don’t trust it. Scammers know how to fake the Caller ID information.

Block the calls altogether. You can reduce the number of unwanted calls you get by using call-blocking technologies. Your options differ depending the model of your phone, service provider and whether you use a traditional landline or internet phone service. Click here for advice. After you hang up, report the unwanted or illegal call to the FTC here.

For more resources to help you protect your identity and money, click here.