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Technology Scams, Part 1: Robocalls

| August 14, 2019
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Technology is great.  Think of all the advances in healthcare, communication and transportation just in the past decade.  Like anything else, though, you must take the bad along with the good.  Advancements in technology open the door to unscrupulous people around the globe looking to cheat and scam honest citizens out of their hard-earning savings.  Scammers are always developing new methods, but let’s take a look at a currently pervasive scam to watch out for:  Robocalls. 

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced a focus on combatting the “robocall scourge” and the caller ID spoofing that makes illegitimate calls appear as if they are coming from local or even government/law enforcement offices.  One of the main demands of the FCC is that major carriers adopt and implement a robust call authentication system by the end of 2019.  While we wait for these protection measures to take effect, here are a few tips from the FCC in how to handle robocalls. 

  • Don't answer calls from unknown numbers. Let them go to voicemail.
  • If the caller claims to be from a legitimate company or organization, hang up and call them back using a valid number found on their website or on your latest bill if you do business with them.
  • If you answer and the caller (often a recording) asks you to press a button to stop receiving calls or asks you to say "yes" in response to a question, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify, and then target, live respondents, or to use your "yes" to apply unauthorized charges on your bill.
  • Be Aware: Caller ID showing a "local" number no longer means it is necessarily a local caller.
  • If you answer and the caller asks for payment using a gift card, it's likely a scam. Legitimate organizations like law enforcement will not ask for payment with a gift card.
  • If you receive a scam call, file a complaint with the FCC Consumer Complaint Center by selecting the "phone" option and selecting "unwanted calls." The data we collect helps us track trends and supports our enforcement investigations.
  • If you have lost money because of a scam call, contact your local law enforcement agency for assistance.
  • Consider registering your telephone numbers in the National Do Not Call Registry. Lawful telemarketers use this list to avoid calling consumers on the list.

Finally, governmental agencies like Social Security or the IRS will never proactively call you.  You will only receive written communication from these agencies through the mail.  If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from federal, state or local government requesting information or payment of some kind, even if they threaten to send law enforcement, simply hang up.  You can always call the agency using their listed phone number to confirm the legitimacy of the call.

For more information about Robocalls and how to avoid being duped, check out https://www.fcc.gov/about-fcc/fcc-initiatives/fccs-push-combat-robocalls-spoofing.

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