Robocalls Are on the Rise — but You Can Fight Back

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Perhaps we should dub 2017 the year of the robocall.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission reports receiving more than 7 million complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls in the past year. Most of those complaints were about robocalls — automated phone calls — rather than calls made by human beings.

The FTC continues:

“For every month in the fiscal year, robocalls made up the majority of consumer complaints about Do Not Call violations. The topic of the call consumers most frequently identified when reporting a robocall complaint was ‘reducing debt’ …”

More than 229 million phone numbers are now actively registered in the National Do Not Call Registry database, according to the FTC’s recent annual report. That’s up by about 3.8 million over the course of one year.

Beware the neighbor scam

A robocalling tactic known as the neighbor scam has proliferated this year, according to Hiya, the company behind a free robocall-fighting app.

The neighbor scam involves spoofing, or mimicking, both your area code and the next three digits of your phone number. Scammers do this in hopes of tricking you into answering their calls because you assume a nearby person or business is calling.

The neighbor scam has increased by more than 750 percent since the start of 2017, according to Hiya’s recent annual report. The report names the neighbor scam the robocalling tactic of the year.

I’ve been getting these types of calls at least once a week for more than a year. They’re irritating, but easy to dodge.

I know only two people whose phone numbers start with the same six digits as my own phone number, and those contacts are saved in my phone. So, whenever I receive a call from other phone numbers that start with the same six digits, I assume it’s a robocall and never answer.

Besides, I figure if it happens to be a human being with a legitimate reason for calling, the caller will leave a voicemail message. But every voicemail I’ve ever received from phone numbers so similar to mine has been automated blind solicitation, usually involving offers that are too good to be true.

I know better than to fall for or even respond to such offers — see “10 Golden Rules to Avoid Getting Scammed.”

How to stop robocalls

For more robocall-fighting tips, check out “8 Tips to Stop Annoying Robocalls.” It explains various tactics and tools for consumers.

The Federal Trade Commission also plainly explains the different types of robocall-fighting tools in its article “Blocking Unwanted Calls.”

What about you? How do you stop, block or prevent robocalls? Let us know what has or hasn’t worked for you by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

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