The Federal Trade Commission announced an extensive robocall crackdown on June 26 as part of “Operation Call it Quits.”
As part of the announcement, the FTC revealed over 80 actions against operations from around the country it claims are responsible for over one billion calls. These calls, which — it’s not in your head — are indeed getting worse, and pitch everything from credit card interest rate reduction services to get-rich-quick schemes in an attempt to phish personal information.
Part of this operation includes consumer education, with the FTC reiterating recommendations on its website for how consumers should deal with robocalls. These include hanging up, blocking the number, and then reporting the number to the FTC. Andrew Smith, the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC, revealed the most common mistake people receiving robocalls tend to make.
“Here is a tip: pressing numbers to speak to someone or remove yourself from the list will probably only lead to more robocalls,” Smith told attendees the press conference.
This is a fairly common mistake people make. Robocallers often present people who answer the phone with two options. Press one, and you can speak with a customer service rep (i.e. scammer), or press two and you will be removed from the call list.
Of course this offer is part of the scam. In fact, hitting any number at all can actually make you a target, resulting in more calls. Robocallers deal in volume, and there are a lot of a dead or inactive numbers out there. When you press any button at all, it reveals to the scammer not only that the number is active, but also that the owner is willing to answer calls from unknown numbers.
Your best bet is to hang up, without hitting anything, as soon as you hear an automated voice.
The FTC fielded 3.8 million complaints about robocalls in 2018, but they’ve already seen that number increase dramatically. On average, the FTC is now getting around 10,000 complaints about robocalls every day.
In 2018, Americans were subjected to 26.3 billion robocalls, according to The Wall Street Journal. That was a 46 percent increase from 2017.
The spike didn’t come out of nowhere. In 2018, the FCC chose not to appeal an Obama-era definition of auto-dialers, or devices that rapidly dial numbers from a list and can leave recorded messages or request information, after it was struck down by the courts. In fact, the FCC celebrated the decision. The court’s justification, at the time, is that the regulation was too expansive.