It’s not your imagination: Robocalls are increasing

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – When the phone rings at Linda Maggio’s house, there’s a good chance it’s a robocall.

“I get quite a few every day,” she said. “It’s solar panels, chimney sweeps, they want me to reduce the rate on my credit cards.”

There’s more. Maggio said she was recently offered a free cruise. The catch? She had to send the caller “taxes and port fees.”

“I hung up on that one, too,” said Maggio. “I said, ‘this is a scam.’”

Robocalls are increasing

Americans were inundated with 2.5 billion robocalls in April, according to YouMail, a telecommunication company that specializes in robocalls. That’s 965 robocalls per second.

Martha Crippen, the head of the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit, said the increase in robocalls has prompted an increase in consumer complaints.

“Scam artists are very clever and they’re always coming up with new ways to try to scam people,” Crippen said.

Government crackdown on robocalls

The Federal Trade Commission has cracked down on illegal sales calls, suing hundreds of companies and individuals for making unwanted calls. According to the agency, it has obtained more than a billion dollars in judgments against violators.

But the federal Do Not Call Registry will not protect you from many unwanted phone calls.

“Scam artists making illegal phone calls, trying to get your money, are not going to comply with a federal law,” added Crippen.

And don’t let a local area code fool you. Scammers can manipulate caller ID information with a practice called spoofing.

“It’s through the Internet, which makes it very very difficult for law enforcement to track the numbers,” Crippen explained. “They’re not legitimate numbers.”

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission launched a “robocall strike force,” comprised of telecom and tech companies. In a report last month, the robocall strike force said it is working on developing tools to stop illegal calls.

The task force also noted:

 Many industry leaders in robocall mitigation have concluded that there is no “silver bullet” to solve the problem. However, to mitigate the problem of illegal robocalls, the industry is implementing a diverse multitude of evolving mitigation tools and efforts so that it becomes too costly for illegal robocalling campaigns to overcome the industry’s dynamic mitigation techniques.

How to stop unwanted calls

If you receive repeated robocalls from a particular number, the FTC advises consumers to consider call blocking through the phone company, online call blocking services, or smartphone apps that block unwanted calls.

“If it’s an actual person calling you, you need to hang up,” Crippen suggested. “If it’s a recording and it’s a prompt, don’t press any numbers because then the person knows it’s a viable phone number. That will result in you getting more phone calls.”

To file a consumer complaint about an illegal sales call or robocall, go to www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236).

In the below video, Susan looks at two more of the most common complaints received by Call 12 for Action: gym memberships and used cars.

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