Is it just me, or is the number of robocalls growing? 

These are the automated phone calls with recorded messages that encourage us to “Press Number 1” for more information.

Both my landline and my cellphone receive a half dozen calls or more each day. I can’t block any more numbers on our landline as I’ve reached the maximum number allowed. With my cellphone, I continue to block numbers (307-204-XXXX), but they just keep coming. Only the last four digits change.

In December 2019, Consumer Reports put it this way: “The problem has reached such proportions that, according to a nationally representative Consumer Reports survey, 70 percent of U.S. consumers say they won’t answer the phone if they don’t recognize the caller’s number. Sixty-two percent say they let most calls go to voicemail.”

The website Robo Call Index reports that “26.4 billion robocalls have been placed nationwide so far in 2021, equaling roughly 80.6 calls per person affected.” So, my question is: Weren’t we supposed to receive fewer robocalls?

Yes, Congress did pass the TRACED Act (Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence) in late 2019, and it went into effect in 2020. However, “It could take a while for the number of intrusive calls to decline significantly,” Octavio Blanco wrote in the Consumer Reports article.

Shouldn’t I see a difference by now?

The TRACED Act requires phone carriers to identify themselves. No more “unknown caller” on my phone’s call display. However, even if the call appears to come from a friend, I still can’t be sure it’s authentic. These are called “spoof calls” since the number on the caller ID display doesn’t match that of the robocaller’s.

All those caller ID conditions forget one thing: I don’t want to receive the calls or hear the phone ring in the first place!

Robocalls rely on automatic dialing technology to place phone calls. Telemarketers and scammers can make up to one million calls in a single hour!

I have to wonder why these companies use this strategy. On some level, it must enjoy some success … and it turns out that it does.

“Because it’s cheap to place robocalls, the fraud operation is able to search for the small number of respondents who will listen to the automated recording and press ‘1’ for more information,” writes AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). “According to some reports, about 3 percent to 5 percent of targets respond. When one does bite, the call is patched through to a person in a call center, who then makes the pitch to get information or money from the victim.”

Supposedly, only those telemarketers from companies with which I have already an established relationship, or whom I’ve given permission to contact me, are allowed to call. If I haven’t, the robocall companies incur penalties of up to $10,000 per call. I’m guessing it’s still a small price to pay for these companies, so they basically keep calling.

For me, it’s more and more annoying by the day. Earlier this year, Richard Shockey, a member of the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) technical advisory board, said we need to temper our expectations. 

“We have been at this now for about four years already, and we will probably have 10 years more to go.”

Ten more years, huh? I might have to unplug. More next week …

(1) comment

Justin Smith

Something you should know is that almost every time you buy something online you have given them permission to sell your information. A good reason to buy local.

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