Scam Alert: Robocalls Dialing for Dollars

Your editor has been plagued by robocalls (calls made by machines, not humans) for years! In fact, clients and friends cannot leave messages because her mailbox is constantly full.

In discussing this nuisance with someone at the Hometown America office, I was asked if I would research and write an article on how to avoid robocalls. Specifically, I was asked to find solutions to significantly reduce unsolicited calls and share them with you. Here’s what I found.

Telemarketers Target Seniors
Did you know that telemarketers consider seniors to be “marks,” and target them specifically? The purpose of many robocalls is to sell a scam, and the best way to avoid these scams is to remain out of reach of the scamsters. 

How to Stop the Calls
When you receive one a robocall, there’s often an option to press a number to remove your name from the list. While that sounds tempting, it’s the last thing you want to do. You’re alerting the telemarketing company that the number is active and a live person answered the phone. They will continue to call, and call and call—multiple times per day.

The Consumers Union offers a number of tips. View a short video from the organization below:

National Do Not Call Registry
The obvious first choice is to list your phone number with the Do Not Call Registry. If you don’t have internet access, you can call 1-888-382-1222 to register. You can now register your cell phone number as well as a landline or VOIP (voice over internet protocol, such as AT&T) telephone numbers. The registry is not perfect; in fact, it’s a halfway measure:

  • Charities and political candidates are exempt and can continue to call you.
  •  It takes up to 31 days for the calls to stop. 
  • Illegitimate telemarking companies disregard notifications and continue to dial for dollars.

In addition to registering your number, you can verify your number is registered, and you can lodge a complaint about numbers that call you once you’ve been registered for 31 days. Once you register your number, it remains on the list until you withdraw it.

I recently received a tip about a service called Nomorobo. The service protects most VOIP lines and, today, most home telephones are VOIP lines. Sign up for the service.

I wasted no time registering my VOIP “landline” with this service. Home-phone registration is free; cell-phone registration is available for $4.99 per month for up to three cell phone numbers. Demand for the new cell phone service was so high that there is now a wait list. Reserve a spot on the wait list.

I wasted no time in testing the service. Before I tell you the results, let me share with you that I have been plagued by calls to the extent that I have had to work mostly late at night and very early in the morning (starting at 4:00 a.m.) for the past two decades. Within minutes of registering, I received the blessed sound of silence! I’ve used the service for a little over a week, and I still receive the sound of silence.

How does Nomorobo work?
Nomorobo uses a feature called “simultaneous ring.” You set up your phone to ring simultaneously on your phone number and on a dedicated phone number specific to your carrier, which Nomorobo supplies to you. Setup is accomplished through your carrier, and you’ll receive complete instructions for participating carriers. Setup takes about three minutes.

The service blocks political calls, but you can unblock those numbers if you want. It does not block charity calls. 

Nomorobo maintains an extensive database of robocall phone numbers verified through the FTC, user reports, live collection calls and the like. The service intercepts these calls for you. Legitimate robocalls, such as those from your doctor, weather and other emergency notifications, etc., are not blocked—only verified “spam” calls are blocked. 

When Nomorobo is unsure of a number, the caller is requested to enter a number, and if the caller enters the number, you receive the phone call. 

Sometimes a robocall will get through because the telemarketing companies change numbers frequently to avoid detection. If a number slips through, you can report it, and Nomorobo will add it to the database.

It’s easy to cancel the service if you no longer want to keep it, but I can’t imagine that once you get used to the sound of silence you would want to cancel. I have told everyone I know about this service, and now you know about it too.