On Your Side: Silencing Robocalls

Posted: Updated:

No one seems to be immune from robocalls. Not even Patrick Webre, who works for the Federal Communications Commission.

“I get them every day," says Webre.

There were 3.4 billion robocalls in April alone in the United States. That’s a record high the FCC is working to battle. The FCCis working along side the Federal Trade Commission to ramp up enforcement, working with private industry to promote new technologies and changing the rules themselves. Now, phone carriers are allowed to block invalid, unassigned numbers from calling you.

Aaron Foss of Nomorobo weighs in, “The do not call list was created years ago to solve a different problem, legitimate telemarketers, JP Morgan and American Airlines, and those kinds of things but technology is just completely changed this game. All these guys are like email scammers.”

To scammers, the Do Not Call List is irrelevant. A challenge Webre knows all too well.

“They're expanding their operations. It's very cheap for them to place a lot of these illegal robocalls and it's very cheap for them to get the software needed to spoof the numbers and so spoofing has become the gasoline on the fire we like to say because it makes that problem so much worse.”

Spoofing makes it appear that someone local is calling by using the same area code or six digits as your neighbor. It’s just another ploy to get you to pick up.

“It's pennies for them to place thousands of calls and as long as they can make a couple of scams work, it's going to be to their benefit to try,” says Webre.

But it’s already costing some telemarketers a lot more than a few pennies. In May, the FCC fined a Florida man $120 million for a telemarketing scheme that made almost 100,000,000 spoofed robocalls in three months. Webre wants to make it hurt in their wallet.

“If we can make it very costly for them to initiate these calls to scam people,  we'll see the numbers come down.”

So how can you curb the calls that come around the clock? Of course, there’s an app for that. Nomorobo was the winner of the Federal Trade Commission’s Robocall Challenge. The app, free for landlines, stops robocalls and telemarketers before the phone even rings…all for $2 a month. A price founder Aaron Foss says, it's well worth the peace it gives.

 “We’re analyzing millions of calls every single month and in real time we can tell who are the IRS scams, who are the medic alert scams and also we're letting your doctor reminders through, we're letting your prescription reminders through, the good ones get through, the bad ones stay out.”

Want to get even? Check out Robokiller. It seeks revenge by using an answer bot to throw off the pesky telemarketer for $3 a month. Robokiller actually speaks to the caller and it costs them a bundle.

“Answer bots aren't just a band-aid for the problem, they're actually wasting spammer's time and hitting them in their pocket,” said Vice President of Product for Robokiller, Ethan Garr.

Hiya is another app making waves on the market and provides caller profile information via AT&Ts call protection app. When you receive a robocall, you can see who it is and even the scam type. Actual names come with their premium service for $3 a month. AT&Y Call Protect Basic is free and their Premium service is about $4 a month. Liz Power, Vice President of Marketing for Hiya says, they just aim to protect. 

“Our app is free, we provide spam detection services for free because we believe that everyone should be allowed to be protected from these awful things.”