The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that nearly 50% of the 48 billion robocalls in 2018 were illegal – and some predict the number of robocalls will continue to rise to 60 billion in 2019.
The term “robocall” covers a wide array of calls, many of which are legal, such as school closing announcements and medical appointment reminders.
“Your dentist’s office can robocall you with an appointment reminder, or an airline with news about a flight change,” explains Evey Owen, Interim Associate State Director of Communications for AARP Alabama. “Legal robocalls can be beneficial, but illegal robocalls that can be both frustrating and dangerous.”
Illegal robocalls are those from companies you have not authorized to contact you, as well as attempts at outright theft and scams. Recent examples include the social security scam, jury duty scams, or health insurance scams.
Scammers often hide a call’s true origin through what’s called ‘spoofing’—that is, faking the number that appears in your ‘caller I-D’, to make it seem local.
That’s a big concern because a recent survey by AARP found that U.S. adults are more likely to answer a call seemingly from a local area code (59%), an area code where friends or family live (44%), or an area code and telephone exchange that matches their own (36%).
AARP Alabama offers these tips on how people can protect themselves and avoid being scammed:
- Screen incoming calls by letting them go to voicemail and never press a key or verbally respond to a command if you do pick up.
- Add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or at 1-888-382-1222.
- Explore free or low-cost call blocking options that are compatible with your phone and your service provider.
- Report scam calls to the Federal Trade Commissionat www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or your state attorney general.
AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free “watchdog alerts,” review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.