noun: an automated telephone call that delivers a recorded message, typically on behalf of a political party or telemarketing company.
That is the official definition, but we all know what they are – annoying and persistent calls that either want to sell us something we don’t need or solicit support for someone we don’t care about! These calls aren’t just annoying. They can be downright dangerous.
The same technology that makes it possible for us to call just about anyone anywhere in the world cheaply also makes it possible for others to annoy, harass or scam anyone anywhere in the world – and often to do so anonymously, with little fear of being caught or stopped. Using autodialers, they can call thousands of households a day.
The Facts on Robocalls and Robotexts:
- All non-emergency robocalls, both telemarketing and informational, require a consumer’s permission to be made to a wireless phone.
- Urgent calls or texts specifically for health or fraud alerts may be allowed without prior consent.
- Callers are allowed to call a wrong number only once before updating their list.
- A calling company cannot require someone to fill out a form and mail it in as the only way to revoke consent.
- Those making a solicitation call to your home must provide their name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made and a telephone number or address at which that person or entity can be contacted.
- Solicitation calls to your home are prohibited before 8 am or after 9 pm.
- Telemarketers must comply immediately with any do-not-call request you make during a solicitation call.
Although you won’t be able to stop them completely, if you take a few precautions, you can cut down on the number of unwanted calls.
Here are some additional ways you can protect yourself and your family from persistent robocalls:
- Hang up right away
There is nothing to gain from attempting to reason with the people behind the calls. Do not engage them – if you do, you become a target for more calls, simply because you answer the phone! They are being paid to make hundreds of calls a day; they do not care about your frustration with frequent calls. Contact your service provider to see if they have free blocking services but be warned: your caller ID might show the wrong number because the latest technology can fool your service, and callers frequently change the numbers they call from.
- Don’t press numbers
If you respond by pressing any number, it will just lead to more robocalls. That’s because the company calling will now know it has reached a working number, or a “live” person.
- Keep your personal information to yourself
Don’t ever give out any kind of personal information. If you get an unsolicited call from a company you do business with (your bank, a utility or a store where you have an account) and the person asks for personal information, ask them for their phone number and offer to call them back. If you decide to call back, check the number they gave you – for instance, look up the number from a trustworthy source such as a past statement, or the website. If the caller is not legitimate, the number they give you to call back will also be a scam.
- Tell companies you use to buzz off
It’s not illegal for businesses to make marketing calls if you have a relationship with them. So, read the terms and conditions for your purchases and services carefully. Buried in those agreements might be a clause agreeing to these annoying calls. Ask them how to stop the calls. If you are their customer, it is in their interest to stop annoying you.
- Be firm and keep records
Tell unwanted callers that you do not consent to being called, make a record of the number and the date you made your request not to be called.
Signing up for the Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov) can help, but it is greatly limited in its ability to catch sophisticated robocalls generated from outside of Connecticut or the United States.
It’s important to remember:
- There is only one Do Not Call Registry, operated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with information available at donotcall.gov. There is no separate registry for cell phones.
- The Do Not Call Registry accepts registrations from both cell phones and land lines. To register by telephone, call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236).
- You must call from the phone number that you want to register. To register online (donotcall.gov), you will have to respond to a confirmation email.
- If you have registered a mobile or other telephone number already, you don’t need to re-register. Once registered, a telephone number stays on the Do Not Call Registry until the registration is canceled or service for the number is discontinued.
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.