Law Enforcement Making a Dent in Robocall Operations

CROMWELL — Law enforcement, regulators and foreign governments are working hard to put an end to annoying and illegal marketing calls that ring consumers’ phones at any time of the day or night.  Connecticut Better Business Bureau says the evidence indicates the joint efforts are paying off.

The most complained about type of illegal telemarketing is “robocalls.”  A robocall is a pre-recorded message that is generated by a computer which dials telephone numbers in sequence.  The scammers ignore the Do Not Call list and eventually call mobile phones, which is also illegal.

“You don’t have to look very far to find people who have been disturbed by these calls during meals, throughout the day, evenings and even overnight,” according to Howard Schwartz, spokesman for Connecticut Better Business Bureau.

The Federal Trade Commissioner (FTC) reports it recently won a judgement against a robocalling ring that bombarded consumers with a pitch from ‘Cardholder Services,’ which promised to bring down the victims’ interest rates.

“The sales pitch required an upfront payment ranging from $300 to almost $5000, and victims receive nothing in return. Losses from these pitches have bilked consumers out of untold millions of dollars.”

The good news is that over the past several years, aggressive investigations have resulted in the shutdown of robocall and other illegal marketing operations, and the arrest of people who work in clandestine call centers.

To illustrate the impact, a raid on a call center in India last fall resulted in 20 arrests, and it had a significant impact on the volume of robocalls to the U.S.  In subsequent days, number of robocall-related complaints to BBB’s Scam Tracker quickly dropped by nearly 95%.

In a recent domestic judgement, the (FTC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) took action against Dish Network. The business was fined $280 million in civil penalties for Do Not Call Violations.  It was the largest fine of its type.

The raids continue, and law enforcement continues to pursue and shut down other illegal marketers and legitimate companies that ignore the Do Not Call regulations.  It is somewhat a game of cat and mouse.

In the meantime, Connecticut BBB and the FTC offer tips for people being harassed by illegal marketing calls:

Don’t pick up – If you receive a call from a number you don’t recognize, let it go to voicemail. Anyone who really wants to get hold of you will leave a message.

Ignore instructions press your telephone keypad – You may be encouraged to press “1” to speak with a “customer service agent” or “2” to be removed from their calling list.  Regardless of what you do, if you engage with the caller in any way, your number will not be taken off the callers’ lists, and you can expect the calls to continue, as your information will be sold to third parties.

Contact your provider – Ask your telephone company or cellular phone provider about a service to block calls from multiple phone numbers, but you may have to pay a monthly fee.

Block with your smart phone – If you have a smartphone, look for call-blocking apps and reviews in your app store.

Check for new technology – Ask your internet supplier about blocking, and research consumer-side call blocking devices, however, do your research and check customer reviews about any such gadgets.

Report the problem to authorities – You may file a complaint with the FCC by visiting its website at ftc.org/robocalls, or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357).