Robocalls are declining but not gone yet, so remember these tips to protect yourself
With the new federal law in effect as of June 30, 2021, we should start seeing a decline in illegal robocalls. But the scams certainly won't halt overnight. Here are some tips to live by.
Updated June 27, 2022.
With the new federal law in effect as of June 30, 2021, we should start seeing a decline in illegal robocalls. But the scams certainly won’t halt overnight. Here are some tips to live by and share with vulnerable, trusting friends or relatives:
Don’t ever pay bills or debts with gift cards. Period. Full stop. Gift cards are for gifts or to make a purchase for yourself. No legitimate operation accepts gift cards to pay for an obligation.
If you get some kind of call that you’re supposedly a victim of fraud or you’re behind on taxes or your grandchild is in jail, call someone you trust before you do anything — maybe a friend, a trusted relative or a neighbor. Just saying what’s going on out loud can help someone realize it’s a scam.
Register all of your phone numbers with the federal Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222. It won’t stop most illegal calls. Con artists generally don’t care whether they break the rules, but your ability to lodge a complaint about the call with the state AG or feds can start with showing the caller violated the DNC List.
Never, ever confirm or provide personal information to any caller you weren’t expecting. Not your name, your ZIP code, your shoe size … Nothing. If you think the call could be legitimate, call the company back at a number you look up independently, preferably the customer service number you see after logging in to your account online or on the back of your credit card or ATM card or insurance card.
Don’t be fooled by what the caller ID says. Bad guys still can spoof their numbers to look like it’s a local call or coming from a known business.
If you do pick up the phone and realize it’s an illegal robocall, just hang up. Don’t push any buttons to be taken off their call list. Pressing buttons just confirms they’ve reached a live person.
Don’t be tricked if a caller/ robocaller knows your name, address, family members’ names or even your Social Security number. All of this and more was exposed for half of the adult population in the Equifax data breach of 2017.
On your outbound voicemail message, don’t provide your full name. No sense in giving a scammer more information than they may have had.
Report illegal robocalls or Do Not Call List violations: Call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or file a complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint. Violations of the DNC List can be made to https://www.donotcall.gov/ You should note the number on your Caller ID and any number left on the message that you’re supposed to call back. You should also report illegal calls to your state attorney general. See the contact information for the attorneys general in every state here.
Consumer Watchdog, U.S. PIRG Education Fund
Teresa directs the Consumer Watchdog office, which looks out for consumers’ health, safety and financial security. Previously, she worked as a journalist covering consumer issues and personal finance for two decades for Ohio’s largest daily newspaper. She received dozens of state and national journalism awards, including Best Columnist in Ohio, a National Headliner Award for coverage of the 2008-09 financial crisis, and a journalism public service award for exposing improper billing practices by Verizon that affected 15 million customers nationwide. Teresa and her husband live in Greater Cleveland and have two sons. She enjoys biking, house projects and music, and serves on her church missions team and stewardship board.