AP NEWS
Related topics

Informed Consumers Best Defense On Robocalls

May 10, 2019

There is scant solace to offer if you have been plagued by robocalls, other than that you are not alone. According to YouMail, a robocall blocking service, Americans received 4.9 billion robocalls in April, or 163 million every day. And the variety is infinite, from cold-call marketing of legitimate products to scams rooted in modern telecommunications technology itself. The Federal Communications Commission has warned of a scam known as wangiri — Japanese for “call and cut.” A phone rings just once and its owner, thinking he has missed a call, returns the call and is charged a per-minute charge for connecting to the equivalent of a 9-0-0 call, even though no human ever answers. Most such calls originate overseas — the FCC recently tracked a massive scam to the West African country of Mauritania. But technology enables the scammers to “spoof” local area codes, making the calls appear to be not only domestic, but local. Even though the vast majority of such calls produce no harm, scammers need only to score on a tiny minority of calls when robocallers dial millions of numbers per day. The scams already are illegal and the FCC has increased enforcement, recently imposing a $150 million fine against one offender. And Congress likely will increase the authority of telecom companies to track and cut off robocallers. But informed consumers are the best defense. The FCC recommends that you not answer calls from unknown callers, especially if they appear to be from abroad. Also, the FCC recommends not answering any questions, especially with “yes,” and advises not giving out any personal information to any but known and trusted parties. Congress should do all that it can, but even the best law won’t supplant vigilance.