DEAR SAVVY SENIOR: Is there anything that can be done to stop the annoying robocalls my husband and I keep getting? It seems like we get two or three a day offering lower credit card interest rates, medical alert devices, home alarm systems and more. What can you recommend?
— Frustrated Seniors
DEAR FRUSTRATED: There's been a huge spike in robocall scams in the U.S. over the past few years. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission gets more than 200,000 complaints every month about this widespread problem. Here's what you should know, along with some tips that can help you protect yourself.
Whenever you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it's a robocall.
You've probably gotten robocalls about candidates running for office, or charities asking for donations. These robocalls are legal and allowed. But if the recording is a sales message and you haven't given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. In addition to the phone calls being illegal, their pitch most likely is a scam.
Some common robocall scams that are making the rounds these days offer lower credit card interest rates, mortgage relief, free vacations, medical alert devices or home security systems, or they falsely notify you about changes in your health benefits or bank account. But be aware that new scams are constantly evolving, and they all have only one goal in mind: to get your personal and financial information.
The reason for the spike in robocalls is technology. Fraudulent robocallers are using auto-dialers that can send out thousands of phone calls every minute for an incredibly low cost and are very difficult to trace. When these kinds of calls come in, your caller ID usually displays “spoofed” (fake) numbers, or just says “unknown.”