Editorial: Consumers warned to be wary when receiving so-called robocalls

Aug. 05, 2013 @ 11:34 PM

Who among us has not been annoyed by those automated telephone calls trying to sell us something or get us to reveal personal information? They are commonly called robocalls, but they are simply computer-generated recorded messages. While teklemarkerters love them, crooks do too, and that’s why you have to be careful about staying connected to one. Robocall technology is used by thieves and scam artists to trap people.

“When I’m speaking to groups across the state, audience members inevitably ask about robocalls,” said Director Gary Cordell of the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs. “I always tell them that if you pick up the phone and a recorded voice tries to sell you something — hang up immediately!”

Robocalls, Cordell said, are generated by an auto dialer that can place thousands of calls per minute. The FCC has seen robocall complaints double from 2010 to 2012. The Federal Trade Commission is getting 200,000 robocall complaints a month and has issued $215 million in fines.

Complaints about robocalls include people who found their credit cards billed for things they thought were free and individuals who got enmeshed into debt-reduction scams or overpriced auto warranties.

Cordell offers the following tips for handling robocalls:

  1. If you get a robocall from a telemarketer, hang up.
  2. Don’t press one — the option that connects you to a live person, who may try to sell you a scam.
  3. Don’t press two — the option that’s supposed to take you off their calling list. You may get more robocalls if you confirm that a human being answers your number.
  4. Never give personal information through a robocall.
  5. Never give your credit card or banking information to anyone at the end of a robocall.
  6. If you’re receiving harassing robocalls call your local authorities and the Division of Consumer Affairs at 615-741-4737.

Even though they are on the federal and state “Do Not Call” registry, calls still come through, many people complain. Federal regulations prohibit such calls unless the caller has specifically agreed in advance to receive them — with exceptions for political messages, school-closing messages and other groups, including debt collection. State and federal laws prohibit commercial sales calls to people on do-not-call lists, therefore it is important that consumers be wary of any computerized call, especially one that promises a great deal.