Over the last several weeks, we have noticed an increase of robo-calls within our service area. While robo-calls are not a new phenomenon, this latest surge in calls has proven both annoying and frustrating. In addition, there appears to be two different scenarios affecting customers of Citizens Telephone Cooperative at this time.
In the first scenario, the offending call appears to be placed from a 473 area code from someone who seems to be in distress. This area code is international for Grenada. Those who call the number back are charged for each minute they are on the line and costs can add up into the thousands of dollars.
The second scenario is more widespread and involves calls from multiple telephone numbers from California to Iowa to Florida and is often times accompanied by various names in the caller ID field. Upon answering the call, the following message is heard: “Hello, this is an automated fax delivery system. If this is not a fax, press 2.”
In most cases the numbers and names are “spoofed” (see below) which complicates the process used to identify and prosecute those responsible for placing the unwanted calls.
Caller ID spoofing
Caller ID Spoofing is the practice of deliberately falsifying the telephone number and/or name relayed as the Caller ID information to disguise the identity of the calling party.
Caller ID Spoofing is only prohibited for the purposes of intentionally defrauding or otherwise causing harm, or wrongfully obtaining anything of value.
More information about Caller ID Spoofing is available on the FCC’s website at the following web address: fcc.gov/guides/caller-id-and-spoofing
Unfortunately, there is no fail-safe tool for stopping these calls, primarily because it is so easy for scammers to fake the location from which they are calling by using the “spoofing” method. In addition, criminals here or abroad do not care that they are breaking the law-they just care about collecting cash without getting caught.
The Federal Trade Commission has offered the following tips to help cut down on the number of unwanted calls:
- Never respond to a robo-call. The FTC suggests that you do not answer the calls. They also warn not to “press 1” or “press 2”. If you respond by pressing any number it will probably just lead to more robo-calls because the company calling will now know it has reached a working number or a “live” prospect.
- Don’t give out personal information. If you do receive an unsolicited call from a company you do business with and the person on the other end of the line starts to ask for personal information, tell the caller that you will call them back on their number of record.
- Report these calls. The FTC encourages you to report your experience to them on-line via the agency’s National Do Not Call Registry or by calling 888-382-1222.
Keep in mind that when a legitimate telemarketer calls you, the caller must promptly provide the following: company name, the purpose of the call, a description of what they are selling and any restrictions to the goods being sold. The Do Not Call Registry does not prohibit calls from political groups, charities and telephone surveyors.
What can citizens do to help?
As mentioned previously, there is nothing that will prevent all of the unwanted calls, but the following calling features are available through Citizens as options that might help:
Anonymous Call Rejection
Allows you to reject calls from numbers that have activated the privacy feature and prevents the delivery of their number or name to your phone. When ACR is active any privacy marked calls are directed to an announcement and your telephone does not ring. This feature automatically comes with caller ID.The feature will remain ON until you turn it off. If you have Select Call Acceptance and/or Priority Ringing, calls from numbers included in your list will be connected through to your telephone, even when the call is marked for privacy.
Telemarketing Screening Advanced* & Basic
Telemarketer Call Screening (TCS) allows you to stop being bothered by calls from telemarketers. Most telemarketing organizations “block” their calling number, so they are identified as “unknown”. TCS intercepts these“ unknown” callers. Your phone won’t even ring. Instead, the TCS system tells them that the person that they are calling does not accept calls from telemarketers. The TCS system will not disturb callers who provide their calling number, or have their number listed as “private”. Since not all “unknown” calls are from telemarketers, the TCS system informs these callers that if they wish to complete the call to please dial “1”. Any friends or family with “unknown” listings can still ring through to you. * Telemarketing Screening Advanced will screen unknown or out-of-area numbers. Requires Caller ID.** Telemarketing Screening Basic will screen all incoming calls.
For additional information, contact Citizens at 540-745-2111 or join the National Do Not Call Registry by calling 888-382-1222 or online at donotcall.gov.