Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona is warning that consumers across the country, including Southern Arizona, are being hit with an increase in illegal telephone solicitations in the form of “robocalls.”
The callers typically use automated dialers that can place thousands of calls per minute. The phone numbers they call may come from lists that the companies have acquired or may be randomly generated by the auto-dialers.
Robocalls often use a technology called “spoofing” to disguise the originating phone number. Most, if not all, of the calls violate the Do Not Call Registry, and a 2009 federal law forbidding the use of robocall solicitations.
The most common products being peddled, consumers say, are offers to reduce credit card interest rates and offers for free home security systems. The automated messages are often deceptive and/or use scare tactics, claiming that:
- They’re calling on behalf of the consumer’s credit card issuer.
- A government program allows them to reduce credit card interest rates.
- There have been burglaries in the neighborhood and they’re calling on behalf of the police or homeowners’ association.
The call generally instructs the consumer to press 1 to be connected to a live representative or 2 to be deleted from the call list. Many of the people who opt to speak to a live representative end up being convinced to divulge credit card information to enroll in a debt relief program or to pay upfront fees for services. They usually get little or nothing in return for any charges they authorize and may get hit with one or more unauthorized charges.
There is very little that consumers can do to stop these calls. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has had some success in shutting down robocall operations; however, it’s even been stymied in its efforts to put an end to these calls. The FTC convened a summit of experts to explore innovative ways to stop the calls and has offered a $50,000 prize to an individual, group or small company that can come up with a solution.
BBB advises that consumers heed the following advice when dealing with robocalls:
- Hang up immediately on any robocall offering reduced credit card interest rates or home security systems, unless you are certain it’s from a current provider or is a legitimate offer.
- Do not press any numbers while on the call as that may simply confirm to the people originating the call that they’ve reached a valid phone number.
- Do not press 2 in the hopes of being deleted from the call list.
- Do not press 1 to listen to the offer or speak to a representative.
For more information on robocalls and other consumer tips, visit www.tucson.bbb.org.