This article was written by Lemberg Law staff, and reviewed by Sergei Lemberg, the managing attorney of Lemberg Law.
Robocalls are an epic nuisance, and they’ve become an epidemic. According to the YouMail Robocall Index, Americans received 2.4 billion robocalls in September 2017. Robocalls are annoying and disruptive and can be dangerous for motorists. Yet neither the government nor private industry has a foolproof plan to put a stop to them.
What Are Robocalls?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) defines a robocall as “A phone call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message, as if from a robot.” The calls can be made at any time and to any number because the dialing is computerized. The message may originate overseas, pass through computers to U.S. telephone carriers to your phone. Robocalls include both telephone calls and text messages.
Which Robocalls Are Legal and Which Ones Are Not?
Politicians and charitable organizations can legally use robocalls. Robocalls also can be made to public service announcement, like a weather warning, and some personal messages, like a reminder for a medical appointment, and to do surveys.
These robocalls are prohibited:
- Calls made without your prior written consent to the business
- Calls to a residential line listed on the “Do-Not-Call Registry”
- Calls by telemarketers and debt collectors between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.
- Calls that do not provide the name of the caller, identify the business behind the call and provide a contact phone number or address
- Calls that do not provide an automatic opt-out mechanism
- Calls that violate the law, such as making misrepresentations or threats
Are These Laws Against Robocalls Being Enforced?
Federal agencies and some state authorities try to enforce the laws. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which receives 200,000 complaints annually about unwanted calls, enforces the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which Congress passed to protect consumers from robocall abuse. The FTC, which received about 5.3 million telemarketing complaints in 2016, has filed actions against robocallers that violate federal consumer protection laws. But will this be effective?
Bikram Bandy, an FTC attorney, does not think so. He told Fox News that “[The robocall problem] is so big, law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem.”
In 2017, the FTC and the FCC have begun new efforts to halt illegal robocalls in cooperation with telephone service providers.
In addition, private tech companies, such as RoboKiller and Nomorobo, have created apps they claim block robocalls.
Prepare for an ongoing tech battle between good and evil which may spread to social media. Ryan Kalember of Proofpoint, a cybersecurity company, predicted to the New York Times that robocallers will attempt to integrate email, phone calls, and social media to scam consumers.
What Can You Do to Fight Robocallers?
Here are some tips:
- List all your phones on the government’s National Do-Not-Call Registry and report any calls you receive after listing.
- Be careful when you are signing up for a retailer’s service or website that you do not inadvertently check a box allowing them to send you marketing calls.
- Buy a call-blocking app.
- Don’t answer a call from an unknown or suspicious number.
- If you answer, do not respond to the invitation to opt out. This verifies that you have a working number and makes you a target for other robocallers.
- Never, ever, answer “Yes” to even the most innocent-sounding question. This can be used as your voice signature to authorize charges by phone.
- File complaints with the FTC or the FCC.
- File a lawsuit. You may collect up to $500 per unwanted robocall under the TCPA and other damages. Consult a qualified robocaller attorney.
If robocallers have been hounding you, to speak with a representative directly and immediately call 844-685-9200 for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. Our attorneys have experience in fighting robocallers and standing up for consumers. If a robocaller has violated the Telephone Consumers Protection Act or the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, you’re entitled to file suit in federal court and could be awarded up to $500 per call and other damages.