The FBI … is on its way to arrest you.
The IRS … is coming to seize your assets for unpaid taxes.
A free vacation in paradise … is waiting for you.
Press 1 and you win.
Welcome to robocalls – computer-automated messaging. From social security scams to free Walmart gift cards, robocalls invade our lives. Based on present growth rates, YouMail Robocall Index predicts that 2019 will bring 60-70 billion of them or 14 times more than the cost of The Wall (and just as useful).
The technology is simple. Record a message or copy one that exists. Send it through a message delivery service, robocall center for hire, or individually purchased software. Many advertise that they can send six million calls a minute.
The money says it all. On Monday, a robocaller sends out 5000 calls and gets one bite for $1. The next day he sends out 2.5 million calls with the same message and gets $500. By the end of the year he can pocket tens of thousands of dollars.
Not bad for a few hours’ work.
One infamous robocall targeted people with Chinese last names. The call said it came from the Chinese Consulate and demanded money for protection against deportation. Chinese immigrants paid out $2.5 million – not surprising considering how much The Orange Man in the White House loves immigrants.
Robocalls find you through lists. Maybe the list was purchased, open to the public, or created when you signed up for free information on attack veggies in your salad. The robocall asks you to take action like press 1 for more info or 2 to be removed from the list. The goal is to trick you into giving your credit card, bank, identifying information, or making a useless purchase.
If you select “remove me from this list” you’ll be added to another, larger list of potentials.
Robocallers are way ahead of you. The call might use your area code, spoof the name of a familiar bank, agency, doctor, or someone you know. Savvy robocallers do things like purchase blocks of unused phone numbers or submit fake names and addresses to caller ID databases. They may just show up as “unknown.”
Robocallers can use multiple carriers and networks to make them nearly impossible to trace. It may be illegal but who cares? In his frenzy to de-regulate, Mr. Trump has made it easier to send out robocalls.
Keep in mind that up to 40% are good robocalls, messages like flight delays, weather emergencies, or doctor appointments. YouMail estimates that 60% of robocalls are telemarketers and scams; the rest are alerts, reminders, payment notices – even political promos.
Robocallers favor targets like after fiftyers and millennials who are statistically more likely to take the bait.
The famous “Do Not Call List” is overwhelmed with offenders and underwhelmed with litigation. You can yell at the phone like one man who screams, “whatever you’re selling order a thousand and send the bill to Donald Trump.” Others speak in Ancient Greek or bark like dogs.
The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) advises not to press any numbers, stay silent, and hang up. If you try to block the number, the robocallers just switch to another. You can contact ftc.gov to file a complaint . . . but good luck. You can try robokiller software or services. There have been some lawsuits but they’re just a drop in the bucket.
The only thing is to shut up and hang up – even if you speak Ancient Greek.