GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE ROBOT APOCALYPSE

GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE ROBOT APOCALYPSE

GUIDE TO SURVIVING THE ROBOT APOCALYPSE

When you get that call from Jim from “cardmember services” with a pre-recorded message about an incredible offer to save you money,” you are experiencing a robocall. As anyone with a phone knows, these are the days of the robot apocalypse—unwanted, pre-recorded and persistent calls with promises of refunds for things you never purchased, dream vacations you have “won,” and easy money in a variety of forms.  These calls have increased in recent years because technology has made it cheap and easy to make these calls from anywhere in the world, and by hiding the callers’ identities by displaying fake caller ID information. Although you probably cannot stop all of the calls, there are steps you can take that may reduce the number of unwanted sales calls that you receive by signing up (it is free) for the National Do Not Call Registry.  The Registry prohibits sales calls, and according to the Federal Trade Commission, most sales calls will stop once your number has been on the Registry for 31 days.  You may still receive political calls, charitable calls, survey calls and other calls that are not sales calls.  Here are some additional steps that you can take to stop those unwanted calls: Step 1:  Keep your number to yourself.  Frequently, at a point of sale, we are asked for a phone number to complete a transaction, even though not making delivery arrangements.  Just say “no.”  You don’t usually have to give out your phone number to make a purchase.  If you provide the number, it is possible that it will not only be used by the business but also likely sold to a third party. Step 2:  Just say no.  It is not illegal for businesses to make marketing calls to you if you already have a relationship with them.  Sometimes, buried in the agreement you have signed, is an authorization for the company to use your number in sales calls and sometimes to even allow the company to sell your number.  Do not agree to this language, and if you find out that you already have agreed, follow up with a specific request to be placed on the Do Not Call Registry.  Note the date of that request and follow up with the Federal Trade Commission should the company continue its calls. Step 3: Hang up on the caller.  If you get a robocall, just hang up.  Don’t hold and wait for a human, and don’t press a number in response for any reason, including “to be placed on the do not call list.”  Doing so will probably lead to more unwanted calls because it will demonstrate an actual response to the robocall.  This is exactly what the robocallers want to happen. Step 4:  File a complaint.  If you have placed your number on the Do Not Call Registry and it has been on the Registry for over a month, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. This may seem like a waste of time, but it only takes a few minutes, and sometimes, if enough complaints are filed, action will be taken faster.  The FTC has actually sued hundreds of companies and individuals who were responsible for placing unwanted calls, and it has obtained over a billion dollars in judgments against violators.  Those who violate the National Do Not Call Registry or place an illegal robocall can be fined up to $16,000 per call. Step 5:  Subscribe to a free service that blocks all robocalls.  One of the free service providers is Nomorobo.  To sign up, you are required to identify your service carrier, provide an email address, and from that point forward, an algorithm will block robocalls.  Nomorobo works by letting your phone ring once, it then identifies the caller and if it is a robocaller, it hangs up.  There also are other free services that will block these calls. So to be clear:  You are not helpless against the robo apocalypse, although you probably will not be able to stop all calls.  Make sure your numbers are on the Do Not Call Registry, and that should minimize the attack.