February 2, 2018 – *ring ring* Your phone starts buzzing at the worst possible time and you look down. It’s an unfamiliar number, but it appears to be a local area code. You answer: “Hello?” There’s an unnatural pause before a voice kicks in. Sometimes it’s a robot, sometimes a real human, but either way you’re not really sure who it is and why they keep calling you over and over. What can be done?
Many of us have gotten calls promising luxurious cruise vacations, extravagant gifts, or special treats, but remember: if you didn’t specifically enter a legitimate sweepstakes it’s highly unlikely that someone is giving you a prize worth thousands of dollars. Be especially wary when they ask for personally identifying information.
Then there are more serious sounding calls, like ones from people claiming to be from the police or IRS demanding payments and threatening jail time. It’s important to keep in mind that if you were in trouble with the IRS or police, you would probably already know about it. Also, the IRS will always send you a bill in the mail first, and will never demand immediate payment or ask for credit card information over the phone. They put out an advisory about common scams and how to identify them.
Most of the 2.4 billion automated calls which Americans receive every month are fraudulent, although sometimes legitimate companies are just making sales calls to consumers. Real companies as supposed to honor the following 3 conditions, and should provide information when asked:
- All robocalls which are pre-recorded must first identify the organization, company, or individual making the call;
- The caller must include contact information where they may be reached;
- Legal robocallers are required to honor the National Do Not Call Registry. If your number is not on this list, and you are receiving unwanted calls, this should be your first step (companies have 31 days from your date of registry to stop calling you). A federal report found that 91% of consumers saw a drop in telemarketer calls after registering.
If you are receiving calls from scammers, or from businesses who persist despite you asking them to stop, report them to the Federal Trade Commission.
Try and keep a log of these unwanted calls, and save any voicemails that they leave you. If a telemarketer calls you before you’ve given your consent, you might actually be entitled to $500 thanks to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. If they knowingly call you after you’ve told them to stop you could get up to $1500 per call. Consumer rights attorneys can further advise you of your rights as they relate to robocalls, and can sometimes get you money from these companies – companies who don’t expect consumers to know their rights.
If you believe you’ve been receiving illegal or harassing robocalls, contact the Boston Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service to be put in contact with a knowledgeable and experienced consumer rights attorney today. You can call at 617-742-0625, or fill out the online form here to try and stop annoying telemarketers and robocallers!