This is the first post in a series about Robocall Scams
This first post will talk about what a robocall is, give some samples and talk about ….. In future posts will we will actually talk about how they work and how to stop them.
What is a Robocall?
A robocall is a phone
call that uses a computerized autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message, as if from a robot
. Robocalls are often associated with political
and telemarketing phone campaigns, but can also be used for public service or emergency
announcements. Some of the more popular and annoying robocalls are:
“Attention this is an important message about your car’s warranty we have been trying to reach you about your car’s warranty expiring if you would like to extend or reinstate your car’s warranty then press one now once again press one NOW Or press 2 to decline this offer”
“Hello this is Audrey and I’m a social security disability
advisor on a recorded line you can press one to be removed now I show here that you recently inquired about your eligibility for Social Security disability benefits can you hear me Ok.”
Those are just a couple of examples of robocalls. Today, we receive so many of these telemarketing calls, that we use the term “Robocall” for all telemarketing calls to include those that are still made by human including the good old:
“Oh, I’m glad you picked up. I was getting my answering machine voice ready, haha. Good morning this is Steve Savage calling for the Committee for Police
. This Call is recorded for quality assurance Ok…Hello…..Hello”
“Hello, this is Sidney calling from Medicare discount card how are you doing.”
Those are all examples of a robocall or automated telemarketers. Nowadays, robocalls make up more than 50 percent of all phone calls. In December 2020, robocallers spammed us with 3.9 billion calls, which is an average of 124.8 million calls per day
or roughly 1,445 calls per second. Of those nearly 4 billion robocalls, 1.7 billion (44%) here scams; 1 billion were alerts or reminders (26%), 5.8 billion were payment reminders or collection calls (15%) and .56 billion were telemarketers (15%). That is a ton of calls, and the number one scam
call is the car
warranty scam with the number two being health-related scams. (source: PRNewswire
Before we talk about how to get fewer robocalls, we need to first understand how they work.
The caller ‘operator’ is likely someone that is sitting either in a large cube farm
or ‘boiler room’ (room with a bunch of work cubicles) or during COVID
times they could be at home, but they are making hundreds if not thousands of calls each day. They actually get paid by the call and how long you stay on the line and if you buy/donate. The computer
is running through a list of numbers, calling dozens if not more at a time. When someone answers, the call is dropped off to the next available “operator” and they will get your details up on their computer screen. This is why it isn’t unusual for the “operator” to not know how to pronounce your name and why there is often a few-second pause from the time you answer the phone and the “operator” or “recorded call” starts. Sometimes they don’t even know what script they are going to read until it appears on their screen.
Many times the computer making the calls is not even located in the same country as the “operator” so you may get a call from a state-side area code and the “operator” is from India or Pakistan
. That is why you will often hear a computer-generated sound or tone right before the “operator” starts talking. That is the computer handing the call off to the Voice over IP (VoIP) network
, which is where the “operator” is connected to. VoIP is basically a phone call over the internet
, thus the “operator” can be located in a country with much lower labor rates than here in the U.S.
There are also some very telltale signs of a robocall:
If you experience a long pause right after you pick up the phone
this is the switch over from the dialer computer to the “operator”, they simply have figured out that you have answered the call yet. If this happens, it is a great chance that it is a robocall.
The classic “Is the lady (or man) of the house
This means that they have no details or very little details on who they are calling, so they are “winging” it.
They toss out that this call is being “recorded for quality assurance” or that this is a “recorded line”,
they are simply trying to make themselves sound more official, tricking you into thinking that you should listen to what they are saying.
They give themselves an important-sounding title or make the company they are selling for sound important like
“This is Sherry and I’m a ‘Senior Executive’ in our automotive department on a recorded line can you hear me Ok,
by the way, the can you hear me Ok, is designed to put you at ease and take your guard down, don’t fall for it.
When they get your name totally wrong. So if your name is Jon Smith
and they call you “Joan” or maybe “Smythe”. Just hang up, anyone that needs to seriously talk with you will bother to get your name correct.
They also love to use “I’m calling with an important message, please hold”,
which is designed to make you feel like you need to take the call.
If you hear a ton of background chatter then it is likely a telemarketer who is sitting in a large cube farm.
Another great tell that it is a robocall is you hear an audible sound/blip/pop/chirp sound right before they start to speak. This is the dialing computer handing it over to the “operator”, you just heard them pick up the phone on their end.
Another trick of the trade is to spoof the caller id. According to the FCC, Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information
transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers often use neighbor
spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is coming from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or a government
agency that you may already know and trust. If you answer, they use scam scripts to try to steal
or valuable personal information, which can be used in fraudulent activity.
The FCC is actively cracking down on these calls in fact, in March of 2021, they started to go after a telemarketer who now faces $225 million (USD) for transmitting approximately 1 billion robocalls, many of them illegally spoofed, to sell short-term, limited-duration health
insurance plans. The robocalls falsely claimed to offer health insurance plans from well-known health insurance. (https://www.fcc.gov/spoofing
So now we have a basic understanding of how the flow of the call works, in the next post, we will see how we can reduce the frequency of the calls we are receiving and we will also talk about some telemarketers and scammers getting caught.