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Woman Shocked at Phone

In 2019, 48 billion robocalls were placed to consumers, an increase of 60% from 2018 (according to robocall-blocking service YouMail). In Massachusetts, nearly 500 million robocalls were made to residents, with an average resident receiving 6.3 robocalls in April 2019 (State House News Service).

And while not all robocalls are illegal—in fact, many are used to provide notifications from a school or to solicit donations to a charity or political cause—scam robocalls are unlawful, not to mention incredibly annoying.

To help combat the ever-increasing amount of robocalls that consumers across the country receive, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing new rules that would broaden the authority of telephone carriers to enable anti-robocall technology by default, instead of requiring consumers to turn on the features individually or download robocall blocking apps.

The FCC is also seeking public comment SHAKEN/STIR protocol. SHAKEN/STIR verification allows consumers to know that an incoming call is legitimate and not spoofed.  Spoofing is when a caller hides the real number that they’re calling from with a different number. Sometimes the spoofed number looks like it’s in the same area code as the consumer’s area code. SHAKEN/STIR discerns whether a phone number is spoofed or not and then allows the carrier to block the call.  For instance, if a spam call originates from a different number but the caller ID displayed as the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (617-973-8787), the call would be blocked.

The FCC will be considering these measures on June 6, 2019 during its Open Commission Meeting.

Tips for combatting robocalls:

  • Research if your mobile phone carrier has any protections against robocalls. Some telephone carriers offer apps or built-in features that block robocalls or indicate that the call might be a scam.
  • Sign-up for the Federal Do-Not-Call list and the Massachusetts Do-Not-Call Registry. Keep in mind however, that while the Do-Not-Call list prevents companies operating lawfully from soliciting you over the phone, it seldom deters scammers who do not care about breaking the law.
  • Do not pick up calls from a number you do not recognize. Let them go to voicemail.
  • If you do answer a call and discover it is a robocall, hang up. By engaging in the call, you are letting scammers know you are an active user and will receive more of them.
  • Do not call back numbers you do not recognize, especially those appearing to originate overseas. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently issued a warning about an old scam call that is making a comeback. The “One-Ring” scam is when a consumer gets a call that rings once and then disconnects before the consumer can answer the phone. The scammer wants the consumer to call back that number but the number is an international number and the consumer will rack up an expensive phone bill from calling an international number (per minute toll charges).
  • If you never make international calls, consider talking to your phone company about blocking outbound international calls to prevent accidental toll calls.
  • Check your phone bill and bank statement for charges you don’t recognize.

Where to file a complaint:

Filing a complaint with the FCC

If you are billed for a call you made as a result of this scam, first try to resolve the matter with your telephone company. If you are unable to resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC at no cost.

Filing a complaint with the FTC

If you believe that you are a victim of an international phone scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC.

 

The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s vehicular and customized wheelchair Lemon Laws and Arbitration Programs, Data Breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Programs and the MA Do Not Call Registry. Contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.

 

 

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