Robocalls – those annoying unsolicited calls to your home phone or your mobile phone where you hear some cryptic recorded message designed to keep you on the line or make you call a number for more information. As someone who is registered on both the federal and Florida Do Not Call List, I don’t expect to get them. But lately, I’m getting them daily! A couple of weeks ago, a recording told me I was being sued by the IRS (not true). Today, a voice told me there wasn’t a problem with my credit card but I should stay on the line so someone could talk to me about it (I didn’t).
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says they’ve seen a significant increase in the number of illegal robocalls. They note that internet-powered phone systems have made it cheap and easy for scammers to call from anywhere in the world and display fake caller ID information. The FTC has brought more than a hundred lawsuits against over 600 companies and individuals responsible for billions of illegal robocalls and other Do Not Call violations. This has resulted in recovery of over $49 million in civil penalties.
What Can You Do?
You can reduce the number of unwanted sales calls you get by signing up for the National Do Not Call registry. Visit www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 to register your phone number – it is free and never expires! The Florida Do Not Call registry is also free but expires after five years. Register with them at www.fldnc.com, but why do you have to register for both? Joining the National Do Not Call registry does not prevent a same state-based business from contacting you. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) adds an extra layer of assurance for you, and additional penalties for the caller.
If you are registered and still receive calls like I did, you can file a complaint with the FTC. I did it again today. I had to provide the phone number that called me and when they called – that’s it. Violators face federal fines up to $40,654 per call. Penalties in Florida are up to $10,000 per violation!
However, if you don’t want to take the time to register and assert your consumer power, you can still make sure your unwanted calls don’t become more than just a minor nuisance. First thing to remember – hang up! Don’t interact in any way! Waiting, as the recording may suggest, to be connected to a live person or pressing buttons to “be removed from the call list” will probably lead to more unwanted calls. If you get repeated calls from the same number, see about blocking that number but make sure you know if there is a fee for that. If the call comes from many different numbers, you may still have call blocking options. Again, check for fees and look for reviews from experts and other users.
For more information about the federal and state Do Not Call lists, visit the FTC at www.ftc.gov or FDACS at www.freshfromflorida.com/Consumer-Resources. Additional information about consumer topics are available from the UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie office, on the web at www.stlucie.ifas.ufl.edu or call (722) 462-1660 to reach me. If you are not a recording, I won’t hang up on you.