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BBB Trends: Get a call from an Unknown Number? Leave it alone — this is still the best advice

By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

When was the last time you received a phone call from someone you actually wanted to hear from? Or, the phone number on the Caller ID was from a person or place that you recognized?

Experts are saying cell phone owners are drowning in a sea of robo-calls: U.S. phones were inundated with 26.3 billion robo-calls last year, that’s a 46% increase from the 18 billion spam calls placed in 2017. The technology used for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to make such calls has become easy (and cheap, just $0.01 per call) to access and is a quick way to make billions of automated calls all at once. The availability of the technology along with the lucrative opportunity of making money allowed scammers to ring up $430 per successful phone call last year, according to the FTC.

However, with the ability to hide the origination of the call, the freedom to assign a phone number to whatever the scammer feels like, including your own phone number, it makes it more of a challenge for law enforcement to go after the group behind every single robocall.

These junk calls are driving people to avoid the phone altogether resulting in 52% of cell phone calls going unanswered, the preferred method of avoiding being spoofed, spammed or scammed.

And, if it seemed like the number of calls was more frequent during the recent shutdown, you’re probably right. Agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission which oversees the Do Not Call Registry were part of the shutdown. In fact, the site was inactive making it impossible for consumers to register their number.

Fortunately, those requests should have been added to the list by now, but beware, that won’t be a deterrent for scammers. Rounds of bogus IRS imposter calls and government grant offers are coming into BBB’s Scamtracker tool.

Until the FTC, cell phone providers and FCC come up with a way to outsmart the methodology and influx of robocalls, the best advice remains the same, if a phone number shows up in the Caller ID that is not familiar to you, don’t answer. Instead, let it go to voicemail. Consider using the blocking features available from the phone provider and research call blocking apps that are available for download.

There may be a small fee associated with these apps but it may be worth the peace of mind. Remember, report any suspicious activities to scamtracker.org or to ftc.gov.

Sandra Guile is the Public Relations Specialist for BBB promoting BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Your BBB is located at 1 East 4th Street Suite 600 Cincinnati, Ohio 45202 – to reach the office, call (513) 421-3015.

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