July 12, 2012

FTC Working To Prevent Robocalls

Michael Harper for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

It happens every time: Just as you sit down to dinner, your table stocked full of delicious, steaming goodness ready to nourish your family, the phone starts to chime. This has become so common that by now, we all know exactly who is on the other line and choose to simply let it ring. After all, if we were interested in a new diet pill, or a new mortgage, or a new long-distance service provider, we´d probably go looking for one ourselves rather than pile our dinner tables full of food every night at 6 pm and sit in rapt anticipation for a robot to call us on the phone and offer us opportunity of our dreams.

For years, we´ve been able to put our name and number on a national “Do Not Call” list, though this didn´t really stop the “robocalls” from coming.

Companies will employ these robocallers to dial thousands of numbers a minute. Rather than connect you to an actual, real-live human capable of being annoyed by pesky phone calls at inopportune times, these robots simply play a recording of what could be considered a human, giving a fast pitch in order to schlep their deal of the week. These phone calls are more than a total nuisance and a pox on our society; If you haven´t given a company direct authorization to bug you about the latest diet fad (and who would give that kind of authorization, anyway?) these calls are illegal, according to the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

Apparently, some of our nation´s big wigs have been receiving some of these calls as well, as the FTC has announced they will start taking a hard stand against these robocalls.

They´ve created an action plan (and a website) against robocalls, and offer tips and suggestions for how to deal with these annoying mosquito-like robocalls.

As listed in their action plan, the FTC say they will rein in these robocalls by:

  1. Continuing Aggressive Law Enforcement by pursuing “chokepoints” and targeting high volume dialers.
  2. Gathering Evidence Strategically. As listed in their action plan, “The FTC is pursuing an innovative strategy to gather evidence about illegal robocalls directly and act on this information as quickly as possible.”
  3. Pursuing Technological Solutions by speaking with engineers, technologists and industry experts to discuss the best ways to trace and combat these robocallers.

So, have you just been robocalled? How can you tell if the robotic voice on the other end of the line is actually a robocaller and not some schoolyard toughs playing a prank?

According to an informative video on the ftc.gov website, Kati Daffan with the Bureau of Consumer Protection defines a robocall thusly:

“If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it´s a robocall. If the recording is a sales message and you haven´t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. Period.”

Ms. Daffan also has some answers as to what to do when you receive a robocall:

  1. Hang up without pressing any numbers. Robocalls promise to have your number removed from the list if you simply press a number. This is trickery, however, and pressing a number will likely only lead to more robocalls.
  2. Consider blocking the number through your phone provider
  3. Contact the FTC to report your experience.

Now that the FTC is on the hunt, will it one day be safe again to sit down at your dinner table? The world may never know...