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News5 Investigates: Are you getting more robocalls?

Posted: 5:30 PM, Jun 06, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-08 14:37:05-04

COLORADO SPRINGS- Does it seem like you are getting more and more robocalls and spam calls at home? Well, you’re probably right. In 2018 more than 5 million complaints were made to the Federal Trade Commission about robocalls and telemarketers. Robokiller, an app designed to block these calls, reported in May of this year alone Americans were targeted by at least 5.3 billion robocalls. That means during that one month people got on average 22 spam calls.

Federal regulators are giving phone companies the right to block unwanted calls without getting customers’ permission first. Thursday’s vote by the Federal Communications Commission could make call-blocking widespread and help consumers dodge annoying robocalls.

The agency expects phone companies to offer these tools for free. But it doesn’t require them to do so. Consumers can also “opt out” and ask their company not to block anything.

See link for more details on FCC ruling:  https://koaa.com/news/2019/06/06/fcc-approves-new-tools-to-fight-robocalls/

“I would say most the calls we get are robocalls of some sort,” said Ralph Peterson, a Colorado Springs resident.

Peterson says he constantly gets robocalls about problems with his computer and he admits he did something consumer experts say you should never do, he granted the caller remote access to his computer.

“The screen just rolled all sorts of things across it,” said Peterson.

The man on the phone said he could clear up some unknown problem for a small fee.

“So I went ahead and made arrangements for him to do that, but he didn’t do anything and the $200 went away and the computer stayed the same,” said Peterson.

The Federal Trade Commission calls this the tech support scam and seniors are victimized more than anyone else. Between 2015 and 2018 consumers lost $55 million dollars in tech support scams. Peterson says after his mistake, more calls came in.

“As soon as he said he wanted to take over my computer I said no thank you and I wouldn’t allow it and I called you,” said Peterson.

News 5 Investigates searched the number provided by Peterson and found the number was flagged as a scam call more than 600 times in one day. Ethan Garr one of the creators of an app called Robokiller says he’s found a solution to reduce the number spam calls being placed.

“The magic is really in the answer bots. The robots who talk back to the spammers and waste their time,” said Garr.

The philosophy is the longer they can stall these callers the less people they’ll be able to target.

Here’s an example:

CALLER: “We were trying to reach you back here sir. You said you were trying to make a payment?”

ANSWER BOT: “I’m a little shook up I actually had an alien encounter this morning.”

Gathering data from users of their app Robokiller’s creators believe more than 5.3 billion robocalls were made to Americans in the month of May alone.

“People used to be excited when the phone rings. Now, when the phone rings, most people dread it,” said Garr.

Garr has testified before lawmakers in Washington who are trying to figure out a permanent way to curb all of these unwanted calls. It’s an issue industry experts say new legislation won’t be able to fix.

“You can make robocalls illegal and they have, right? But the three guys sitting in a backroom in Malaysia, or India making IRS scam phone calls they aren’t worried about the long arm of the US legal system coming and arresting them,” said Garr.

Meanwhile, the calls keep coming in and at the Peterson household frequent robocalls are now met with a cautious response.

“A lot of times I don’t even speak. I just merely hang up,” said Peterson.

So, what about the federal do not call list? Experts tell me legitimate companies will honor the list– but many other bad actors will call you anyway.

Colorado ranks the 2nd worst for robocall complaints from people already on that list. In 2018, Colorado do not call list registrants filed more than 143,000 complaints.