Robocalls, The FCC, and The Economy

31 December 2014

Today’s rant focuses on what I’m sure is everyone’s favorite topic: robocalls. I am lead to believe that most people get them. I certainly do (I was woken by one this morning.) And I am getting more and more since I switched my cell phone service a few months back. My previous service allowed me to block unwanted numbers easily. I am sure the new service does too… I just haven’t gotten around to figuring it out yet.

For those of you living in a cave somewhere (God bless you, and is there a vacant cave for me nearby?) a robocall is an automated, computer generated call. Robocalls often relay a valid message- upcoming service on your internet for example. But these days they are used extensively for phone scams. Computers can call hundreds of numbers per minute, and when a voice is heard an operator is notified, comes on the line, and tries to get your money.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.gov) there are rules for robocalls. From the FCC website:

Are robocalls to wireless phones permissible?
Your written or oral consent is required for ALL autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts made to your wireless number. Telemarketers have never been permitted to make robocalls to your wireless phone based solely on an “established business relationship” with you.

Well, I’m so glad there are rules. Now, how about enforcement of those rules? There is absolutely no way for them to do so. I have never given my consent to any telemarketers. I am on the national Do Not Call Registry, as well as the Colorado list. I have made complaints to the FCC and the BBB, I still get the calls, and always have. But as is usually the case, and I am assuming here, valid businesses abide by the rules and don’t call me. The scammers shun the rules, and try their best to make money.

Yes, I can file another complaint. The FCC website states that “my complaint helps” and “may lead to investigation” of companies violating laws.  Good luck with that. The “Rachel from cardholder services” phone scam went on for years. It may still be in operation for all I know. Most likely it has transformed into the latest “hello, seniors” calls I am getting.

Many, many people complained about the Rachel calls. And the Rachel calls were “stopped” by the FCC briefly, the perpetrators fined and reprimanded, but were back at it immediately, if they ever stopped. Read more about Rachel at the BBB website. That BBB page has an interesting note about the FTC offering hackers at the 2014 DEF CON hacking convention in Las Vegas a $50,000 prize if they can stop the Rachel calls.  Maybe they have finally taken the right path?

Is this an issue you should worry about? Based on a quick internet search, robocalls cost American consumers 8.6 billion dollars in 2013. Wow! There’s a lot of money in scams.

My final comment on the subject is that commerce is what keeps us alive. Buying and selling keeps America moving, and 8.6 billion dollars is a lot of money to remove from our already troubled economy. Maybe the FCC doesn’t really care about you, and it has no plans to upset our financial system any more than it is at present. Just maybe. You be the judge. I am off to inventory my canned goods.

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