We’ve all experienced our phones ringing off the hook with a barrage of telemarketing calls. While these calls can be a real nuisance, some are far worse. Scammers use the latest telemarketing technology to rip off victims to the tune of millions of dollars each year. The threat of financial loss is especially great for older Americans living off of their retirement nest eggs.
The Federal Communications Commission and AARP are working together to educate older Americans about different kinds of phone scams. For instance, there’s the government impostor scam (someone claiming to be from the IRS threatens to arrest you for back taxes); the tech support scam (the caller, claiming he represents a well-known tech company, warns you about a “virus on your computer”); and the grandparent scam (a late night caller says, “Grandma, I need help; please wire money and don’t tell anyone”). Then there are a host of telemarketers – some acting legally, others not – trying to convince you to buy the latest dietary supplement or cure-all.
Today, scammers often leverage “robocall” technology that auto-dials phone numbers to deliver a pre-recorded message that may ask the recipient to respond. Lawful uses for this technology include things like prescription refill reminders, political campaign messages to your landline phone, emergency communications, telemarketing calls you have consented to, and educational calls to your landline phone by non-profit organizations such as AARP.
Scammers may use robocall technology unlawfully as a way to steal victims’ money, deploying other devious tactics to confuse intended victims. A common one is “caller ID spoofing,” which makes the call look like it’s coming from a trusted source like your bank or a neighbor.
The FCC and AARP will use robocall technology for good when we co-host two Telephone Town Halls on Tuesday, September 18 at 10 am and 2 pm EDT. AARP members and the general public will hear directly from FCC experts on how to avoid phone scams and what the agency is doing to help consumers through enforcement actions. The FCC will also explain initiatives that will enable phone companies to improve caller ID and call blocking technology for use on both landlines and cell phones.
For recommendations on avoiding unwanted calls, see the FCC’s online consumer guides on spoofed caller ID and illegal robocalls. And for information about various types of consumer fraud and scams, visit the AARP Fraud Watch Network.
Nancy LeaMond is AARP chief advocacy and engagement officer.
Patrick Webre is chief of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.