Beware of Robocallers: The New Breed of Telemarketers
Has there ever been a time when telemarketers were tolerable? It is a fair question because the newest breed of telemarketers are referred to as “robocallers,” and they are even less tolerable than their predecessors. Robocalls are phone calls that sound as if they are being placed by a robot. A computerized autodialer is used to deliver a pre-recorded message. You know the ones. Sometimes they are simply public service or emergency announcements, which are not so bad. All too often, they are personalized audio messages. The intent is to trick you, at least momentarily, into thinking you are receiving a personal phone call. At best, this is an extreme annoyance. At worst, robocallers are predators. They dial for dollars and are not averse to perpetrating consumer scams.
The most recent example of a consumer scam involving robocallers was reported just this month from Union County, New Jersey. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs issued a report warning county seniors and residents to hang up immediately if they receive bogus calls claiming to be made on behalf of PSE&G. The scam basically involves threats to shut off power unless payment is made via a pre-paid card. Another one goes so far as to threaten victims with a “lawsuit” by the IRS! In both cases, once you hang up, there is always a proper channel to follow. For PSE&G, simply check your most recent bill. The IRS has its own online fraud reporting system at treasury.gov.
Now, while the elderly are frequently targets of telemarketing scams, that does not mean that children of the Information Age can rest easy. If anything, the defensive measures available to Generation Xers and Millennials are appropriately modern and take full advantage of Smartphone technology. Savvy seniors should also take heed. Some of these methods include:
- Help them help themselves: Robocallers want to waste your time, not their own. With the exception of Xfinity, most Internet phone companies offer a service called YouMail. Youmail tricks robocallers into thinking your number is out of service. This leads to them removing you from their list. It might make room for more victims, but you will not be one of them. Another service, called Nomorobo, wields a large list of known illegal robocallers. It blocks any incoming number that shows up on the list.
- There must be an app: Smartphone customers know there is an app for just about everything. Apps that block calls are among the most basic. This is especially true of phones that run on Android. iPhones actually limit the amount of phone numbers you can block.
- There is always the Do Not Call List: By now, you are probably on it or have at least heard of it. If not, the Do Not Call List simply blocks legitimate telemarketers from being able to call you. You can get on the list by visiting the site or by calling (888) 382-1222. Bear in mind that any companies you have already done business with will not be blocked. Neither will pollsters, political campaigns or nonprofits.
You may have already been on the receiving end of a robocall. Perhaps you are already familiar with some of the defensive measures. Until you hear the numbers, however, you still may not believe what an epidemic robocalling has become in New Jersey alone. According to the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, New Jersey ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to the aforementioned IRS scams. In the last three years, there have been a reported 319 cases of such fraud, each one with an average loss of $4,610. That is a total sum of $1.47 million for these fraudsters. Youmail actually keeps a Robocall Index. It reveals that, in April, an estimated 9.2 million robocalls hit the 732 area code alone. That same month, an estimated 9.9 million hit the 609 area code.
Clearly, robocallers can be as intimidating as their name. Fortunately, as is the case with all forms of consumer fraud, you are by no means alone. If you believe you are being victimized by one or more fraudulent callers, there are several ways to register a complaint. Union County residents can start with their own Union County Office of Consumer Affairs. All New Jersey residents can register their complaints with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs at (800) 242-5846 or (973) 504-6200. If you visit the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs online, it has introduced the Anti-Fraud Toolkit, which includes downloadable tip sheets on avoiding consumer scams, especially ones that target seniors. You can also sign up with the Real-Time Fraud Alerts e-mail network for up-to-date information about the latest scams.
If you have any questions regarding unsolicited telemarketing scams or other consumer law matters, contact the Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC for a free consultation.
Please be advised that this blog is for informational purposes only, is not legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.
The Law Office of H. Benjamin Sharlin LLC
is owned and operated by H. Benjamin Sharlin and serves all of Mercer County, New Jersey and the surrounding areas. Mr. Sharlin is a bilingual Spanish-speaking attorney who vigorously represents the interests of all his clients.
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