LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, you’re the target of a robocall – and the U.S. government says 99 percent of them are illegal.
Los Angeles was ranked fifth on a list of the most-robocalled cities in America this past November with 89 million received calls – many of them deceptive.
Kristie Champchiaro of Porter Ranch says she’s plagued daily by such calls.
“A lot of times, when you answer, no one is there and you’re saying hello three and four times, until somebody comes on the line,” she said. “Sometimes I say, “Gotta go,” and I hang up.”
She’s learned to avoid answering calls from Indiana, Vermont, and other unfamiliar area codes.
“I don’t know anybody who lives in Georgia,” Champchiaro said.
But robocallers are getting trickier: Champchiaro says she gets calls with 818 area codes now in what’s known as the “neighbor scam”, where computer software mimics the first six digits of your phone number, making you think a nearby friend or business is calling you.
Tech expert Jessica Nazari warns if you do pick up, what what you say.
“If the caller calls and asks ‘Can you hear me now?’ and you say ‘Yes’, they’ll use your voice signature for fraudulent charges,” said Nazari. “So be careful when saying ‘Yes’.”
The FCC, which regulates our phones, is now giving phone companies greater authority to intercept and block spoofed numbers before they reach us.
But Nazari says prosecuting robocallers isn’t easy.
“These are scammers,” she said. “What we found so far is that a lot of them are overseas, which makes it very difficult for us to catch.”
Scammers have found ways to get around the “Do Not Call” list, but experts say it’s still wise to register your landline and cell phone number on the FTC’s website to avoid telemarketing calls from businesses that honor the registry.
Downloading and installing robocall-blocking apps like True-Caller, RoboKiller, Mr. Number, Hiya, and Nomo-Robo onto your phone is also recommended.
Some like YouMail will stop your phone from ringing when it suspects a robocall and deliver a message that your number is out of service. Many apps are free, but some upgrades will cost you.
“Of course, they come with a fee, but it’s much better than getting those unsolicited calls, Nazarian said.
And if you do receive a call with a robocall, report that number to the FTC and block it from your phone.