On Aug. 19, the Federal Communications Commission hosted a meeting with telecom industry leaders to kick off the Robocall Strike Force with the aim “to develop an action plan to address consumer concerns with robocalls and deploy anti-robocall solutions within 60 days.” And on Wednesday, the FCC is holding the second meeting of the strike force, where the industry recommendations are expected to be presented.
Robocalls are a menace, not just because they are an unwanted nuisance and a waste of time, but also because they are often used for scams. Earlier this month, dozens of people were arrested in India for running a fake call center that scammed U.S. citizens out of millions of dollars.
Hiya, a company which makes apps to screen and block robocalls, and tracks about 3.5 billion calls globally every month, released a report Tuesday that identifies the most pervasive phone scams. According to the Robocall Radar report for September 2016, an estimated 984 million robocalls were made to U.S. mobile phone users during the month, averaging to about 4.5 calls received by every cell phone in the country that uses Hiya’s services.
When it comes to scams, the most popular ones in the U.S. were related to the Internal Revenue Service, making up over a quarter of all phone scams in the country. The caller would pretend to be an IRS official and ask for money in unpaid taxes or the taxpayer’s private information. Telemarketing and extortion scams were at the second and third place, respectively, accounting for about 20 percent each.
The biggest rise in spam calls and scams in the last few months, however, was seen in political scams, what with the presidential election approaching. In this approach, scammers typically try one of three methods to get either your personal information or money.
One is to pretend to re-register you to vote or to verify your voter registration. In the process, they will try to obtain your personal information like, but not limited to, email and physical addresses, as well as social security numbers.
Another is to ask for donations in the name of political candidates. While political campaigns do so legally, scammers can take advantage of it and, therefore, you should verify who you are donating to, especially if you are giving away money over the phone.
And the third is to offer a reward for answering some election-related survey. Once you have answered the questions, you could be offered a reward like a trip or a cruise, and would be asked for your credit card information to take care of the taxes or a handling fee.
Because of the rise in the number of political scams, Washington, D.C., (area code 202) is the top region from where phone scams originated in September. Columbus, Ohio, (area code 614) and Kansas City, Missouri, (area code 913) were the next top two points of origin for scam calls in the country.