What’s Going on with Robocalls?

We all know how irritating, inconvenient, and infuriating receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls can be. You’re trying to go about your daily life, walking your dog, having a shower, making dinner, when suddenly your phone starts unexpectedly ringing. Dropping whatever you’re doing to find out who could need you so out of the blue, you scramble to answer it only to hear a complete stranger down the line, often reciting personal facts about you, an addition which makes the entire experience all the more disconcerting and uncomfortable.

But lately, receiving nuisance calls has been becoming even more disquieting as we are increasingly frequently met not with a living person on the other end of the line, but a robotic message. And it isn’t just the impersonal, mechanical nature of the call that is so sinister. These calls are often more than a nuisance, actually amounting to malevolent scams.

Part of the reason for the rise in robocalls is really very straightforward: it greatly reduces the cost of telemarketing campaigns. Not having to pay individual telemarketers to place calls slashes the amount of money which companies have to spend on such campaigns. All they need instead is one pre-recorded message to play to every person who answers the phone, rather than hundreds of employees making live calls.

These messages tend to be trying to sell you a product, service, or membership – or at the very least assess whether you might have any interest in doing so in the future.

With the use of voice-recognition technology, you can really go through the entire process of making a purchase without any need for a human being on the other end of the line.

This poses a pretty big threat, though. People who choose to use telecommunication, voice, and internet technology to take advantage of people and commit fraudulent crimes have found that robocalls are really powerful tools in their endeavours. They often use them to try to trick people into giving away sensitive and financial details with the promise of a big, exciting prize or payout.

Luckily, there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from these annoyances and tricks.

One thing you should probably do straight away, if you haven’t already, is register your number on the Telephone Preference Service. That will make it illegal for telemarketers to cold call you – and those that continue to do so could incur hefty fines.

You can also avoid answering the phone to numbers you don’t recognise. If you get a call from a number, you can simply copy and paste that phone number into Google and check whether other people have reported receiving calls from that number, or whether it’s associated with a company which you would expect to be contacting you. If your search suggests the call was legitimate, you can wait for them to call again, or simply call them back.

Always, always make sure that you do not give away private details or passwords over the phone. Even if it seems like the call is from your bank, they should not be asking for this information: check your bank’s website to see what exactly they would and would not ask for you to provide over the phone. If in doubt, hang up and call your bank directly and ask whether it really was them. if it was, they should easily be able to reconnect you and continue whatever needed doing.

Just like being online, using the phone requires you to be a little bit savvy, and exercise caution at all times. The distance and anonymity of these forms of communication create a level of risk and potential for deception which you need to acknowledge and confront head-on. That doesn’t mean you need to be afraid! Simply know what threats exist, and make sure you don’t fall into their traps.