I was in the middle of writing a blog post for today when my phone rang. The number on my cellphone was one I didn’t recognize, and the area code was from another state.
Despite these things, I answered. And surprise surprise, it was a robocall.
A lot of people know about the Do Not Call Registry, and you’re probably on it. But did you know that whether or not you’ve registered your number on that list, a robocall trying to sell you something is always illegal?
Yep. Sometimes these calls are above-board, but you have to give the company permission first. For example, I gave my dentist permission to call me with recorded messages to remind me about appointments. And if you have student loan debts, legitimate companies that manage those loans are allowed to use robocalls to get ahold of you.
But if a robocall is trying to sell you something, or they offer you debt consolidation or want to lend you money, not only is it illegal… it’s almost certainly a scam.
It comes down to this: legitimate lenders don’t use illegal methods to try to get customers. So if somebody calls you and is offering a loan (which was the call I got this morning), it’s a scam. They’re either trying to steal your personal information, or their rates are predatory as hell. (Or both! Bonus!)
If you get a robocall, here’s what you should do, according to the FTC:
1. Hang up. Don’t push any buttons or try to speak with someone there.
This one is hard for me, especially if I’m in a bad mood. In the past, I’ve pushed buttons to talk to a “loan specialist” and told them exactly what I think about their scam. But pushing buttons like that will verify that your phone number is legitimate, and it actually results in more phone calls.
2. File a complaint on https://complaints.donotcall.gov/complaint/complaintcheck.aspx
It takes less than a minute. Just include the phone number, the date and time of the call, and the name of the company who called you (if they gave one). Using these complaints, the FTC can file lawsuits against the companies that are pulling this crap. Do take the time to do this. When you get these calls, you’re the victim of a crime. Report it. If somebody broke into your house, you wouldn’t say, “Ugh, that’s annoying,” and go back to eating your breakfast. So don’t let these scammers get away with robocalls, either.
Some people have told me, “Just don’t answer the phone.” But I’m self employed, and there’s every chance that the unidentified number is from someone a current customer has referred to me. I literally can’t afford to screen those calls and risk that potential customer going with somebody else because they didn’t want (or didn’t have time) to leave a message and wait for me to call them back. So I answer, and then I report the scumbags who are breaking the law.
And you know what? It's pretty satisfying. I'm big on principles. It might be the only thing I have in common with George Costanza.
Anyway, that’s the end of my rant. You’ll have to wait for next week to read the post I’d originally planned for today, which was about the urban fantasy I’m working on (you can check out my Works in Progress page if you want to see a little bit about that in the meantime though).
Until next time!