BOSTON — Hermita Richeme changes her phone number every year because she’s constantly bombarded by unwanted calls. She said when it’s really bad, she receives three or four robocalls a day.
“Every time I block one, another number pops up,” Richeme said. “I’m used to it now. What else am I going to do?”
If it feels like those annoying calls are getting worse, they are. According to the Federal Communications Commission, the number of robocalls are back to pre-pandemic levels.
“Over the last few months, we are seeing an uptick in robocalls,” said Patrick Webre, the FCC’s chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau.
Regulators are cracking down. Last month, the FCC fined Texas-based telemarketers $225 million, the largest fine in FCC history. The agency also issued cease-and-desist letters to six voice providers suspected of transmitting illegal robocalls.
“The technology has advanced so much over the last several years, the calls are so cheap, illegal robocallers are just calling as many numbers as they can,” Webre said.
Billions of robocalls are made every month, many of them from call centers overseas, Webre said.
The FCC’s challenge is keeping pace with technology. Webre said scammers recently began using a technique known as ‘neighbor spoofing’ to mask numbers and make them appear like local calls, even when they’re coming from thousands of miles away.
“They’re starting to spoof numbers that are similar to yours hoping you’ll engage with them,” Webre said. “That’s the whole point. They need to get you to answer the phone to scam you.”
Webre said there are several things you can do right now to cut down on robocalls:
- Check with your phone company. Webre said they often have services that can block illegal calls.
- Look into third-party apps that can also provide call-blocking solutions.
- Whatever you do, Webre said do not answer or engage with a robocall.
“Even if you press a number, you get a robocall and it says to stop receiving these calls please press one, that may actually let them know, you’re an active line, you’re an active target potentially,” Webre said.
The FCC and Federal Trade Commission dedicated entire sections of their respective websites to blocking unwanted calls. There you can find help for everything from robotexts, political calls and spoofing, as well as lists of call-blocking resources.