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BBB Warns of Robocalls

June 19, 2014

The Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is warning Wisconsinites about recent robocalls –prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers–being reported throughout the state.

Telemarketing sales calls with recorded messages are generally illegal unless you have given the company or caller written permission to call you.

Consumers have reported receiving phone calls which appear to be from local phone numbers, some report the calls are, in fact, similar to their own home phone number. However, BBB believes the calls are likely not local, and probably coming from overseas perpetrators who purchase lists of cell and home phone numbers, or use robocall capabilities to randomly dial. Using a technique called “spoofing”, criminals attempt to trick customers into thinking a call is coming from a legitimate home or business.

The BBB has received numerous calls within the last few days, and other BBB’s throughout the country recently report the same. The BBB is advising consumers to use caution when providing information over the phone.

Here’s how the scheme works: Your phone rings, the number may look familiar, local, or within the U.S. When the call is answered, a computerized voice claims to have methods to lower your credit card interest rates. They then may require you to provide a credit card number.

“Con artists use software and devices to dial over the internet, and can then make any business name and phone number appear on caller I.D.”, said Ran Hoth, CEO and President of the BBB Serving Wisconsin. “This hijacking scheme allows callers to attempt to gain your trust, as well as your important personal or financial information.”

On September 1, 2009, unwanted robocalls became prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls. As part of the Telemarketing Sales Rule , sellers and telemarketers who transmit prerecorded messages to consumers who have not agreed in writing to accept such messages can face penalties of up to $16,000 per call.

Before responding to unsolicited phone calls, the BBB advises:

•Never give out any financial information. If you did not initiate the call, do not provide bank account, credit card or social security numbers over the phone to unknown callers.
•Don’t rely on caller ID. Scammers can use technology to make it appear as though their calls are coming from legitimate businesses or organizations.
•Hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
•Consider contacting your phone provider. Ask your provider to block the number, and whether they charge for that service. Remember that telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.
•Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t seem right to you, end the call.
•Report robocalls. File a complaint with the FTC on their website or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

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