Don’t pick up that phone.
Americans have been plagued with an increasing number of robocalls — and the government can’t do anything about it.
Both the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are closed due to the government shutdown, which means Americans can’t file complaints on FCC or FTC websites and regulators are unable to investigate. In the last few months, the FCC has slapped some of the worst serial offenders with multimillion-dollar fines.
The FTC’s website for its National Do Not Call Registry now redirects to the message: “Due to the government shutdown, we are unable to offer this website service at this time.”
Consumers can’t add their numbers to the list and telemarketers cannot refer to the list before making their calls. Scammers have even begun using the government shutdown itself to target Americans, the Washington Post reported.
The number of robo-calls consumers are receiving is insane. RoboKiller, the popular third-party app that blocks robocalls, says the company has noticed an uptick in spam calls since the shutdown.
“When you have something like this turmoil in our government, they [scammers] look at it as an advantage. They are looking for people who are hurting and vulnerable to exploit so now is the time to be extra careful”.
How to protect yourself
Although the government shutdown has left consumers hanging, there are ways Americans can combat robocalls during the shutdown.
Most phones have a blocking feature that will allow you to block each number individually. However with the issue of neighbor spoofing, a tactic in which callers spoof your caller ID to match their phone number to the local area code, you may need to rely on added protection.
There are third-party apps that you can download for free like Hiya and Truecaller that block spam calls and messages from reaching your phone as well as subscription-based ones like RoboKiller and Nomorobo. These apps rely on constantly evolving databases of robocallers.
Americans should avoid answering unknown calls and to never provide personal data or information if they do.
Some phone companies have actively begun to take action to help their customers with this growing issue. AT&T’s Call Protect app automatically blocks fraudulent calls and identifies spam calls for free, though it has an advanced service with a few more features. Verizon and Sprint offer a premium Caller ID service that screens calls for scams at a cost of $3 per month. T-Mobile incorporates a free service that automatically blocks robocalls from reaching your phone. You can activate the feature by dialing #662#.