NEW YORK — If you’ve noticed an increase in robocalls recently, you’re not alone.
It seems as though the pesky phone calls from unknown numbers are at their highest point so far this year, according to YouMail, an app fighting to block robocallers.
And two New York City area codes – 917 and 347 – made the unsavory Top 10 list of the most-targeted area codes by robocallers.
In April 2017 alone, there were 2.5 billion robocalls placed, with more than 29 million of those calls being made to 917 numbers, according to YouMail.
“As robocallers have gotten more sophisticated, our old tools just don’t work anymore. The do-not-call list still works for legitimate companies but most of these robocallers are scammers. They don’t care about any laws. They just want to rip you and your family off,” Aaron Foss, creator of Nomorobo, a service for blocking robocalls and telemarketers, told PIX11 News.
“The most popular scams right now are offers to lower your credit card interest rates. They’re absolutely trying to prey on people with financial difficulties.”
Some robocalls are easier to detect than others, experts said.
“If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it’s a robocall,” said Kati Daffan, an attorney with the Federal Trade Commission.
“If the recording is a sales message and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal period.”
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most prolific new scams and how to keep yourself safe:
‘Can you hear me?’
Be careful what you say when you pick up the phone. Recently, scammers have been using their victims’ own words against them.
In this type of scam, a robocaller asks, “Can you hear me?” If the target responds, “yes,” that answer is recorded and then used to make fraudulent charges over the phone.
Anyone who receives this type of call is urged by the Federal Communications Commission to hang up right away and not say a word. The agency strongly recommends reviewing your bank account for fraudulent charges if you have already responded to this type of call.
Beware of ‘spoofing’
Robocallers are using fake numbers to make their targets more comfortable picking up the phone. For example, if your area code is 212, a robocaller could mirror that area code so it appears like a 212 number is calling you.
Spoofed robocalls are involve scammers pretending to be from the IRS or Social Security Administration.
It’s important to remember that the IRS or SSA will never contact you over the phone for important information. The agencies will communicate through the mail.
How to protect yourself
The simplest way is to register yourself on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry, which informs telemarketers that they are prohibited from calling registered numbers.
Third-party-apps such as Nomorobo will notify you when a call is from a robocaller.
These third-party-apps allow you to block scamming robocallers, while still letting legal robocalls such as school closing alerts and prescription reminders contact you.
And the industry’s biggest companies have formed a Robocall Strike Force to target these pesky – and sometimes dangerous – calls. To find out how your specific phone provider can help you stop unwanted calls, click here.