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BBB says robocalls likely to increase during election year

Posted at 8:34 AM, Feb 11, 2020

Phones across America rang 5 billion times in November due to robocalls, according to the Better Business Bureau.

That translates to almost 2,000 robocalls every second.

"Everybody, every day, gets these annoying calls," said James Temmer, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Wisconsin.

The Better Business Bureau said some of those robocalls, which are informational in nature, or from political campaigns or charities, can be annoying but are perfectly legal. Temmer said those robocalls are only likely to pick up in the coming months, since 2020 is a presidential election year.

But the BBB said other robocalls, trying to scam you or sell you something, are not.

"Let's say you order a catalog for something, that doesn't mean they can just call you up and try and sell you that same product," Temmer said.

Temmer said a robocall can't legally attempt to sell you a product unless the consumer gave the caller/company written consent ahead of time.

Temmer believes the best defense against robocalls is to not answer the phone, because scammers will call a number more frequently if they know there's a live person on the end of the line.

"If they call you a few times and nothing happens, they might think it’s not even a live number," he said.

He said it's good to report robocalls that are trying to sell you something, or scam you, to either the BBB or the Federal Trade Commission.

The BBB passes along complaints to federal authorities.

"If they get enough numbers calling and complaining, they will go after them and shut them down," Temmer said.

But he said scam callers, who might claim to be the IRS or other law enforcement agencies to try and shake down unsuspecting victims, are much harder to trace and prosecute.

"They're already lawbreakers," Temmer said. "So they don't care if they break another law by trying to sell you something."

Temmer said most people receive robocalls after they sign up for newsletters or buy products online.

"If you sign up for anything, if you purchase something, that information goes on a list, your data goes on a list, and your data can often be bought or sold," he said.

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