6 Ways to Stop Robocalls to Your Work Phone
And 3 robocall-related scams you should know about
Annoying calls with automated messages are exploding over the phone lines. From scam calls telling you your computer has a virus or you are about to be arrested for unpaid taxes, to selling insurance or other products, these calls are increasing.
Not only is this a huge annoyance interrupting your day or night, it is even worse when the calls come into your small business causing interruptions and lost productivity, costing you money.
Though there have been attempts at stronger legislation, the problem is getting worse, and it’s being driven largely by telemarketing and scams. In an effort to fight back, in early 2020, the federal government signed into law the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which gives the FCC more time to take action against robocallers and fine them for up to $10,000 per call, according to a report in USA Today.
More than 58.5 billion robocalls were placed to U.S. phones in 2019. That’s an increase of 22 percent from the 47.8 billion in 2018. The 2019 total accounted for about two robocalls on average per day.
To make matters worse, spammers use “spoofing,” manipulating incoming phone numbers to make it look as if calls are coming from your local area.
Risks of robocalls in business
The danger in these types of calls range from money stealing scams to ploys to gain personal or business information to steal your identity or fraudulently take over your business accounts. Two of the most common scams aimed at small businesses include:
Google business listing scam
This scam involves a caller (who actually has no affiliation with Google or any other service) telling a small business owner their listings are at risk of being removed from search results and offers to help prevent that for a fee. Since there is nothing really wrong, the scammer potentially gets a fee for doing nothing.
Local map verification scam
A small business owner is told that their company is required to verify an online map listing to prove they own the business. The scammer demands personal and business information to continue the maps listing, but actually uses this information to take over financial and other accounts owned by the business.
Sometimes, robocalls sound so sophisticated, delivering conversational messages and even electronically answering common questions, that you think you’re talking to an actual person. Listen to a caller’s interaction with a human-sounding robot here.
Robocalls are not only obnoxious, they are costing people big money. The FCC estimates the cost of robocalls to consumers is at least $3 billion per year from lost time alone, not including monetary losses to fraud. Robocalls are cheap and easy to make, dialing millions of people a day at little cost.
According to MarketWatch, U.S. businesses spend more than 20 million hours answering unwanted phone calls each year.
Business groups, including the Consumer Bankers Association, actually support auto-dialers as a way for legitimate businesses to reach their customers. This support creates a friendly environment for the proliferation of robocalls.
What Small Businesses Can Do to Combat Robocalls
1. Register your numbers
While consumers can add their home landline and mobile numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry, business to business robocalls are exempt from following the registry’s provisions. But if you use a cell phone for work, you can add that number to the Do Not Call Registry.
You can register a phone number on the national Do Not Call list for free by calling 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you want to register. You can also register and add your personal mobile phone number to the national Do-Not-Call list at donotcall.gov.
2. Work with service providers
Check with your telephone service provider and cell provider to see if they offer call blocking services. Keep in mind that blocking specific numbers may reduce unwanted sales calls, but have less impact on robocaller scams. Scammers change phone numbers frequently.
3. Use third-party software
If you have VoIP phone service you can use a free service such as Nomorobo, which will not only block robocalls but when it intercepts one, it plays a message indicating that your number has been disconnected. The idea is to not only take your number of the call list for that specific robocaller, but also spread the disconnected message throughout the robocall network.
Pindrop offers an alternate solution for businesses to block unwanted calls, comparing incoming calls to a database of spam phone numbers and robo dialers available on the market today. It then assigns a risk score based on factors such as complaint history, device type and service provider.
There are many apps available for cell phones, as well. Trapcall takes a slightly different approach. The app picks up calls you decline and then rings them back to you with the real number displayed, providing a warning if the number is on a known robocall list.
4. Use a call blocking phone system
With a business PBX phone system, you can block numbers you determine as spam and automatically block numbers that don’t display a caller ID right from your phone system.
5. File a complaint
While not an immediate solution, the Federal Trade Commission will shut down fraudsters, especially if they receive enough complaints. Find more information here.
6. Hang up
Companies operating robocallers share information about which numbers provide good targets and which ones are a waste of time, which is why you should avoid answering calls with no caller ID or one you don’t recognize. If you do happen to answer, hang up immediately. Never engage, speak, press a number, or otherwise let a robocaller know there is a live person on the phone.
You might not be able to eliminate robocalls altogether, but by not engaging callers and being proactive on blocking, you may retain a bit of your sanity and business productivity while legislators and the FCC figure out better solutions.