December 08, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Everyone has had the annoying experience of the telephone ringing at an inopportune time, only to be greeted with a computer-generated, recorded voice message promoting some scam or another. With a few noncommercial exceptions or unless written permission has been given, it is almost always illegal under the federal Telemarketing Sales Rule to place such so-called "robocalls" to consumers.
And the federal government recently stepped up its enforcement of anti-robocall laws by filing five major lawsuits in U.S. District Courts against alleged perpetrators promoting credit-card debt relief schemes. For example, such a caller may fraudulently offer to procure a lower interest rate on credit-card debt in exchange for a hefty prepaid fee.
The Federal Trade Commission, America's main consumer-protection agency, has been waging a relentless campaign against illegal robocalls. In October 2012, the FTC hosted a summit for law enforcement, telecommunications experts and other stakeholders to brainstorm ideas for combating the robocall problem. Currently, the agency is offering a $50,000 prize (with a limited pool of potential contestants) for the best technical solution proposal for blocking robocalls. The competition has a mid-January 2012 deadline.
This technological problem has proven tricky to solve in part because it has been difficult to block calls coming in from other countries or to identify the actual sources of calls placed through Internet connections.
The agency reports that it receives at least 200,000 consumer robocall complaints monthly.
According to the FTC, thousands of these inexpensive-to-make calls are made every minute, sometimes with fake caller ID information, and often promoting deceptive schemes regarding credit cards, car warranty protection, medical discounts and grants. One very common source claims to be "Rachel from Cardholder Services" or someone similar.
In fact, the caller ID displayed may be information identifying your bank or another entity with which you have had legitimate contact to induce you to answer and trust the caller. In addition, entities making robocalls usually ignore whether the numbers they call are on the national Do Not Call Registry.
The FTC advises that when a person receives an illegal robocall, he or she not press any numbers in response. Rather, the consumer should hang up and report the number to the agency. If you have lost money, shared private information or are being harassed by such callers, talk to a consumer protection attorney about your rights and potential legal remedies.