Spike in ‘Robocalls’ reported across the country

Posted at 10:03 PM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 23:06:18-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-- Fraudulent calls aren't anything new, but the amount of computerized calls or robocalls going to people's phones seems to be on the rise. Whether or not there's someone on the other line, those callers are using every trick they can to take your money or get your personal information.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Michigan is in the top 10 in the country for residents signing up for the 'Do Not Call' list, meaning it's a big problem. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to keep yourself safe.

"There's software out there that's made this so easy and cheap to do from anywhere in the world that these robocalls and just painful calls are bothering everybody," said Phil Catlett, president of the Better Business Bureau of West Michigan.

Catlett says most fraudulent callers are trying to get personal information from you like your Social Security number or bank information. Nowadays, it's easier than ever.

"Any one of us could get those free with software off of the internet," said Catlett. "The key there is to never trust what's on your caller ID screen, never believe what's on there and never use that to call back."

Some robocalls will ask if you can hear them okay or ask you to say your name.

"If you hear that kind of a bait question, the best thing to do is just hang up the phone," said Sgt. Joel Roon from the Kent County Sheriff's Department.

If you're receiving more calls than usual, Sgt. Roon says signing up for the 'Do Not Call' list with the Federal Trade Commission is a good place to start. If it continues, it's best to ignore them.

"In my experience, I've never seen one of those pan out for the good," said Roon.

Many of the robocalls are coming from spoof numbers that might look familiar. These companies have learned to generate numbers that maybe have the same area code as you or even look similar to your own number. This is to trick you into thinking you may know the person on the other end of the line.

"Over 42 percent of all calls made to landlines are these illegal unwanted robocalls," said Aaron Foss, founder of Nomorobo. "On the mobile side, we see as high as 10 percent of all calls that are being received as these unwanted illegal robocalls and it's going up dramatically. I've been doing this for three and a half years and so many people are saying they're just getting hit on their cell phone."

There are other resources out there if you're getting hit by robocalls. One service recommended by the FTC is Nomorobo.

"Nomorobo stops all of those robocallers and telemarketers and phone scammers from calling your phone and bothering you every single day," said Foss. "Basically all of them are scams. If somebody's trying to peddle something over the phone or trying to get you to buy something hang up. It's not legitimate."

Nomorobo compiles a list of spoof callers and blocks them from going through.

"A lot of people have said these callers use different numbers every single day and sometimes they call from multiple numbers every single day," said Foss. "On your phone they might only be calling you from one of those numbers, but when you look at it across millions of people it's very easy to see those patterns."

Experts say the most important thing to remember is you are not obligated to pick up your phone.

There are some robocalls that are okay and allowed by the FTC like school closings, prescription calls or doctors appointment confirmations. Those calls are screened and allowed to go through even if you have Nomorobo. Sgt. Roon says if you get a fake call you should report it online to the FTC. If you do lose any of your money to a robocaller, you should contact your local police and report it immediately.