FTC Reveals Top Phone Spammer
Federal Communication Commission (FCC) data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, indicates that over 10,000 complaints have been filed on phone scams so far this year. Although this information is available to the public, few know the procedures for downloading and then analyzing the desired statistics. One example relates to the robocalling system simply known as Rachel that was analyzed by the telemarketing watchdog site www.whycall.me.
A recent report filed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) confirmed the FCC report that indicated telephone scams have turned into a multi-billion dollar industry in the US alone. Primarily responsible for this increase is the automated robocaller that identifies herself as Rachel. According to the FCC, although Rachel is responsible for 21% of all complaints, 62% are generated by all automated calling systems from criminals claiming to be everyone from a debt collector to a charity, all of which might appear legitimate.
Due to caller ID, many individuals and business owners have now become leery of calls received from "unknown" parties. This makes information acquired through the FCC and other agencies invaluable, especially as technology continues to evolve. For example, Rachel has created caller IDs that include "card member services," "card holder services," and "credit card services" among others.
It was reported that the popularity of autocallers, such as Rachel, is a growing trend. According to whycall.me, this is because "the technology for number spoofing and auto-dialing is becoming cheaper and easier to setup, so instances of illegal robocalling and SMS spams are sure to rise dramatically in the near future."
With the current economic crisis growing on a global scale, it is anticipated scammers worldwide will become even more motivated to participate in this type of illegal activity. The FTC and FCC data download indicate that over the past two decades, telephone schemes have evolved from a predominately North American crime problem to a pervasive worldwide criminal threat.
These types of calls can be generated from anywhere. The top five countries, in order, include: India, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, the United States, and Korea. This only adds to the burden of officials who continually strive to identify ways to eliminate this threat as well as consumers who must take the initiative to stay informed.
One of the major problems is the failure to report crimes. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Cyber Crimes Unit, nine out of ten victims fail to report crimes involving telephone scams. The FTC reported that, interestingly, the number of complaints is closely aligned with the population of individual US states. For example, Texas is home to approximately 8% of the population in the US and also has a crime report rate of 8%. The one exception is California which is home to 12% of the population in the US, but has a crime report rate of 20%. Statistics indicate that this trend is changing. With better exposure to resources and education on this topic, the report rate has increased 18% in the last year alone.
When it comes to robocalls, spokesman for the FTC, Frank Dorman stated, "There's no way of knowing, at this point, if it's the same Rachel. Regardless, people who get illegal robocalls should file a complaint with the FTC." He went onto explain that the FTC requires businesses that use automated systems to acquire permission from the recipient before calls are made. Additionally, the system must include an opt-out feature that works.
As in most cases, there are exceptions when it comes to robocalls. Dorman stated, “Calls to let you know your flight’s been cancelled, reminders about an appointment, or messages about a delayed school opening” are allowed. "Others that can use them include a business collecting a debt, charities that call on their own behalf, phone companies, banks, politicians, and certain healthcare providers, such as the pharmacy reminding you a prescription is ready."
The efforts of FTC and FCC officials in conjunction with other agencies resulted in the capture and punishment of many offenders over the past decade. The result for consumers and businesses was a significant reduction in these types of calls. Dorman concluded by stating that "The reason for reporting the calls is to give the FTC a chance to catch the culprits, as they did with the last round of Rachel calls. It can take a while, though, and requires a certain volume of consumer complaints to get the ball rolling."
Consumers and the media must remain informed and research statistical data such as that provided by the FCC. For those who feel they may have already been victimized by a robocall such as Rachel, or any other type of telephone scam, it is recommended that complaints be filed with the FTC at http://www.ftc.gov, FCC at http://esupport.fcc.gov, and the Better Business Bureau at https://www.bbb.org. Additionally, it is advised that individuals register with the Federal Do Not Call List at http://www.donotcall.gov as well as any no-call list provided on a state level.