NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There's so much about 2020 that we all want to forget. But guess what? There was at least one silver lining to the pandemic.
Early on, we weren't getting as many of those annoying robocalls.
That's because when businesses were forced to shut down during the lockdown, it shut down a lot of call centers behind those robocalls.
And according to the Federal Trade Commission, complaints about those calls dropped significantly during that time period earlier this year. But unfortunately, as things have opened back up, robocalls have returned.
And the type of robocall people complain about the most? What's known as the imposter call, where you answer the phone and hear a recorded message supposedly from some federal agency like the FBI or IRS.
"They’ll call people up and tell them that they owe taxes or that something is wrong with their Social Security account and they need to pay money immediately to fix the problem or to avoid going to jail or something like that. It’s all part of a scam to get money from consumers, " Will Maxson with the Federal Trade Commission explained.
Maxson said robocalls are illegal and they're a big problem. The FTC got nearly four million complaints last year.
While imposter calls topped the list, they were followed by calls about warranties and protection plans, supposed debt-reduction offers, medical and prescription issues, and computers and technical support.
The FTC breaks down this data in a new report that includes a STATE BY STATE DATA ANALYSIS that you can check out online and find out what sorts of robocall scams Tennesseans are falling for, who is falling for them, and how much money victims are losing. The graphing also shows how complaints dipped earlier this year and have steadly climbed back up since.
"This (data) really puts the power in the hands of the consumer, to go in and see at a really granular level what the complaint data looks like, to see what it is that is impacting the people in their community and what they might be on the lookout for and what they might want to inform their relatives and their friends about, scams that might be particularly affecting and targeting community," Maxson suggested.
He said the FTC continues to work to track down and shut down robocall operations. But the agency needs help from the public. They ask that you report any unwanted calls to the FTC, including the date and time of the call, the number that showed up in your caller ID and anything you remember from the message you heard.
If you get a robocall, just hang up. Or better yet, don't even answer it. You can check with your phone carrier about the call blocking and filtering options they offer. And Maxson said keep an eye out for new technology known as stir shaken which works to authenticate caller ID numbers and is supposed to stop a lot of the spoofing which is where a number shows up on your phone that is not really the number the call is coming from.