The FCC receives more complaints about unwanted phone calls than any other consumer issue. Stopping illegal robocalls and scam calls is at the top of my priority list. I'm reminded of that every day, because, like you, I get these calls too. So does everyone at the FCC, even on our work phones. Accompanying this post are audio clips and transcripts from two of the voicemails I received.
The FCC advises consumers not to answer calls or respond to texts from unknown numbers. But this summer, the scam callers were persistent, leaving voicemails that threatened legal action if I didn't call back. Our guidance is: Never call back an unfamiliar number, because it may lead to a scam. Of course, I didn't call back, but the voicemails were unsettling nonetheless.
You can listen to audio and read transcripts from two of the voicemails I received. In a new Consumer Help Center series, we are breaking down phone scams and including scam audio when it's available. Our goal is to help consumers not only understand how the scams work, but also to hear how the scams sound. We began providing audio with a recent post on Medicare card scams.
In the voicemails I received, the calls sounded urgent, pressuring me to take action to avoid legal and financial consequences. That's often the case with these types of scams, though call-back messages may also sound friendly or routine. Don't give in to fear or curiosity. A scammer's first goal is to engage you, then they go to work on stealing your money or your valuable personal information.
Here's some additional information to help you avoid falling victim to a scam:
- Be on guard for spoofing scams, where caller ID information is falsified. Scammers may spoof a local area code and number, a company you know and trust or even a government agency to trick you into picking up.
- If you answer a call and suspect it was spoofed, hang up immediately. Do not respond to any questions or requests.
- Never reveal personal or financial information. If you feel pressured or suspicious, hang up and call back using a number you can verify on a bill, an account statement or an official website.
As part of our multi-pronged approach to stopping unwanted and illegal robocalls, some of the FCC's recent actions include:
- Allowing phone companies to block by default illegal or unwanted calls based on reasonable call analytics before the calls reach you.
- Allowing phone companies to provide consumers with tools to block calls from any number that doesn't appear on a customer's contact list or other "white list."
- Banning malicious caller ID spoofing of text messages and calls originating overseas.
- Urging phone companies to implement caller ID authentication to help reduce illegal spoofing.
To help you avoid robocall scams, I encourage you to take advantage of the latest protections available and ask your phone company about robocall-blocking tools and apps. Several phone companies recently pledged to offer their customers call blocking and labeling tools for free, in addition to other actions they agreed to take to reduce unwanted robocalls. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai voiced his support for these commitments and noted that they align with the FCC's own anti-robocalling and spoofing efforts.
Also, please share this blog post with friends and family so they'll become familiar with the tactics used in voicemail call-back scams.
And let us know when you get unwanted calls, especially if you suspect someone is trying to scam you. File a consumer complaint at fcc.gov/complaints. Your feedback informs our future action.