Tackling Robocalls with VoIP

Posted on: 2018-03-16 | Categories: VoIP Services

One of the key features of VoIP that businesses like is the ability to handle a large call volume. The technology is helpful for both inbound and outbound calls. But the same features that legitimate businesses know and love are becoming tools for scammers. Robocalls with VoIP are the perfect example.

What Are Robocalls?

Have you ever answered the phone only to hear a pre-recorded message instead of a person? That is a robocall. It is the name given to phone calls that are handled by a computer. Such calls are initiated through software which plays a message the moment someone answers the call.

Automatic calling is a useful feature, and it is used by many entities including political campaigns and telemarketers. Government agencies may also use it to send public service announcements or emergency broadcasts. However, the vast majority of robocalls are scams or illegal telemarketing messages.

Robocalling with VoIP

In recent years, robocalls have become pervasive. These robocalls now outnumber calls placed by humans, and the numbers continue to rise. Regulatory agencies attribute part of this increase to the growing use of VoIP technology.

Scammers can use VoIP phones to call US-based numbers from outside the country. Since these calls do not originate from within the borders of the United States, authorities have no jurisdiction. It is hard enough to trace the source of such phone calls and almost impossible to bring them to justice.

VoIP Makes Robocalling More Efficient

VoIP phones make robocalling more efficient and much cheaper than using people. Companies don’t have to pay humans to come into an office and make phone calls for eight hours. Computers can auto dial hundreds or even thousands of numbers and play pre-recorded messages for 24 hours a day. Computers don’t have to take breaks or go home.

Criminals are using the same tools as businesspeople to make their operations more efficient. Since VoIP allows more than one user to share a single phone number, employees need to be able to set their own caller ID. Scammers use this feature to call unsuspecting victims with their local area codes, increasing the odds of calls being answered.

Similarly, organizations need a way to contact large groups of customers. They may be trying to reach all current customers of a product or calling potential clients to pitch new products and services. VoIP vendors provide these features to many clients. They have no way of knowing if a particular client is running a fraudulent business. Thus, a scammer in Europe is able to purchase VoIP services and reach thousands of American customers with no concern for the law.

Consumers always have the option of signing up for the nationwide Do Not Call registry. But as you might expect, this option only works with legitimate businesses. It does not deter criminals from perpetrating their scams. Robocalling has been illegal since 2009 and if caught, telemarketers have to pay stiff fines. But that hasn’t stopped robocalls.

How to Handle Robocalls

The most important role of handling robocalls is simple: never interact with the call in any manner. Some people will try to reach a person by following the call directory options. This is actually counterproductive as it indicates to the scammer that there is a real person at this number. In the vast majority of cases, your number will be put on a hotlist and sold to other telemarketers. The best thing you can do is hang up. This has the added bonus that you will never fall victim to any scam or fraud.

But what after that? You may think that the Do Not Call registry is useless as it doesn’t stop scammers. However, that allows you to report such phone numbers to the FTC. Since you have now indicated that you do not wish to be contacted, any business that attempts to do so can be caught and fined.

When legislation cannot protect consumers, technology is often the answer. Most modern smartphones offer some sort of call blocking services. Suspected spam calls are flagged so you don’t have to answer them. You can also add numbers to a blacklist or only answer calls from numbers you recognize. There are also several call blocking apps that work on the major mobile operating systems. While some of them are paid apps, quite a few are free.

Some phone service providers also offer similar services, though not all do. Although operators have come under pressure from consumers to do something about the problem, they have been reluctant to take action. Fraudulent outfits that make such calls are able to spoof caller ID numbers. It means that any action by the phone company may unwittingly harm innocent customers.

Authorities and service providers are fighting hard in the battle against robocalls. The best we can do in the meantime is not answer them.