Sept. 07--Nuisance "robocalls" are still being made and sometimes answered by unsuspecting people.
Why the calling parties think they're going to get a friendly voice on the other end is beyond me.
But the most annoying roboÂcalls are from scammers not only randomly dialing numbers, but doing so illegally. How? Because they are not following federal Do Not Call rules.
Here are samples of the most common scam robocalls. More details are available from previous reports online at www.ohio.com/betty.
--Utility scam: The calls refer to your natural gas bill or appear to sound as if they are coming from Dominion East Ohio. They're not. The company making the calls has not been identifying itself and the Ohio Attorney General's Office and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio continue to get complaints about this.
Kate Hanson, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, said the agency cannot confirm or deny any investigations. However, Hanson said the agency has received about 300 complaints. The agency also issued an alert this summer. To complain, call 800-282-0515.
Jason Gilham with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio said the agency continues to pass on complaints to the attorney general's office and does work with consumers who feel they may have been wrongfully switched with their gas suppliers.
The robocalls have not been linked to a specific marketer, he said.
--Medical alert scam: These calls say someone has signed you up for a medical alert system and paid for it. The Better Business Bureau and attorney general's office have issued alerts. Again, the state office says it has received nearly 300 complaints this year.
Remember, the government program Medicare does not call people to verify any information for a new identity card.
Here's what to do
So what can be done?
If you have phone numbers shown on a caller ID device, you can report them to the attorney general's office and the Federal Trade Commission at 877-382-4357. For more information about robocalls, or to complain online, go to the site www.ftc.gov/robocalls.
Often, the calls come from "spoofed" numbers, which means a hijacked number or a fake number. The AG's office said it is not equipped to track or capture the robocall numbers, but the FTC uses complaint information in investigations.
The FTC has been only somewhat successful in cracking down on the annoying "Rachel" calls from credit-card services.
Remember, don't follow any instructions on such calls. That only confirms that the robo dialer got a phone number that works and means your calls could increase.
A new, free website that is launching this month could provide a way to cut down on robocalls. Unfortunately, not everyone can use it in our area, based on my initial research.
Aaron Foss developed a website called www.nomorobo.com. He tied for first place in the FTC's competition last spring for best technology to combat robocalls and shared in a $50,000 prize.
Foss, a software developer, said he actually didn't have a robocall problem himself, but knows it's a nuisance.
His technology activates a feature through your phone provider often called "simultaneous ring," "find me" or "follow me." It enables the incoming phone calls to ring to two places. One place is your home and the other is Nomorobo's computer server.
Foss is building a database of robocall numbers -- there are more than 1.2 million numbers now -- and tracks what numbers are high frequency for compiling a "black list."
A call from a bogus number leads to a disconnect and your phone will not ring a second time.
If Nomorobo is unsure, an automatic message will play requesting the "human" to enter a number. If no number is entered, the call is added to the black list.
Foss said the data are anonymous and Nomorobo is not monitoring an individual's calls.