Robocalling involves the use of an automated telephone message. The call is initiated by an autodialer and delivers a prerecorded message to one or a range of numbers. The robocalling technique is used for a wide variety of communications including:
Public service announcements: For example, if your water supply is about to be suspended for a period because of repairs to the water lines in your area.
- Appointment reminders: You may receive an automated message from your doctor or dentist reminding you that you have an appointment within the next 48 hours.
- Political campaigns: Sometimes political parties will send out automated messages giving information about their incumbent.
Opinion polls: Robocalls may be used for opinion polls by political parties to help them with their campaigns.
- Marketing: Sometimes companies use robocalling for marketing within the public sector.
Depending on the type and purpose of the robocall, it may enable interaction with the recipient either through voice or keypad activation. Sometimes there may also be interaction with a human representative during part of the call.
The Laws Governing Robocalling
In October 2013, the United States Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) mandated some rules regarding robocalling. According to the FCC’s regulations, telemarketers are prohibited from making robocalls to a consumer without first obtaining his or her written consent. Robocalls are also restricted from dialing numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.
In spite of these changes, the FCC receives more complaints each month regarding robocalling than any other problem. However, it’s difficult for the agency to track down the culprits because most of them can hide their real phone numbers behind a virtual number created through a Google Voice or Skype account. Often the robocallers don’t even use real phone numbers but mimic unassigned or inactive numbers. So what recourse is there to prevent illegal robocalling? Most phone companies are currently resorting to automated blocking tools that simultaneously block robocallers as they whitelist known or emergency numbers. This type of blocking tool is perfectly legal and the FFC encourages phone companies and individuals to use them.
Clarifying the Laws on Robocalling
Although some states have their own local robocalling laws, which differ widely from state-to-state, federal law applies in every state. Here are some examples of the mandates for robocalling and telemarketers:
A telemarketer is prohibited from using a robodialer for the purpose of sending a prerecorded message to a consumer or business cell phone or to a consumer landline unless they have written consent to do so. Such consent may be obtained through audio recording, email, or web opt-in as well as other means. The procedures must follow the federal E-Sign Act.
When robodialers make calls, they are prohibited from abandoning any more than 3 percent of its automated calls within a 30-day period.
Every prerecorded message must contain an automated opt-out message, which allows the recipient to decline to receive any further robocalls. The opt-out message must be activated by keypress or voice.
The prerecorded message must include truthful information about who is responsible for the robocalls and the exact marketing-related purpose of the call.
The prerecorded message must also include a call-back number enabling the recipient to return the call during normal business hours and decline to receive any further robocalls from this particular telemarketer.
Autodialers that do not Deliver Prerecorded Messages
The regulations for this type of call are slightly different. If a robocall is made, but no prerecorded message is used, then it is still legal if the call is to a residential landline, where this type of call is generally still allowed without the owner’s consent. This type of call is prohibited to a cell phone without the owner’s consent.
When Robocalling is Illegal and Unethical
Being on the receiving end of regular robocalls is very annoying and can be considered spam, but at times it can also prove to be dangerous, thanks to a new wave of robocalling scammers. Since 2013, fraudsters impersonating IRS agents are estimated to have conned unsuspecting victims from handing over more than $54 million. This particular batch of con artists has proven to be completely unscrupulous and equally inventive. But the tax swindle is not the only robocalling scam. The FCC also has accounts of incidents where calls were connected to people posing as sweepstakes companies and employment agencies, as well as debt collectors.
Think Twice About Using Your Personal Phone for Business
Though using your personal mobile phone for business is affordable and very convenient, especially if you are just starting a new business, you may want to think twice about doing so. Not only can using the same phone for your personal and business aspects of your life cause conflicts, it may also make your phone more susceptible to robocallers. The easiest way around this is not to carry two phones with two separate numbers; it is to get a virtual phone number for your business.
If you don’t know much about virtual phone numbers, it’s very simple. You sign up for a local or toll-free number in the country and city of your choice, and you give that number to your business clients. They call that number to contact you, and your call forwarding service redirects their call to the number of your choice. So you don’t have to give your business colleagues and clients your personal number, but you’ll still be able to take the calls on whichever phone line works best for you.
A virtual number has several advantages:
- You can avoid robocalls: If you have an automated greeting and your calls are directed to another number, this is a great way to filter out robocalls. The automated call will get stuck with your automated attendant until it times out, eliminating the issue altogether.
- You are not a victim of threats: A virtual number protects your personal information from hackers and scammers. You can blacklist and whitelist your chosen numbers.
- You won’t have to keep changing your number. Your personal phone number is an important part of your life, and chances are you’ve had it for a while. By using a virtual number to handle your business calls, you will avoid any complications that may have you wanting to change your personal number.
You can find out more about handling robocalls along with blacklisting and whitelisting with a virtual phone number by contacting Global Call Forwarding.