How to Protect Your Retirement from Scams Involving Robocalls

Robocalls are persistent. Car warranty expiring? Can we purchase your house? Amazon account issues? Are you aware you’ll lose power?

YouMail, a robocall prevention and research startup, claims robocalls accounted for more than 50 billion U.S. phone calls in 2021. That’s 150 calls for every American, and the estimate for July was 3.8 billion.

Because of the sheer volume of robocalls, many don’t answer unknown numbers.

The damage done can have significant unintended repercussions. In addition to deceptive marketing, ignoring unknown numbers may be perilous. Take the hiker who rejected Lake County Search and Rescue calls because they didn’t recognize the number. The hiker was unaware of the search, and it has gotten to the point that most of us have ignored calls from unknown numbers. According to Consumer Reports, 70% of Americans don’t answer unknown calls.

Are Robocalls Legal?

Without explicit consent, it’s illegal for a corporation to contact you through robocall, especially to offer you something. There are exceptions; the FTC allows a certain type of robocalls: Informational messages, as long as the caller isn’t attempting to sell you something. This includes travel cancellations, appointment reminders, and school opening delays.

Collectors are also allowed to use robocalls to collect a debt. However, robocalls offering debt-reduction services are unlawful and likely fraudulent. Landline political calls are permitted, provided they include identifying information. A pharmacist may call to remind you to refill a medication.

Unless you’re a previous contributor or member of a charity, robocalls made on behalf of Charities are banned, and they must offer a way to discontinue future calls.

Robocall Scammer Prevention

The government has implemented regulations to hold phone companies accountable and developed registries for people who do not wish to receive such calls (Do Not Call List). State authorities prosecute criminals who defraud enough individuals/

Robocalls blight our lives like a swarm of insects, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in July when his agency sued participants in a system that made billions of calls, up to 77 million daily. 

The FCC Enforcement Bureau told voice service providers that had sent unlawful robocalls on their networks to cease, or the FCC would ban all their traffic. The FCC penalized Texas telemarketers a record $225 million for making 1 billion unlawful robocalls for offering short-term, limited-duration health insurance products. FCC stated telemarketers fraudulently claimed to provide Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna health insurance policies.

Endless Robocalls Still Happening

Does this help? AARP’s head of fraud victim support, Amy Nofziger, says it’s difficult to know. She welcomed any government effort to reduce the threat and said robocall scams haven’t stopped.

“Criminals don’t care,” she added. They’ll keep stealing from people. Criminals find robocalls inexpensive and effective. They’ll continue to figure it out.

AARP heard someone who received a robocall saying his electricity would be switched off in 30 minutes. He contacted them back and was informed their system was down and to use Zelle to pay $450; the minimum payment was $299.75.

That morning, a lady phoned AARP about robocalls. One caller said they had all her details. The caller claimed to be from Amazon and said she had a charge on her account; they had her SSN, bank, and contact information.

According to YouMail CEO Alex Quilici, the Ohio case may have had an effect. It’s too early to say if the overall robocall volume has reduced. Since then, warranty calls have decreased significantly. It’s unclear if “additional calling campaigns” would counteract this. Many robocall campaigns are ongoing.

Robokiller, a startup that analyzes and blocks spam messages, reports an increase in spam texting. In July alone, 12 billion spam messages were sent out, which amounts to 44 spasm messages for every American.

What are Robocall Scams?

For car warranty schemes, scammers try to offer nonexistent or useless auto warranties as extensions of your existing guarantee. Nofziger added that those who take the bait don’t know they’ve been taken until they try to use their worthless warranties.

Nofziger says fraudsters know your car’s make and model, and the information is readily available. This is a classic phone scam, but Nofziger observed it’s also performed via mail.

The Ohio attorney general sued over a complex robocall lead-generating scam that made hundreds of millions of robocalls but hid who had developed the program and how money flowed between defendants.

The complaint claims the fraudsters defied the National Do Not Call Registry, ignored instructions to cease calling, and altered caller ID numbers to escape call blocking. Some robocalls faked Ohio federal court phone numbers. The complaint claims they participated in “neighbor spoofing,” a tactic to boost the probability of a call being answered by utilizing caller ID numbers with the same area code or comparable three-digit exchange.

The complaint claims the organization offered leads to marketers of vehicle servicing contracts promoted as auto warranties. Vehicle service contract marketers paid millions to organizations that made repeated robocalls.

Robocall Prevention

Quilici advises:

  1. Download a robocall-blocking app. This will screen out many unwanted calls and voicemails from unknown callers.
  2. Do your investigation before contacting a number back. If they claim to be a bank, call the bank’s website instead of the number that phoned you.
  3. Never give out personal information if you respond, and hang up if prompted.

Send suspicious texts to 7726. (or SPAM). This free text exchange with your wireless operator reports the number and thanks you. FCC advises: Don’t answer unknown calls. Don’t answer the phone.

Warning: Local caller ID doesn’t always indicate local caller.

  1. Hang up if you’re asked to press a button to discontinue calls. Scammers utilize this to find victims. 
  2. Don’t answer inquiries, especially “yes” queries.
  3. Never give up account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden name, passwords, or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if suspicious.
  4. In the event that someone claims to represent a corporation or government organization, hang up and contact the number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on their website. A respectable provider will generally mail you an invoice before calling to request money.
  5. Avoid quick information requests.
  6. Password-protect your voicemail. Some voicemail providers offer access to your number, and unprotected voicemail can be hacked if your home phone number is spoofed.
  7. If you employ robocall-blocking equipment, inform the firm-specific numbers to ban it.

Do Not Call List registration prohibits telemarketing calls. Legitimate telemarketers use the list to avoid phoning landlines and mobile phones.

The FCC contains considerable information about robocall-blocking programs, phone makers, and third parties. Contact your phone company about unsolicited and unlawful calls, urges the agency. Your mobile phone’s settings may prevent calls from specified numbers.


iPhones include a “Silence Unknown Callers” call-blocking option.

Google Pixel phones contain a “Call Screen” call-screening and blocking function; Google offers free, opt-in call-blocking applications for Android phones; and Google Voice subscribers may block unwanted calls.

Samsung works with Hiya to provide Smart Call to mark unwanted calls.

Report Scams to the FTC.

If it’s an impostor scam, Quilici recommends contacting the firm and see if they’ll help make up for it (for example, if someone pretending to be from a bank defrauded you, call the bank’s customer care and see what happens).

Local authorities are generally understaffed and ill-equipped to investigate.