‘There’s no silver bullet’: What’s being done to crack down on robocalls?

CHARLOTTE — Everyone hates robocalls, but new numbers show just how much they bombard us.

According to RoboKiller, a company with an app to block robocalls, car warranty calls were the most common robocall for the month of October, with more than a billion reported.

Pageland resident Debbi Hunter is one of many who is constantly annoyed by the calls.

“I probably get about 10, 15 a day,” Hunter said.

Action 9 investigator Jason Stoogenke spoke with NC Attorney General Josh Stein, who said his office gets more complaints about robocalls than any other topic.

“I think we received about 9,000 complaints on robocalls so far this year,” Stein said.

In 2019, 51 attorneys general -- including Stein -- and 15 phone companies launched something called the Anti-Robocall Principles. The companies agreed to offer free call blocking and labeling, like “Spam Risk.”

They also agreed to use “call monitoring analytics” to identify suspicious robocall “traffic and patterns.”

And they agreed to use technology that became a reality just a few months ago -- it identifies who’s making the call and makes sure the number on your Caller ID matches that.

The technology combats spoofing, and Stein said it’s working.

“We’ve seen about a 30% drop in robocalls,” Stein said. “Still nowhere near enough, but there’s not a silver bullet to this problem. It’s just going to take work and work and work to get the job done.”

Right before the pandemic, Stein launched a website and phone number (844-8-NOROBO) so North Carolinians could report robocalls more easily. A few months later, Stein and six other attorneys general sued two companies for ”blasting billions of illegal robocalls.”

Stein said more than 75 million of those calls were to North Carolina users, with more than 34 million to numbers on the Do Not Call Registry.

The feds, specifically the FCC, fined the same companies $225 million, the largest fine in the agency’s history. Stein said his office is investigating certain phone companies.

“Some of them are turning a blind eye to this robocall traffic because they’re making profits,” he said.

These companies aren’t household names. They’re middlemen, patching robocalls through to companies like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon.

The FTC is constantly issuing warnings reminding consumers to just hang up. Debbi Hunter tries not to even pick up at all.

“It would be nice to have a way to get rid of them,” Hunter said. “I just don’t know what to do.”

Advice for dealing with robocalls:

  • Don’t answer numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t trust the number on your Caller ID (it may be spoofed).
  • Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. It’s worth doing so but it only weeds out some of the calls. It doesn’t block everything.
  • If you happen to answer a robocall, don’t give out personal information.
  • Click here to file a North Carolina complaint or call 844-8-NO-ROBO.
  • For more information and to file a federal complaint, click here.

(WATCH BELOW: New FCC regulations go into effect to cut down spoofed caller ID on robocalls)