Weekly Stories from You: Joel Shares His Robocalls Nightmare at Press Conference for ROBOCOP Act

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

JoelOn Wednesday April 13, Representative Jackie Speier introduced a bill, the ROBOCOP Act, that would require phone companies to offer their customers free tools to block robocalls. Robocalls from public safety agencies or calls that a customer consents to receive would not be blocked. Phone customers would have to opt in to take advantage of the tools, leaving that choice entirely up to them. End Robocalls supporter Joel was on hand at the press conference announcing the bill. There, as you can see in the pictures here, Joel shared this robocall nightmare:

I have been asked today to speak for “the consumer.” Please know that I am speaking for myself, but that what I am describing today may well illustrate what many others are experiencing.

We have elderly cousins living in the area. They tell me they get upwards of a dozen unwanted calls a day, over half at dinnertime.

My day begins every morning around 9 am with “Out of Area, Private Caller.” In our home we are inundated with robocalls throughout the day on our landline, even though it is registered with the DO NOT CALL registry. I am also getting several calls a day on my cell phone line, which is also registered. I no longer answer either phone if I do not recognize the incoming caller.

Some of these calls are sinister, such as the collection company that leave a VM [voicemail] that the IRS is taking me to court unless I call them back immediately. Doesn’t make much sense, but some people fall for it.

I did fall for something else. I was having a problem with my Outlook email and sent an inquiry to the Microsoft discussion forum. A short time later a caller with an 800 number identified himself as calling about my Microsoft software. It was only after about two hours with the caller going through my computer, and after I agreed to an annual service contract, did I realize I was being taken. The caller said he was calling from California but he more likely was in Bangalore. Did this call have anything to do with my Microsoft inquiry? I don’t know.

A short time later, my wife discovered that our Homeaway account was hacked. Inquiries into our rental property in Delaware were being diverted into an account that we were able to trace to a storefront in London. I don’t know how many people forked over money to this London storefront before we succeeded in shutting this scam down.

Is there a connection between the Homeaway hacking and the deceptive “Microsoft” call? We have no way of knowing, but to manage this mischief someone had to get into my account, probably through my computer.

My phone rings while I am drafting this statement. The caller ID readout says: “Name Unavailable 1-800-531-1806.”

Robocalls, in fact all solicitation calls, have changed our relationship with the telephone. Once a friendly communication device, it has become an intrusion. With caller ID, we no longer have to answer the phone, but we do have to drop everything to see who is calling. When that does on incessantly throughout the day, it becomes abuse – and worse for those who are taken by scammers.

Sick and tired of robocalls? Join Joel and the more than 600,000 others who are part of the End Robocalls campaign. Through End Robocalls, consumers across the country are working together to get the nation’s top phone companies offer their customers free call-blocking tools to stop unwanted robocalls. Join the movement here: www.endrobocalls.org.


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