Why pesky robocalls have gotten so intense in North Carolina

Why pesky robocalls have gotten so intense in North Carolina

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

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It’s not just your imagination. Robocalls have gotten more intense in recent months and weeks in North Carolina.

One of the tactics scammers often use these days is something called spoofing. It’s when they assume a number you’re familiar with (like your employer or sibling or friend) to disguise the real number they’re calling from.

What’s happening: These robocalls tend to pick up before the holidays because scammers want to take advantage of people’s generosity, as well as the fact that people are doing a lot of shopping from home, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein tells Axios.

  • Combating robocalls has been a significant priority for Stein’s office.
  • Common themes of these scams include offers of credit card/auto loan relief and home mortgage insurance.

Additionally, there’s been a pickup in scam calls touting student loan relief, Stein adds. That’s because repayments are expected to start back up in February.

“People need to be aware that the scammers absolutely will exploit whatever is the news of the day to try to rip people off,”  Stein says.

Driving the news: The Federal Communication Commission recently mandated that big phone companies require each call on their network that displays on your caller ID actually be from the number that the call is originating from. This effectively makes it very hard or impossible for scammers to originate spoofing calls from large phone networks.

  • The technology to combat these spoofing calls is called Stir/Shaken, as CNET reported.
  • The federal government gave smaller phone companies until June 2023 to become compliant. Scammers have therefore been using those smaller companies for spoofing calls.
  • Last week, Stein lead a bipartisan coalition of 50 other attorneys general to speed up the deadline for compliance to June 2022 for small phone companies.

“This will give law enforcement much better tools to identify and go after these wrongdoers,” Stein says.

He adds: “The reason the calls exist is not to annoy us; it’s to find vulnerable people and steal from them.”

  • Over a one-year period, robocallers robbed Americans of nearly $30 billion, according to a June survey by TrueCaller and The Harris Poll, per CNET.

By the numbers: From the start of 2021 through September, North Carolinians filed 129,163 complaints regarding robocall and live caller violations of the Do Not Call Registry, federal data show.

  • In all of 2020, people here filed a total of 131,792 complaints, per federal data.

Of note: You can report scam and robocalls online at www.ncdoj.gov/norobo or by phone to 1-844-8-NO-ROBO (1-844-866-7626).

Here are a few other details to know about robocalls:

  • Don’t answer calls from any unknown number, experts warn.
  • There’s a tactic called jury duty scamming wherein a scammer pretends to be a court official informing the call recipient that they failed to appear for court. They tell them they can avoid jail time by paying a fine over the phone via credit or debit card. Often these calls appear to come from official sources such as the sheriff or county courthouse.
  • A government agent will never demand a payment over the phone and threaten arrest if they don’t get it, per Stein’s office.
  • Robocalls mostly originate from outside the U.S., Stein says.
  • Oftentimes scammers ask people to pay them via gift cards. “If anybody ever asks you money via a gift card, they are a criminal,” Stein adds.
  • Elderly people are often — but not always — the victims of scams stemming from robocalls.

“I know of one woman in Raleigh who earlier this year lost over a million dollars, so pretty much her entire life savings,” Stein says. “It’s truly heartbreaking.”

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