Robocalls selling you a product are illegal. Period.

When you get an unsolicited sales robocall the company on the other end is breaking the law. And the FTC is so serious about fighting robocalls it is offering $50,000 to whoever can come up with a solution to end them.

In a report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from November 2012, the Federal Trade Commission escalated its campaign against illegal, unwanted robocalls announcing that it pulled the plug on five companies based in Arizona and Florida allegedly responsible for millions of illegal pre-recorded calls from “Rachel” and others from “Cardholder Services.”  These companies allegedly deceived consumers into paying hundreds or thousands of dollars by making phony claims that they could reduce credit card interest rates in return for an upfront fee.

“At the FTC, Rachel from Cardholder Services is public enemy number one,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in a release announcing the action against the firms.  “We’re cracking down on illegal robocalls by bringing law enforcement actions and pursuing technical solutions to the problem.”

Michigan State University Extension prioritizes educational efforts in protecting consumers, and one of the biggest consumer complaints Extension staff members hear about are the amount of annoying robocalls Michigan residents receive.

The FTC reports that they get more than 200,000 complaints each month about telemarketing robocalls, including calls from “Rachel” that pitch consumers with an easy way to save money by reducing their credit card interest rates.  

Under the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule, most of the calls that are delivered via a prerecorded message trying to sell something are illegal. The FTC says that if the recording is a sales message (not a call from your healthcare provider or a charity), and you haven’t given your written permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the call is illegal. Period.  These “robocalls” are illegal even if your phone number is not registered on the National Do Not Call Registry

The FTC has issued a challenge to the public offering a $50,000 cash prize for the best technical solution to block illegal robocalls on landlines and mobile phones.

What should you do if you get a robocall?

  • Hang     up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t     press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by     pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
  • Consider     contacting your phone provider and asking them to block the     number, and whether they charge for that service. Remember that     telemarketers change Caller ID information easily and often, so it might     not be worth paying a fee to block a number that will change.
  • Report     your experience to the FTC online at www.donotcall.gov or by     calling 1-888-382-1222.

To learn more about illegal robocalls and what the FTC is doing to stop them, visit ftc.gov/robocalls. In addition the FTC provides two consumer education videos explaining robocalls and describing what consumers should do when they receive one

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