I-Team: How to stop annoying robo calls

The Federal Communications Commission says U.S. consumers got 2.4 billion robo calls a month last year. (WGME)

PORTLAND (WGME) -- The Federal Communications Commission says U.S. consumers got 2.4 billion robo calls a month last year.

They come at all hours of the day, to land lines and cell phones, sometimes even leaving behind a voicemail.

Dave Plummer is familiar with all of the most popular robo calls.

The Midcoast man answers everything out of habit, he said, and occasionally calls back.

He said it's annoying and foolish.

“It’s just irritating to have calls like that when you’ve got so many other things going on in your life, you know,” Plummer said.

Robo calls and telemarketing calls are consistently a top consumer complaint. It's one Maine Attorney General Janet Mills hears frequently.

“I complain myself,” Mills said. “You know, it’s the nuisance of 2017.”

According to the Federal Trade Commission, the number of complaints about unwanted telemarketing calls rose from 3.6 million in 2015, to more than 5.3 million in 2016.

“Legitimate telemarketers, if you're registered on the ‘do not call’ registry, they won't call you,” Mills said. “They know better and they know there's a pretty serious fine if they do call you.”

Mills said the illegal automated calls are coming from crooks who don't care to follow the rules.

“These are criminals off-shore and they're using something called voice over internet protocol, VOIP, which is really hard to block,” Mills said. “It's digitized, easy for them to route these calls all over the country without any regulation.”

Those callers, she said, are ultimately trying to get to your wallet.

“People have lost their life savings to these scams,” Mills said. “That money is leaving our homes, leaving our families, leaving our communities, leaving our state.”

While the FCC works toward solutions to stopping robo calls, there are some steps consumers can take themselves.

The easiest, said Mills, is simply not to answer.

“You will get repeated robo calls again and again and again they won’t stop, so don’t engage them,” Mills said.

There are also more and more apps that will block the calls. Nomorobo costs $2 a month, and Robo Killer 99 cents, both winners of the FTC’s Robocall Challenge.

Others like Privacy Star and Mr. Number are free, and have gotten good reviews.

“I know it’s a bit of a nuisance to do this, but it’s more of a nuisance to get these calls five, six, seven, 10 times a day, 10 times a week,” Mills said.

Plummer said it's something he'll consider.

“Sounds cool, I wasn’t aware of that,” Plummer said.

The FCC formed the Robocall Strike Force last August, which includes dozens of companies. The FCC is proposing to make it easier for phone providers to block robo callers using fake or spoofed caller ID numbers. That probably won't be finalized for another couple of months.

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