Patrick Weber, chief of the Federal Communication Commission’s Consumer Bureau, says spam phone calls are their number one consumer complaint, and Consumer Reports estimates that 70 percent of people no longer answer calls they do not recognize.

 These callers offer you loans or threaten you with jail time for not paying your federal taxes or missing jury duty. By some estimates, they make up a quarter of all calls in the United States. As the problem continues to grow, it is causing a whole new set of nuisances for people. A writer states that he gets hundreds of unwanted spam calls every month. He also receives calls from people he knows that accuse him of making spam calls to them.

 The writer says people call asking, "Do I know you?" or "Why did you wake me up?"  He tells them that he did not place any of the calls and figured that fraudsters used spoofing software to trick caller IDs into making it appear that the calls came from his number. He has to explain this over and over to angry people calling him back. There is an irony here, he says. The cellphone has become our everything -- wallet, photo album, game arcade, movie theater, computer and music entertainment center. Now it is also becoming less appealing as a device for receiving phone calls.

A solution?

 Government regulators and industry leaders are working hard to find ways to stop these calls. SAV is seeing some movement toward a solution. It is believed this is due to consumer backlash backed by legislation and the industry’s response to the problem. FCC has mandated that phone companies start blocking Robocalls by default, while allowing the consumer the option to opt-out.

The FCC, which regulates phone companies, itself has been targeted by spoofing and Robocalls. Now that has received a lot of attention! Congress and government agencies have moved toward stopping illegal Robocalls, and a solution may already be in place by some service providers. Spoofing numbers is a trick to convince consumers that they are being called from real government agencies like the FCC or IRS. Ajit Pai, the Chairman of FCC, has demanded that all US phone carriers put in place new technology to authenticate real calls and flag potential spam calls by the end of 2019.

Phone spam is so big that a sub-industry has evolved to combat the problem. An example is Hiya, a Seattle technology startup which has designed ways to block spam calls and is tracking U.S. calls on giant computer monitors. Jonathan Nelson, director of product management, says consumers are adapting by not answering their phone and letting calls go to voicemail, exactly what we at SAV recommend.

Call the Pima County Sheriff’s Auxiliary Volunteers with information about scams and frauds. To contact the ScamSquad directly, 9 am to noon Monday through Friday, call (520) 351-6715, or email: scamsquad@gvsav.org. To report suspicious activity or a particular incident of fraud (which is a scam involving a loss of money) call (520) 351-4900. If you are interested in becoming a Sheriff's Auxiliary Volunteer, please email gvsavrecruiting@gmail.com for an application or call (520) 351-6746.

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