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FTC fighting against the aggravation of robocall scams

Scammers are crooks who say and do anything to steal money from seniors. Scammers are anything but dumb, though, and continue to capitalize on every advance in technology to spread fraud far and wide with impunity.

The heart of many a scam lies in “robocalls,” which are phone calls made by computerized autodialers to deliver a pre-recorded message. The Federal Communications Commission estimates American consumers now get more than 4 billion robocalls every month.

The rising tide of robocalls comes along with more technology to easily insert fake information on your phone’s caller I.D. screen. A great share of robocalls originate from overseas, using American-based “gateway” providers to funnel robocalls into telephone systems serving the United States.

Who is fighting back?

The Federal Trade Commission is the lead government agency working to protect seniors from robocalls. Working with state and federal law enforcement agencies, the FTC has started a crackdown called “Operation Stop Scam Calls.” The FTC has started 180 actions against fraudulent telemarketers and American telecom operators delivering foreign robocalls to U.S. citizens. The fines and penalties for the companies involved are heavy.

The success of robocall enforcement hinges on our willingness to report illegal robocalls to the FTC.

You have received an illegal robocall when the voice is a recorded message, not a live phone call, and that voice is trying to sell you anything. Some robocalls are legal, such as political messages, or a call from a medical provider or pharmacy.

When you do get an illegal robocall, hang up and don’t press any numbers. Report the call to the FTC at DoNotCall.gov, and include the number that received the call, the number on your caller I.D., and the number you are told to call back.

If you think the number on your caller I.D. is fake, report it anyhow. The FTC distributes this information every day, helping phone companies to block illegal robocalls, and finding the crooks behind these operations.

Remember the basic rules when your phone rings. If something sounds too good to be true, hang up. Never pay anything with a gift card, and if anyone is calling from the government, hang up. The government never calls.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and plan to spend at least a day at the Canfield Fair. It’s the biggest and best county fair in the state, and something we’ve been doing in the Valley for 177 years. Check out the cows, roosters and giant pumpkins. Eat a corn dog (maybe two).

It’s one place where you don’t have to worry about scams for one hot afternoon.

If you have a question on a theft or any possible scam, talk to a family member or call your local police department. Seniors can also call their county Senior Services Unit for more information about scams. In Mahoning County, call Bob Schaeffer at 330-480-5078. In Trumbull County, call Don Hyde at 330-675-7096.

Dave Long of Poland, a Youngstown State University graduate, is a retired public affairs officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection who later worked as an Elder Scam Prevention Outreach specialist in Rochester, N.Y.

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