(WSVN) - It happens all the time. Unsolicited robocalls blowing up your phone. Now the question: Legally, how do you stop them? Let’s dial up Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser for the connection.
When Fernando was a young man, he was told he had cancer in his leg.
Fernando Lopez: “The tumor was bleeding. That’s why I got the pain.”
His doctor said, “You can keep your leg, but if the treatment doesn’t work, the cancer might spread and kill you, or …”
Fernando Lopez: “‘Well, the best thing that I suggest you do is the surgery to remove the whole leg.'”
Fernando said, “Remove the leg.”
Forty-three years later, he is glad he did.
Fernando Lopez: “And I was free of cancer, so I think I took a good decision.”
Fernando was able to get rid of cancer, but years later, what he can’t get rid of are these constant phone calls.
Fernando Lopez: “It’s unbelievable. Not only me, it’s to a lot of friends. Calling and calling and calling.”
On some calls, no one is there. On others, they want his personal information.
Fernando Lopez: “‘Fernando, what is your social security number?’ I said, ‘Oh, boy. Here we go.'”
On other calls, he is threatened.
Fernando Lopez: “‘If you don’t take action from this number, we are going to take legal action.’ What the hell? Legal action for what? ‘Listen, go to hell,’ and I hung up.”
That makes Fernando feel better, but it doesn’t stop the phone calls.
Fernando Lopez: “Useless. It is useless.”
Fernando got in touch with Florida’s Do Not Call Registry to let them know what people were doing to him.
Fernando Lopez: “You know what they told me? ‘Oh, no. You are on the list already!’ Yeah, I’m on the list already, but they still calling me.”
And the calls keep coming.
Fernando Lopez: “Annoying.”
Well, Howard, legally, can you stop these calls to your phone?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “Legally, yes, ’cause it’s illegal to do, but in reality, you can’t stop the callers because many are crooks, and they don’t care about breaking the law. All they want to do is trick you into giving them some personal information to steal your money and identity, and because of their manipulation of technology, they are almost impossible to track down and catch.”
Even the Federal Trade Commission realizes that despite nailing over 600 people and companies for billions of illegal robocalls, the calls continue, and now the government is running contests, asking tech whizzes to design tools to block robocalls and help investigators track down the crooks.
Howard Finkelstein: “Not only should you never give any information to these callers, don’t even hit a button no matter what they tell you, even if it’s to tell you to remove you from their calling list. It’s a trick that tells them the number is a live number, so they will keep calling you.”
Fernando will try anything to try to avoid the calls, and he hopes older people in particular do the same.
Fernando Lopez: “All these senior citizens that they don’t know and get nervous and give this information to these people.”
The Federal Trade Commission has some tips and tricks on how to slow down or stop those robocalls.
There are apps from the phone companies to help you recognize a robocall is on the line, and even though the state and national do-not-call lists don’t stop the crooks, they do stop many legitimate companies from bugging you.
Calling for help and not getting an answer? Ready to block the problem out? Get a dial tone and give us a ring. ‘Cause our phone is never off the hook.
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