The #1 Consumer Complaint: How Did You Get My Phone Number?

It's not your imagination: Robocalls have tripled in the past year.

For maybe 10 or 12 blissful years, having a cell phone was as good as being “unlisted” in the phone book. It was rare, at least for me, to contend with unsolicited junk. That’s what my email was for.

Well, times are changing, and you’ve probably noticed. According to Bloomberg, there were 2.42 billion robocalls in the U.S. in July, which is almost triple from a year earlier. They are the No. 1 consumer complaint received by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, as the robotic jerks on the other end of the line try to trick you into providing bank account numbers or other personal information. And if you think you’re protected by the government’s “Do Not Call Registry,” you’ll be discouraged to hear that many of these robocall criminal enterprises have outsmarted the system by originating the calls outside the U.S. and routing them so they appear to be from inside the country.

Nomorobo is software that scans incoming landline calls and compares them against its robocaller database, which adds about 1,100 numbers a day. Nomorobo recently blocked more than 670,000 calls in a single day, according to its founder. Other technology, like that employed by Primus Telecommunications intercepts calls before the customer’s phone rings, then identifies the caller and gives the customer a choice to accept or reject or send to voice-mail. It also asks callers to dial a digit -- something robocallers can’t do -- and identify themselves., and has intercepted 80 million calls.

Big players like Apple and Google are also monkeying with their operating systems to give consumers better ability to block certain calls, and Congress is even getting into the mix, where at least two bills has been introduced this year mandating blocking technology to curb the calls.

Hardware and software makers have also combined forced to form the Robocall Strike Force, whose chairman is AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson. More than 30 companies including Apple, Google, Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. have pledged to develop an action plan by Oct. 19 that includes driving adoption of call-blocking technologies and standards.

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