In the midst of an epidemic of robocalls and spoofing scams, lawyers need to be vigilant about telephone communications with clients.
Robocalls, spam calls and other unwanted phone contacts are skyrocketing, according to the latest government statistics. And preventive steps like call-blocking apps and Do Not Call registries aren’t always effective.
“In 2018, about 26.3 billion robocalls were placed to cellphones and landlines — roughly seven calls per month per person,” writes Allyson Nugent on the website Ozy. “If that’s not enough to make you want to go off the grid, consider this: the number of robocalls in the U.S. increased an estimated 41.3 percent from 2017-2018.”
Even worse, robocallers are becoming increasingly sophisticated at spoofing actual numbers so that the recipient thinks the call is from a legitimate source. The risk is that confidential information will be inadvertently divulged over the phone, or that a client will erroneously think an illegal call was actually placed by you.
The Federal Communications Commission is cracking down by slapping robocallers with millions of dollars in fines, allowing phone companies block suspicious calls in advance, and developing better ways to reduce spoofing.
Read the FCC’s February 2019 “Report on Robocalls” here.
85 Billion Robocalls and Counting
If it seems like every time your phone rings it’s another telemarketer, you’re not imagining things.
The FCC estimates that 1,500 robocalls are received every second in the U.S. alone. And the rate has been rising astronomically. Consider these statistics: in 2017, an estimated 3.7 percent of calls were spam. That figure rose to 29.2 percent in 2018, and this year close to half of all calls you receive will be spam.
“And if you think things are better abroad, think again,” says Ozy. “The caller ID company Hiya recently reported that it flagged 85 billion robocalls globally in 2018, an increase of a whopping 325 percent.”
Meanwhile, the FCC has been playing catch-up
“Unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls - are the FCC’s top consumer complaint and our top consumer protection priority,” the commission says in its February report. “In addition, complaints are on the rise from consumers whose numbers are being spoofed or whose calls are being mistakenly blocked or labeled as a possible scam call by a robocall blocking app or service.”
Some Risk Management Tips
The best way to avoid telephone spam is to not answer calls from a number you don’t recognize. If you do answer, hang up immediately. But sometimes it’s hard to know right off if the call is real or not. And it only takes seconds for the scammers to seize your number.
Here are 10 other safety tips recommended by the FCC:
- Be aware. Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
- If you answer the phone and the caller - or a recording - asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, hang up. Scammers use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Do not respond to any questions.
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, or passwords.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the agency’s phone number to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
- Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
- If you use robocall-blocking technology, it helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
- To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling numbers on the list.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. Today he helps lawyers and firms succeed through marketing, work-life balance and reclaiming passion for what they do. He is available for consultations, retreats and presentations (www.yourlawlife.com). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-619-2441 to learn how Jay can help your practice.