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Robocalls: The global web of scammers who are driving you nuts

Quartz: “It won’t surprise you to hear that robocalls—those insanely annoying pre-recorded messages that are blowing up our phones—have become an epidemic. In the United States, more than 8.5 billion robocalls are made each month, but it’s a global problem in more ways than one. How did we get here? It’s a tangled tale of outmoded phone networks being ruthlessly exploited by criminals, debt collectors, and Fortune 500 corporations, all thanks to sophisticated software and a global pool of cheap labor. So don’t blame it on the robots—this is a very human problem…But “Do Not Call” did nothing to address the groups who weren’t subject to those disincentives. For a start, that meant anyone who could access the internet from outside of the United States—and the law was passed just before the rise of internet telephony, which made international phone calls very, very cheap. The law also did nothing to stop criminals whose entire operations were illegal in the first place. If you’re a fraudster cheating old people out of their savings, a fine from the Federal Trade Commission is the least of your worries.

The Washington Post has a great story explaining this in more detail: “When you add your number to the list, nothing actually happens. No legal muscle or technological wizardry suddenly prevents a solicitor from calling you. All the list does is provide you with vague recourse in the event you are called, by allowing you to complain that someone has called you. So, you can report the violation by calling a toll-free number or filling out a form on the Do Not Call website. Then, if the number you were called from shows up in enough complaints, the FTC will leap into action and prosecute the offending dialer. “Except, it almost certainly won’t.”

So, the end result is that 15 years after Do Not Call was enacted, Americans are still getting billions of robocalls—including a large percentage from scammers and other shady operators, some in the US and some abroad…”

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