Syster was lucky: She outwitted the scammers, playing along until she got enough information to give to the FTC. But many fall prey to the scam, losing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
"This is much worse than annoyance," Greisman said. "These are illegal telemarketing pitches and our goal is to stop them." Greisman added that although many are largely illegal enterprises, there are some legitimate uses for robocalls, such as alerting parents to school closures or customers opting in to receive sales notifications.
"Retailers out there that may want to go to their best customers or go to any customer and say, 'Can we call you once a year or twice a year when we have our big event?' and that customer is more than happy to receive that prerecorded call," she said. "So there are legitimate commercial uses for them, but the vast majority we are seeing today are flat-out illegal."
Political robocalls are exempt from FTC laws. While cell phones, governed by the FCC not FTC, are always illegal to call with any prerecorded or autodialed message—even political—the only exception is if you have given express consent to be contacted.
Two crimes in one, the growing robocall itself and the fraudulent pitch that follows, and the only defense is not technical at all. Hang up.
Consumers can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry by going here.