What is a Vermont Robocall?
A robocall is an automated telephone call used to deliver a prerecorded message to a large audience. Robocalls employ computerized autodialers to send out recorded messages to recipients. Robocalls are often utilized by the government, public entities, telemarketers, and political organizations to deliver announcements or important notices. Such announcements include pre-recorded school announcements, general reminders of upcoming events, campaign advertisements, or emergency disaster warnings. Although robocalls are used for several useful purposes, many of the robocalls received by Vermonters are spam calls that are designed to swindle residents.
What are Vermont Robocall Scams?
Robocall scams in Vermont are illicit actions of fraudsters perpetrated using robocalls and targeted at stealing money or sensitive information from Vermonters. Robocalling is a huge attraction for scammers because the technology allows them to call thousands of Vermonters with little to no human interaction at minimal costs. A phone lookup service can help determine if an incoming call is a robocall.
With robocalls, businesses or telemarketers can include entire pre-recorded messages, offer pre-recorded messages after recipients respond in a certain way, or offer pre-recorded messages before transferring calls to live operators. This unique flexibility allows businesses to easily record messages offering products or services, send out thousands of calls at the same time, and monitor which calls may lead to a boost in sales.
In 2018, Vermont recorded an estimated 44 million robocalls. In 2019, more than 51 million robocalls were placed to residents in the state. This amounted to an average of 82 robocalls per resident in that year.
How are Robocalls Used in Vermont Scams?
Scammers deploy many tricks to get targets to answer robocalls. Through what is known as neighbor spoofing, crooked individuals generate phone numbers that appear local and familiar to Vermonters, thereby increasing the chances of recipients answering robocalls. For instance, a scammer who has obtained a specific list of telephone numbers may attempt to imitate a trustworthy or well-known number to targets, such as the Social Security Administration, a doctor, the IRS, or a local utility company.
Scammers can make these calls cheaply and quickly through Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) or internet-based calling software such as Skype and Google Talk. VoIP reduces geographic restrictions and removes the expense associated with landlines. VoIP-originated calls now make up more than 50% of reported robocalls.
Upon luring their targets into answering robocalls, scammers may instruct them to undertake fake surveys or press a certain number to talk to live agents. Whether targets choose to speak to live agents, take surveys, or do whatever biddings are suggested by scammers, the aim is to steal money or private information from unsuspecting Vermonters. Stolen sensitive information may later be used in identity thefts.
Does Vermont Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
Vermont does not have its own specific anti-robocall law. However, the state has telemarketing laws that guide the actions of telemarketers or telephone solicitors in the state. Vermont requires that any organization whose business activity in the state is limited to phone solicitation and meets the definition of telemarketer, be registered with the Office of the Secretary of State.
Under the telephone solicitation law, telemarketing calls are illegal unless the company represents a state-incorporated tax-exempt or nonprofit group, the call is made in response to a recipient's inquiry, or the caller has an established business relationship with the recipient. Violators of Vermont's telemarketing laws are liable to be imprisoned for up to 18 months or fined up to $10,000 or both.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in Vermont?
Although Vermont does not have anti-robocall laws, the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) adopted in the state provides ample protection for Vermonters who receive unsolicited telemarketing calls. The TCPA passed in 1991 was founded to restrict telemarketing calls and the use of automated telephone equipment, or autodialers. Based on the TCPA, Vermonters who have fallen victims to illegal calls can recover financial compensation.
Under the TCPA, telemarketers are required to:
- Avoid calling residences before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Avoid calling anyone on a company-specific do-not-call list. Individuals who have requested not to be called must have such requests honored for a minimum of five years.
- Refrain from calling anyone on the National Do Not Call Registry, except where the call includes no sales-related information.
- Provide call recipients with their name, a telephone number, an address, and the name of the person or entity they are placing the call for.
- Avoid using any recording or artificial recording to solicit business
- Refrain from using faxes to advertise
- Avoid using autodialing to call two or more lines of a multi-line business
- Avoid using automated equipment to call an emergency line. This includes 911, doctors' offices, and hospitals
Every violation of the TCPA is worth $500 in a robocall lawsuit, except where the caller violated the law in a willful or knowing manner. If a court determines that the Act has been violated willfully or knowingly, the civil penalty triples to $1,500.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Robocalls are increasingly more efficient and harder to track due to spoofing, VoIP, and other advancements in technology helping scammers mask their true identities or calls' origins. Although caller identification technologies have previously helped call recipients screen unwanted calls, technologies that block numbers or insert a fraudulent number prevent caller identification from successfully eliminating robocalls.
One measure that Vermonters may use to limit these disruptive and annoying calls is to use reverse phone number lookup tools to identify robocalls and avoid falling victim to phone scams. Other steps that may be taken are listed below.
- Hang up on calls from unknown callers. Do not answer calls with unfamiliar caller IDs
- Hang up on robocalls. If you unknowingly answer a call and hear a prerecorded message, hang up immediately. Do not press any number to get removed from any list or to speak with a live agent
- Do not give out personal or financial information over a telephone call.
- Set your phone to block unwanted calls. The setting is available on both Android and iOS devices.
- Contact your telephone service provider to inquire about available tools to deal with robocalls.
- Download and install a third-party call-blocking application, such as Nomorobo, YouMail, Hiya, or Truecaller. These applications are available on the Android and iOS application stores.
- Register with the National Do Not Call Registry.
- File a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission or the Federal Communications Commission online. You may also file a complaint by calling the FTC on 1-877-382-4357 and the FCC on 1-888-225-5322