A robocall is a telephone communication in which a machine originates a voice call intended for a human being to answer. The voice call contains a pre-recorded message which is usually transmitted to a large audience. The machine which is an autodialer consists of hardware and software designed to automate call set-up in a manner in which a human being need not dial digits. Most robocallers use real persons to record the messages, hence, it is quite rare to hear a robot voice on the other end of the line.
Robocalls help users deliver messages quickly. This significance has led to an increase in the number of robocalls placed to Tennesseans. Modern technological development has made setting up robocall systems relatively easy and affordable, which has seen many businesses and entities using robocalls regularly.
What are Tennessee Robocall Scams?
Robocalls are useful in many instances such as where the government wants to deliver announcements and public notices to citizens or where a political organization desires to make campaign advertisements to the voting population. Despite possible legitimate uses of robocalls, many of the instances of robocalls received by Tennesseans originate from persons looking to steal money or obtain private information from unsuspecting residents.
Robocalling is a huge attraction to scammers because it allows them to place thousands of calls to targets at minimal costs and with little to no human interaction needed. A phone lookup service can help determine if an incoming call is a robocall.
Over 1.7 billion robocalls were placed to residents in Tennessee in 2019, more than double 2017 figures. As of November 2020, over 1.3 billion robocalls have been received by Tennessee residents, an average of 223.3 robocalls per person.
How are Robocalls Used in Tennessee Scams?
Robocall scammers use many tricks to lure Tennesseans into divulging sensitive information or obtaining money. The pre-recorded message delivered by a robocall may instruct a recipient to press a certain number to speak with a live agent. Some robocalls use this tactic to ascertain which phone numbers are active and may be targeted for more robocalls. When the recipient speaks to a live agent who doubles as the scammer, the fraudster tries one of many tactics, such as trying to sell a bogus investment scheme, offering a highly discounted service or product, or impersonating a trusted individual or entity.
Some robocall messages try to lure residents into undertaking a survey which may be supposed for updating existing records or registering for a newly improved service or product. Robocalls may be combined with caller ID spoofing technology which allows users to falsify or transmit inaccurate caller ID information to recipients. With caller ID spoofing, robocallers can impersonate trusted sources, such as banks, government agencies, or utility companies. Many robocallers use scare tactics to threaten victims into sending money or obtaining valuable items.
Does Tennessee Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
The federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) restricts robocalls at a federal level and protects all residents in the United States. In addition, Tennessee has a statewide robocall law. Chapter 18 of Title 47 and Chapter 4 of Title 65 of the Tennessee Code sets guidelines for consumer telemarketing protection and telephone solicitation in the state.
According to Tennessee Code 47-18-1502 (Consumer Telemarketing Protection law), it is unlawful for any person to use, employ or direct another person to use an ADAD equipment for the purpose of advertising or offering for sale, lease, rental, or as a gift any goods, services or property.
The Tennessee Do-Not-Call Telephone Sales Solicitation law. T.C.A. Section 65-4-401 et seq., prohibits anyone attempting to sell consumer goods and services by telephone from calling telephone numbers that are registered on the "Do-Not-Call" List. However, there are some exemptions:
- Telephone solicitors may still call in response to an express invitation or consent by the person being called.
- Solicitors may call on behalf of a not-for-profit organization if the call is made by a member of the specific not-for-profit organization.
- Soliciting is allowed if the person or entity making the telephone call has had a business relationship with the person being called within the previous twelve (12) months
- Solicitation is permitted if the business calling does not sell or engage in telephone solicitation and does not make more than three calls in any one calendar week.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in Tennessee?
Robocalls must follow certain guidelines to be considered legitimate in Tennessee. These provisions are there to help residents make the right distinctions between legitimate robocalls and scam robocalls. In Tennessee, it is illegal for a person to use, employ, or direct another individual to use an automatic dialing-announcing device under the following situations:
- Prior consent has not been received with respect to the calls being placed
- Such use is other than between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
- The ADAD equipment operated unattended, or is not designed and equipped with an automatic clock and calendar device that it will not operate unattended, even in cases of power failure
- Such use involved either random or sequential dialing of telephone numbers
- The automatic dialing and recorded message do not automatically and immediately terminate its connection with any telephone call within ten seconds after the recipient fails to give consent for the playing of recorded messages or replaces the receiver on the person's telephone
- The recorded message fails to clearly state the name and telephone number of the individual or entity initiating the call within the first 25 seconds of the call and at the conclusion of the call
- Such use involves calls made to hospitals, nursing homes, fire protection agencies, or law enforcement agencies
- Such calls involve calls made to telephone numbers which at the request of the customer, have been omitted from the telephone directory published by the telephone company or cooperative serving the customer
Live telephone solicitors are required to provide a telephone number that will be answered when telephone solicitations are made. The persons answering the call must be willing to provide information concerning the solicitation call.
Violations of the Tennessee telephone solicitation laws can result in civil actions which include civil forfeitures.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Robocalls intended for scamming residents are on the increase. Phone users are getting more reluctant to accept calls from unrecognized numbers which leaves honest callers in a tight spot. In recent years, unwanted telemarketing robocalls have been the number one source of consumer complaints to the FTC and FCC which has resulted in millions in consumer losses.
Identifying robocalls has become harder in recent years with caller ID spoofing now used to mask the true sources of robocalls. Caller ID was adopted by telephone service providers to identify the source of incoming calls, however, robocallers from outside Tennessee can now spoof caller ID to make it appear to Tennesseans like robocalls are originating from local areas within the state. Reverse phone number lookup can help phone users identify robocalls and avoid falling victims to robocall scams
Tennessee residents may take the following steps to limit disruptive and annoying robocalls.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you answer a call and hear a pre-recorded message, hang up immediately. Do not press any number to speak with live agents.
- Do not trust the information on your caller ID display. With spoofing technology, calls with true origins outside of Tennessee can appear with local area codes.
- Do not provide or confirm personal or financial information to anyone over the phone.
- Request your phone provider to block numbers associated with robocalls.
- Download and install a third-party call-blocking application on your mobile phone such as Nomorobo, Truecaller, Hiya, or YouMail.
- Report robocalls online to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call 1 (888) 382-1222. You can also file complaints online with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
- Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the FTC. Registration is free and can be done by calling 888-382-1222 from the number you intend to register or online. Registering your phone number exempts you from receiving illegal telemarketing calls. If you get a robocall after 31 days of registration, it is probably from a scammer.