GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. — It’s relentless. Day in and day out, our phones are inundated with calls. Some seeming helpful, offering to lower your interest rate or help with your student loans.
Others are threatening, trying to trick consumers into believing the government is discontinuing social security benefits or the IRS needs to talk to you.
And it’s getting worse.
In April alone, it's estimated Americans received 4.4 billion robocalls, more than 6 million an hour, 1,700 every second.
About 41% of them were scam calls, according to robotracker.com.
And all too often, vulnerable people become victims.
Angela Stancik says her grandmother was one of those victims. “There had to have been phone call, after phone call, after phone call, in order for them to get to her,” she said.
Stancik says her grandmother was hounded by a ring based in Costa Rica. They didn’t stop until she’d mortgaged her house and cashed out her life insurance, leaving her with just $69 in her bank account.
Desperate, Angela’s grandmother took her own life.
“She was violated in every way. From losing all of her money and her life. They robbed it from her. Everything,” Stancik said.
And while her case may be extreme, she is not alone in being targeted or deceived.
Will Maxson with Federal Trade Commission says he gives his family this advice.
“If you’re number’s not on the ‘Do Not Call’ list, put your number on the ‘Do Not Call’ list,” he said.
But wait – haven’t we done that already? Why is the phone still ringing?
“It is not going to stop you from getting calls from scammers that are telling you they’re with the IRS or the Social Security Administration,” Maxson said “You know, those people are engaged in essentially hardcore fraud.”
Maxson recommends asking your phone carrier what call blocking or call labeling services they provide.
Try downloading a call blocking app. There are a lot of free ones out there.
If you happen to answer a robocall, he says, don’t press any buttons or engage. Just hang up.
And Maxson says, as fruitless as it may seem, when you get an illegal robocall, tell the FTC about it.
“The more complaints we get, the easier it is for us to locate the people who are making those calls.”
Finally, experts say keep an eye on elderly or vulnerable family members and ask to check in on their finances.