What is a West Virginia Robocall?
Robocalls are automated phone calls that convey recorded messages to called parties with the use of computer software known as autodialers. These calls are unwanted and unsolicited, and they are the top customer complaints to the FTC every year. They are inundating, annoying, and intrusive. Individuals and businesses in West Virginia use robocalls for varying purposes, which may be either legitimate or not. Robocalls are telemarketers' best means of promoting their clients' products and services. Political campaign groups reach out to West Virginians in times of elections using these types of calls. Similarly, it is common for the West Virginia government to make public announcements using robocalls, especially in times of emergencies or disasters.
Spam calls are a variant of robocalls. These try to sell fake products and services to residents without their express permission. They are usually targeted at ripping off call recipients but reverse phone lookup services can help identify them. The Public Service Commission of West Virginia (PSC) does not regulate solicitation calls in West Virginia.
What are West Virginia Robocall Scams?
A robocall scam is a fraudulent act committed by an individual or a group of persons using an automated phone call, otherwise known as a robocall. West Virginians can avoid these phone scams by running suspicious numbers through applications that offer phone lookup services. Doing this will enable them to find out if such calls are robocalls. By their nature, robocalls can disseminate information to a mass audience at relatively cheap costs to its users and with minimal human input. These are the reasons phone scammers employ them in their deceptive schemes.
In 2019, West Virginia recorded over 167 million robocalls, a 55% increase from 2018, many of which were targeted at ripping off residents. West Virginians filed a total of 15,211 robocall complaints with the FTC in 2018. As of October 2020, more than 108 million robocalls have been placed in the state, February being the month with the highest number of calls.
How are Robocalls Used in West Virginia Scams?
Phone scammers use robocalls to find out the status of phone numbers. They randomly dial numbers to identify the active ones for future fraudulent engagements with phone owners. When used for this purpose, the automated voice may instruct the call recipient to press a particular key to opt-out of receiving such calls. It is a ploy to establish the current status of that number. If you get such a call, hang up immediately.
To fool West Virginians, phone scammers disguise the Caller ID information that shows up on call recipients' phones through a process known as phone spoofing. The ability to spoof Caller IDs is another reason phone scammers favor using robocalls to perpetrate fraud. It enables them to change identities without restraints, making hunting them down challenging for law enforcement agencies. Scammers mostly spoof the Caller IDs of legitimate businesses who have over time gained the trust of residents. They also falsify Caller IDs to make them appear as government agencies when preying on their targets. Once they establish trust, scammers move all-in and ask their targets for sensitive information and also request money via odd payment channels.
Does West Virginia Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
Although West Virginia does not have a specific anti-robocall law, section 46A-6F-401 of the West Virginia Telemarketing Act speaks on the prohibition of abusive telemarketing practices. One of these practices includes calling persons who did not previously request such calls. Telemarketers are widely known for contacting residents with robocalls without their prior permission. The Attorney General enforces this law and fines any erring telemarketer a penalty of up to $3,000. It is also illegal for telemarketers to call West Virginians who have been on the National Do Not Call Registry for 31 days.
In 2019, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and other states Attorneys General held discussions with some phone companies. The essence of the meeting was to commit them to hasten the deployment of scam blocking technology. All Attorney Generals reached a cross-party agreement that led to 12 telephone companies adopting eight anti-robocall principles to curb illegal robocalls. These principles seek to protect residents and foster easy investigations of persons engaging in unlawful robocalling. The phone companies in attendance assured the Attorney Generals of incorporating these set of rules into their business practices. They include:
- Analyzing network traffic to identify and monitor patterns consistent with robocalls.
- Providing easy-to-use call-blocking and labeling tools for consumers at no charge.
- Implementing the STIR/SHAKEN call authentication technology.
- Providing prompt responses to traceback requests from law enforcement during investigations.
- Communicating identified scams and trends in illegal robocalling to state Attorneys General.
- Investigating suspicious calls and calling patterns taking place over their networks.
Persons who are victims of illegal robocalls can report their encounters online to the Federal Trade Commission. West Virginians can identify robocalls and avoid scams using reverse phone lookup services.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in West Virginia?
Yes. There are special requirements for robocalls in West Virginia. Robocalls that fall short of these standards are deemed illegal and out to defraud residents. Phone lookup applications can help identify these calls and prevent scams. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), enacted in 1991, regulates phone solicitations and gives the FCC the right to stop unsolicited phone calls. The TCPA specifies that unless call recipients give prior permission, callers cannot do the following while using robocalls:
- Use artificial voice or recording to call residents.
- Call residents before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m their local time.
- Call persons whose phone numbers are registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Contact residents without giving their names and phone numbers or identify persons on whose behalf they are calling.
There are a couple of exemptions to these requirements. Provided the callers observe the TCPA rules, calls from polling organizations, legitimate charities, and market research companies are allowed without call recipients' prior consent.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Robocalls, apart from being annoying and inundating, have high tendencies of victimizing called parties. The most reliable way to avoid scams arising from robocalls is to decline calls from unknown numbers. The FTC provides tips on how to block unwanted calls. Reverse phone lookup services also help to distinguish robocalls from live calls. Phone scammers typically defy set rules on robocalls, making it hard for phone users to eliminate them. However, you can reduce the number of robocalls coming through your phone by taking the following actions:
- If you answer a call and discover it is a robocall, end it immediately. Do not interact with robocalls to avoid getting scammed.
- Sign up on the National Do Not Call Registry managed by the FTC using your phone number. Doing this will not stop all robocalls, but legitimate telemarketers will stop calling you. Hence, you can easily decipher a robocall scam. To register, dial 1 (888) 382-1222 from the number you intend to add to the registry or use the online form.
- File complaints of suspected or identified robocalls online with the FTC and FCC. The FCC especially takes complaints on spoofed robocalls. To contact the FTC and FCC by phone, call 1 (888) 382-1222 and 1 (888) 225-5322, respectively.
- Never provide your number when registering for anything on the internet if you do not trust such a website.
- Block robocalls by using third-party call-blocking applications such as Truecaller, Hiya, and Nomorobo. You can download these applications from your phone's online store.