DOUBLE THROWBACK THURSDAY: Robocalls didn’t stop in 2013

When you’ve been running the same blog for over ten years, you tend to see the same topics come up over and over again. Here’s one of those cases. In 2013, I wrote the article below.

Is today the last day of robocalls?

Let’s hope so. New rules go into effect today designed to end the practice of automated calling. If you’re one of those who cringes every time you get a call from a carpet cleaning company, this may just make your day. 

Ars Technica tells us that the Telephone Consumer Protection act now forbids any robocaller from reaching your cell via voice or text message unless you explicitly say it’s ok. The robocaller also has to give you the option to stop future calls at the very beginning of the message. If they don’t, they could be subject to a fine of up to $1,500 per call. That’s pretty stiff. The only downside is that the penalty applies only to calls for which you’re charged. If you have an unlimited calling plan, you can’t expect this to help you. It also doesn’t apply if you have an established relationship with the company.

The problem, of course, is enforcement. Calls can come from anywhere in the world over internet lines, far away from the FCC’s grasp. Even the companies that use these robot calling machines can be fly-by-night scam artists. So, it’s hard to say that this bill will really have a measurable effect on the number of calls or texts you get. 

Really, the question here is, why do these robot calls even exist? Is there anyone out there who is fooled by them? They must work at some level because if not, companies wouldn’t use them. But seriously, who is getting these calls and saying, “hey, a text message told me I won a trip to the Bahamas. Woo Hoo!”Hopefully, no one. Hopefully, not ever again.

That was 2013. Just three short years later, I wrote,

I don’t know about you but the number of robocalls and robotexts I get hasn’t dropped at all since then. Politicians have called me with increasing regularity and for some reason there’s a relatively large cadre of people who are completely convinced that my home qualifies for some sort of energy rebate which, I promise you it does not.

The issue with any sort of unwanted call isn’t just that the laws are still not strict enough, it’s that it’s impossible to enforce them. Even if there were some sort of global initiative to fight robocalls and make them illegal in every single country, there would be the matter of enforcement. Robocallers can make themselves virtually impossible to trace, and they can do so fairly easily.

There’s every possibility that someone somehow will figure out how to address the robocall epidemic, I suppose. I would never have thought that the huge spam problem we all faced about ten years ago would go away, but thanks to advanced filtering put in place by most ISPs, it’s not as bad. It’s not gone, but it’s not as bad. I find that only about 10% of my emails are spam now, at least the ones I actually see. There are probably several hundred I don’t see every single day and I don’t really care about that. If there were some way to block 90% of all robocalls, I would probably be fine with that too.

But in the meantime, there isn’t. So, I expect that in 2019, I’ll be writing another Throwback Thursday article, throwing back to this one, talking about how robocalls are still a problem. Stay tuned, I’ll see you there.

Here we are in 2022

I didn’t get around to writing an article about this in 2019, but the wheels have turned around again, and here I am. The robocall situation has stubbornly refused to get better. Cell carriers have put safeguards in place, and spammers have found ways around them. Landlines are hopelessly bogged down with robocalls, and the problem has migrated to text messages too. I’m willing to say it’s actually gotten worse in ten years.

One way the spammers have gotten around most restrictions is the use of real people using real burner phones to make spammy pitches. I can’t imagine this pays a lot. But obviously, some folks do it.

The sad thing is that robocalls and other unsolicited calls have all but killed voice calling in the ’20s. Be honest. Do you answer the phone if you don’t know who it is? Blame the spammers for that.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.