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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: Robocalls' impact on people in the Tennessee Valley

In a week-long series of special investigative reports, our WAAY 31 I-Team shows you how massive the problem of robocalls has become, how it's affecting you and what's being done to stop the spam calls.

Posted: May 6, 2019 5:59 PM
Updated: May 10, 2019 12:01 PM

We all get them. They steal our time, peace of mind and sometimes money. 

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall calls robocalls harassment, and he's joined dozens of states to find out what can be done to stop them.

All week, the WAAY 31 I-Team will take a look at how robocalls impact us and what you can do to restore your peace.

“Can you say,’Hi,’ Neeley? Can you wave?” Going for a spin is a morning ritual for Caroline Terry and her 10-month-old daughter, Neeley. “We always take a ride in the morning.” Caroline pushes Neeley in a stroller that looks like a car.

Day-in day-out, Caroline’s tired of robocallers taking her for a ride.

“It’s just always a robocaller.” Caroline told WAAY 31. “You think it’s a local number and then it’s not. It’s not even anybody you know.”

If she could talk with an actual person instead of getting a recording, Caroline says she’d ask them, “Would you want somebody bothering you like this? It’s incessant most of the time and it’s ridiculous.”

She says enough is enough.

“I have my phone for emergencies. I don’t really talk on my phone a lot or anything. So, if you’re calling me, I’m already like, ‘What are you calling me for?’”

It’s become an epidemic. Robocalls are the technological scourge of modern civilization bombarding consumers at record-breaking levels.

First Orion, a tech company that helps wireless providers combat the problem, estimates nearly half of all mobile calls are now spam. That’s up from almost 4 percent in 2017 and nearly 30 percent last year.

Stealing your valuable time is bad enough. But, some robocallers are doing worse. They’re using spam phone calls to con unsuspecting victims out of their money.

The Federal Communications Commission told WAAY 31 stopping illegal robocalls is its top consumer protection priority.

“Robocalls and spoofed caller ID are too often used to scam consumers,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai says. “Consumers shouldn’t answer the phone if they’re not sure who is calling.”

Unsuspecting Americans are duped out of millions of dollars as billions of robocalls invade our lives each year. Estimates put that number at about 50 billion robocalls last year alone.

Americans are under attack from robocallers and we seem to be losing ground. We’re surrendering the use of our phones and sometimes reluctant to answer our calls.

If the unwanted calls aren’t bad enough, now there are robo-texts and ringless straight-to-voicemail spam to deal with, too. Like the calls, many of them are aimed at ripping us off.

Experts predict it's only going to get worse.

“Want to get back in your car?” Caroline asked Neeley as she buckled her in her stroller. The frustrated smart phone user warns you’d better buckle up, too. When it comes to robocalls, we could be in for a long ride.

“I wish they would limit it. Just don’t call. Don’t bother me.”

We continue our in-depth look at robocalls all week.

Tuesday night on WAAY 31 news at 6, we take a look at the types of robocalls flooding your phones.

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