CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Cynthia Yeager is one of millions of Americans on the Do Not Call List but still pestered by unwanted phone calls.
"Obviously it's the do call list," said Yeager.
She says she gets 10 pre-recorded pitches a week. It's so bad if she doesn't recognize a number, she lets it go to voicemail.
"I pretty much don't answer," she said. "Why are these people calling me? Where are they getting my number from?"
FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant is on the 'do not call' list as well, but that didn't stop scammers from illegally calling his cell phone at 5:00 a.m. from a number with the same area code as his own.
"Don't be a statistic press one now to receive a medical alarm at no cost," the recording said. "Or press nine to opt out."
It's called spoofing. Scammers use sophisticated software to make you think the call you're getting is from someone you know.
"Whatever it takes to get you to answer the phone that's what they're after," said Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina president Tom Bartholomy.
He says if you "press nine to opt out" you'll actually make yourself a more valuable target since many scammers are really in the business of collecting and selling phone numbers.
"They know not only is it a real line but somebody live answered ita nd is willing to engage with them," said Bartholomy. "So they can go ahead and sell your number for a higher price than they would otherwise because you've shown a willingness to engage. Even though you're trying to get away from them you're actually encouraging them to call you more often."
Last month alone, more than 2.5 billion robo-calls were made nationwide, according to YouMail, which keeps track of and blocks robocallers. In 2016, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 5.5 million Do Not Call List complaints. In North Carolina, the number of complaints have dropped in recent years, but Yaeger's phone is still ringing.
And it's not just robo-calls.
Scammers pretending to be from the IRS convinced her to buy iTunes gift cards to pay off a debt. It's something the IRS would never do and a scam that has persisted. Last year, there were nearly 2000 complaints statewide.
"They were telling me that I owed money and literally had my crying on the phone at work," said Yaeger. "I had to ask my boss to leave and they told me if I hung up the cops would come arrest me."
Scammers can be aggressive as we saw first hand. Someone pretending to be from Microsoft called FOX 46's Matt Grant and told him "every computer is internally connected to the Windows server" and that his "license key" has "expired" directing him to go to an unsecured website so the scammer could "reactivate it."
Microsoft confirms it's a scam saying thieves will try to "trick you into install malicious software that could capture sensitive data such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software."
"I'm a reporter with FOX 46 News in Charlotte, North Carolina. Why are you trying to rip people off?," Grant told the scammer. "You're trying to get into people's computers and rip people off. Why are you doing that?"
The scammer hung up. Which, experts say, is what you should do next time you get one of these calls.
"It's really irritating," said Yaeger. "I wish there was something that could be done about it."
So what can be done?
The Federal Communications Commission recently fined a Miami man $120 million for allegedly making 100 million robo-calls. The FTC has sued hundreds of companies and says they are working with the private sector to develop technology to block these calls and track down those responsible.
Tips from North Carolina Attorney General's Office:
- Don't answer calls from phone numbers you don't recognize or emails from addresses that aren't familiar to you.
- Beware of anyone whoa sks you to send money immediately, no matter the reason.
- If the caller threatens you with a lawsuit, arrest, or physical harm, or demands payment over the phone, it's a scammer.
- Don't share information about you or your family with anyone you don't know who calls, emails or contacts you through other means.
- Before your debt is turned over to a private debt collector, the IRS wills end you multiple letters.
- A debt collector working for the government will require your payment to be made at IRS.gov, or via a check made out to the U.S. Treasury, that is mailed directly to the IRS. If they want you to pay your debt any other way, including prepaid debit, iTunes or gift cards, it's a scammer.
- The IRS does not initiate contact by phone, text or email. The first communication will be by letter.
Tips from Microsoft, which gets reports of 13,000 tech support scams a month:
- Be wary of any unsolicited phone call or pop-up message on your device
- Don't click on a pop-up that looks suspect.
- Microsoft will never proactively reach out to you to provide unsolicited PC or technical support.
- Do not call the number in a pop-up window. Microsoft's error and warning messages never include a phone number.
- Never give control of your computer to a third party unless you can confirm that it is a legitimate representative of a computer support team with whom you are alreadya customer.
- Report scams to www.microsoft.com/reportascam
Apps to Stop Robo-Calls