I have a foreign phone number, and live in another country so I don’t deal with it. I don’t understand why it’s such a huge problem in America all of a sudden.
Phones and computers both work on signals sent VIA electrical pulses. If you understand how a phone dials a number, you can make a computer program that can hop onto a phone network and do the same thing, in theory.
You can also make fake claims as to what your number is if it requests it for Caller ID, so that helps with some of these things.
America instituted the “Do not Call” list, which unfortunately is now a big public directory of names and numbers. There are laws that enforce this at hoime. People who are physically in another country? That’s another matter entirely. We don’t have jurisdiction to actually do anything about a lot of it.
So all that said: robodialers are almost exactly what they say they are: computers/robots that dial phone numbers. They’ll keep calling different numbers until a real person picks up, at which point it will connect to a real person. They will then run some scam or another, trying to steal money.
VoIP (Voice over IP) has made it easy for a single computer to place tons of calls simultaneously. Lack of regulation by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and the phone companies, has made it easy for people to get away with doing this. Real companies like Wells Fargo will use robocallers to harass customers with errant accounts, and scammers use it to call random people.
Caller ID spoofing has also become a huge issue since it’s really easy with VoIP. The Robocaller simply chooses a random phone number that uses the same area code as your number. So if your number is 626-555-5555, it will call you using a number like 626-555-1234, making it seem like a local company or person is calling you. All it has to do is tell the phone company this is their number, no sort of authentication goes on.
Computer dialers that often fake their caller ID # to make it look like a local call. Once the connection is made it could be a computer recording played back or it patches in a human in a call center. The recent surge is from foreign countries where they found it easy to make money off of the .01% that fall for it. It’s a numbers game. It is often from countries where it is difficult to or impossible to prosecute.
The latest trick is dialing once and hanging up, doing this multiple times until you call back. The number you dial is a super expensive toll number they bill you for. Some are social engineering to get personal info for ID theft. India got infamous for fake PC repair call centers out to get full access to everything on your computer.
The big telecoms are pretty bad at stopping it. They are in business for profit. There are so many cases and it is difficult to prosecute and that all costs money. They can block numbers, and put up the equivalent of spam filters, but it’s easy for the dialers to change location and start again. Until there is a monetary incentive for them to police it better, it will continue.
The reason there’s a surge now is complex.
1) technology has advanced so huge numbers of these calls can take place at once, and data can be collected on the call—like if a person picks up, they know that’s a live number and they’ll
2) techniques have been developed to collect large amounts of data about people so these calls can be targeted
3) President Obama, like most Democrats, wanted to advance consumer protections. So his FCC passed a law preventing robocalls. This law was challenged by businesses that want to robocall and worked its way through the courts. It was then overturned on a small technicality. The
law could then have been rewritten so that technicality wouldn’t be in it. But it wasn’t, because by this point Donald Trump had become
president and he, like most republicans, is against almost any regulations pretty much, and is pro-big business. So they have no interest in passing a new law protecting the public from robocalls. So no new laws soon. Meanwhile, robocall companies have mushroomed up to take advantage of this period of time when there are so few ways to stop them. There are numerous unscrupulous companies that are basically scams that are using robocalls.
You can hear a lot more about this in the following tech-related podcast:
Technology has made it inexpensive to build massive call centers in countries that made it difficult to stop with legal actions.
The US telecoms are terrible. They have no incentive to provide a good customer experience, so they don’t use technology that easily blocks numbers that are masked.