FCC officials stop in Florence to warn about robocalls, related scams

May 7, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Three Federal Communications Commission officials had some simple advice for those dealing with robocalls:Don’t answer a call from an unknown number.

As part of a five-day road tour through South Carolina and Georgia, three representatives – Associate Bureau Chief Eduard Bartholme, Anthony Butler and Sherry Dawson – of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC stopped by the Florence City Center on Monday to speak with local leaders on several topics, including robocalls and other related scams.

Bartholme said one of the most important steps was to not answer calls from unknown numbers.

He was asked about a common tactic of answering and then hanging up when the answering person realizes the call is a scam.

Bartholme recommended against this tactic, because it could verify that the line is active and make the line a target for further scams and unwanted phone calls.

Another question asked about engaging with the potential scammers by yelling at them or providing false information.

Again, this is not recommended because it could lead to further calls.

Also, Bartholme said he knew of cases where people who did this were “SWATed” by the potential scammers, meaning they called in a fake bomb threat at the residence and got the local SWAT team to show up.

Bartholme did recommend putting numbers on the Do Not Call registry. Many people, he said, believe the registry is ineffective, but it does what it’s designed to do to prevent calls from telemarketers who respect the list. The potential scammers, he added, do not respect the list.

Another newer tactic is the use of spoofed numbers. Spoofed numbers are made to look like a call coming from a local company or government agency.

To decrease the effectiveness of spoofed numbers, the FCC recommends being suspicious of unexpected calls, never giving out personal information to those calls and to use extreme caution if pressured for payment.

It’s also recommended to report spoofing to local law enforcement.

One person recently told the Morning News about an experience she had with a person pretending to be a sheriff’s deputy. The person received a call at her office from someone claiming she had missed a federal jury duty and needed to pay a fine to prevent her from getting sent to jail.

The person calling had the names of a judge, albeit a state court judge, and convinced her to get a money order to pay the fine. The woman was warned about the scam when she went to a local pharmacy to get the money orders.

Bartholme said such a scam with lots of information in it is fairly common and very effective.

Another person shared the story of his parents, in their 80s, who had received a call after they attended a relative’s funeral. The parents were told that a nephew attending the funeral had broken down on his way home and needed $3,000 to get his car fixed.

Luckily, the parents did not make it to the bank in time to get the money out. Then the parents called the person sharing the story, and he told them it was a scam.

Recently, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson was one of many attorneys general to sign a letter urging the U.S. Senate to enact the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act.

The representatives will be stopping Tuesday in Columbia and Aiken before spending the rest of the week in Georgia.