Unsolicited robocalls are not just a nuisance – they could also hurt your business and increase your malpractice risk.
And the threat is growing by the day.
In 2018, Americans received a staggering 47.8 billion robocalls – up from 30.5 billion in 2017. That’s an increase of more than 50 percent in one year, despite greater public awareness and enhanced blocking options.
Many of these calls – from political campaigns, charitable organizations and survey takers – are aggravating but legal. A second category – calls from telemarketers or debt collectors – can be classified as spam.
It is the third category of robocalls – ones that come from scammers, hackers and tele-crooks – that poses the real threat. Their goal is to infiltrate your system, steal your data, or rope you into a racket.
Even worse is the emerging menace of Caller ID Spoofing, where bad actors hijack a legitimate phone number – often from a trusted business, the IRS, or a local law enforcement agency. Victims are threatened with dire consequences unless they pay money or return the call.
And even as you read this, tele-crooks are perfecting speech impersonation technology that will make it almost impossible to identify a fake caller from a real one.
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Risk Management Problem for Lawyers
Other than the nuisance factor, why is this a problem for lawyers?
Well, for starters, since there is a chance the caller may not be legitimate, there’s an increased danger that confidential information will be disclosed to the wrong party.
Second, people are increasingly letting calls from unfamiliar numbers go straight to voicemail. As a result, an important message – to a client, opposing counsel, or other party – may languish in voicemail or be lost altogether.
Here are some risk management pointers:
- Be aware of the danger. Robocalls are a top source of consumer complaints at the FCC and the Federal Trade Commission. Discuss the risks at a staff meeting. Share experiences with suspicious calls.
- Know who’s calling. Make sure clients know the correct numbers for you and your staff, so they’ll recognize when you call. Likewise, make sure you have their numbers.
- Register with the National Do Not Call Registry. This is step one for robocall prevention. And while it won’t eliminate calls from crooks and overseas spammers, it will end many telemarketing efforts.
- Report unwanted calls. After you’re in the DNC Registry, notify the FTC if you continue to get robocalls. Do Not Call complaints rose from 3.6 million in 2015 to 7.2 million in 2017 before dipping to 5.8 million in 2018, due to greater consumer awareness.
- Sign up for your provider’s call-blocking service. In June, the FCC enacted new rules giving carriers more flexibility to offer services to block unwanted calls. Find out what protections your carrier offers.
- Use a third-party blocking app. Some of the best known are YouMail, Robokiller and Nomorobo. Each costs a dollar or two per month.
- Let calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail. Then use a reverse phone lookup app or a site such as CallerSmart to look up the number.
- Don’t do what the message tells you to do. If the caller or a recording asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, hang up. Scammers use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Think twice before opting out. Simply by doing so, you might be taking bait.
- Never disclose personal information. Such as bank accounts, passwords, Social Security numbers, or your mother’s maiden name.
- Don’t fall for the Social Security Scam. The robocaller says your Social Security number has been suspended or compromised. You’re told to take action to reactivate your number. Tip: Social Security numbers are never suspended.
- Go directly to the source. If you get a message from someone purporting to be from a government agency, hang up and call the agency’s phone number to verify the request.
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