A robocall is an automated telephone call initiated by an autodialer or a predictive dialer that delivers an automated or prerecorded voice message. Robocalls are used by many businesses or agencies to disseminate information to large audiences, such as telemarketers and political parties. Spam robocalls are unsolicited and intrusive. Spam callers do not obtain the express consent of recipients before contacting them. A large number of spam robocalls are intended to unlawfully obtain sensitive information or money from Iowans.
Robocalls have legitimate uses and may not be viewed as spam calls when the consent of the call recipient has been obtained or where the circumstance is covered within the ambit of Iowa laws. On November 3, 2020, election day in the United States, over 610,000 robocalls - mostly political - were made to Iowans, the largest volume of robocalls in America on the day.
What are Iowa Robocall Scams?
Iowa robocall scams are automated phone calls made to Iowans where the caller tries to trick or swindle the recipient. These calls generally involve spoofing, where the caller falsifies the name or number on the recipient’s caller ID display. Many robocall scams start with an automated message and then an instruction for the recipient to press any number to speak with a live agent. Since robocall scammers make calls to several lines, asking the called party to press a number is one way to verify if a line is active or not. Iowans will find phone lookup services useful in determining whether an incoming call is a robocall.
Iowa residents received over 293 million robocalls in 2019, about 95 million more than in the previous year. As of October 2020, over 201 million robocalls have been placed to Iowans, an average of 68.8 robocalls per resident.
How are Robocalls Used in Iowa Scams?
Iowa robocall phone scams are getting more sophisticated and costly to residents. Criminals armed with personal information are creating crafty schemes to defraud Iowans and obtain valuable pieces of information. Scammers appear trustworthy to residents if they can provide the target's personal information such as a home address, social security number, and family history. Many of these information are gathered from social media and other online sites.
Combining readily accessible target information with spoofing technology has made many schemes that would have fallen through many years ago now convincing to targets. Some robocallers pose as staff of government agencies or public organizations reeling out targets' information on the phone call and requesting personal and financial information. Many robocallers use scare tactics after impersonating a law enforcement officer to frighten residents into paying certain fines to avoid jail or arrest.
Does Iowa Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
Iowa places strong restrictions on the use of Automated Dialing-Announcing Devices (ADADs) which are utilized by robocallers to deliver prerecorded messages to recipients. ADADs can dial thousands of phone numbers automatically, without using live operators, and disseminate synthesized voice or recorded messages to the selected or dialed numbers. In line with section 476.57 of the Iowa Code, the use of ADADs is generally considered unlawful. It is also illegal for telemarketers to use robocalls without obtaining prior consent or possessing an existing business relationship with any robocall recipient.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in Iowa?
Robocalls must follow certain rules to be considered legitimate in Iowa. These provisions are there to help Iowans make the right distinctions between legitimate robocalls and robocall scams. In Iowa it is illegal for a person to use, employ, or direct another individual to use an automatic dialing-announcing device except under the following situations:
- Calls relating to the collection of unlawful debts
- Calls made to employees of the business or organization placing the calls
- Calls made by a nonprofit agency or by a person using the calls other than for commercial profit-making purposes or fund-raising, provided the calls do not involve the advertisement or offer for sale, lease, rental of goods, services, or property
- Calls relating to the payment for previously purchased or ordered goods or services
- Calls which use an initial prerecorded message, that is not longer than seven seconds, before a live agent comes onto the line or calls which involve an initial message from a live operator
- Persons making calls with an ADAD are also required to terminate the connection within ten seconds after the call recipient acts to disconnect the line. Any violation of these guidelines is deemed a serious misdemeanor in Iowa.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Although caller ID can identify the source of most incoming calls, robocallers can now thwart this service with spoofing technology which helps them mask the real source of the number calling you. Robocalls coming from outside the United States, may appear on your caller ID display as originating from another source, appear like a local call, or even display your own number. Reverse phone number lookup can help Iowa phone users identify robocalls and avoid becoming falling victims of robocall scams.
Other steps that may be followed to stop robocalls from dishonest telemarketers and scammers include:
- Hang up on robocalls. If you answer a call and hear a prerecorded message, hang up immediately. Do not press any button or number. That could lead to you receiving more calls from robocallers.
- Avoid answering calls from unknown numbers. If the call is so important, the caller will leave a message in a voicemail.
- Do not provide or confirm personal or financial information to anyone over the phone, as the request may be fraudulent.
- Request your phone provider to block numbers associated with robocalls.
- Download and install a third-party call-blocking application on your mobile phone such as Nomorobo, Truecaller, Hiya, or YouMail.
- Report robocalls online to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call 1 (888) 382-1222. You can also file complaints online with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
- Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the FTC. Registration is free and can be done by calling 888-382-1222 from the number you intend to register or online. Registering your phone number exempts you from receiving illegal telemarketing calls. If you get a robocall after 31 days of registration, it is probably from a scammer.