By: Jared Calderon
Whether or not you are a vehicle owner, it is likely that in the last year, you have received an automated scam call that went something like this; “Hello this is ___ we’re calling to alert you that your car warranty is expiring/has been extended”. After this initial pre-recorded message, the call will almost always include a promotion to renew or cancel the renewal of that warranty. After the pitch, you will be asked to provide personal information such as your social security number, credit card and banking information and driver’s license number. Generally speaking, this type of information should never be conveyed over the phone unless you are able to verify that you are in fact dealing with a legitimate company with whom you have previously established a business relationship. The simple truth is that these calls have nothing to do with your car warranty, and everything to do with trying to get you to willingly release your sensitive personal information.
It follows, not only are these calls annoying, they are also dangerous. According to the Federal Communications Commission (hereinafter FCC), this scam isn’t new, however it has quickly become the preferred method of cheating unknowing victims out of their hard-earned money. The FCC has further indicated that warranty “robocalls” represented the highest call complaint filed by consumers in 2020. Specifically, between June and December of last year alone, Americans filed just short of 200,000 “Do Not Call” complaints, a number which the Federal Trade Commission (hereinafter FTC) says, represents only a small fraction of calls actually received.
You might be asking, are these calls illegal? The short answer is yes. The FTC banned almost all pre-recorded automated telemarketing calls in 2009, with the exception of political calls, charitable solicitations and debt collections. It goes without saying that these robocalls do not fall into any of these categories. More troubling, is the fact that these scams are nearly impossible to trace and are being operated both domestically, as well as overseas. Essentially, the calling operation (scammer) will purchase information or “leads”, in this case phone numbers, from third-party data providers (some more legitimate than others) which then allows those calling operations to facilitate their massive scamming campaigns. Unfortunately, if you have ever: phoned a business that utilizes caller I.D., checked the “sign me up for emails” box while online shopping, registered to vote, applied for credit, or donated to a charitable organization it is likely that you have unknowingly auctioned off your contact information to one of these third-party data providers.
Being that it is nearly impossible to stop the sale of your information from a third-party data provider to a calling operation, the best alternative is to limit the number of calls you receive. Initially, you should feel some assurance in knowing that major U.S. carriers offer at least some level of protection. Additionally, the Traced Act, a bi-partisan piece of legislation signed in 2019, reduces the statute of limitations previously imposed on government agencies and law enforcement officials, in their efforts to punish companies and individuals that break telephone consumer-protections laws. Beyond the measures already implemented by the government and major carriers, there are several steps you can take to limit the amount of scam calls you receive. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile each offer both free and premium services that block spam calls and provide users with a “nuisance” warning, sign up for these. Further, consumers can purchase third-party apps for both Android and iOS operating systems that offer a wide range of call blocking features. Hiya, Nomorobo, and RoboKiller are a few examples of subscription based services that protect users by constantly updating a database of numbers used by calling operations, numbers which are then blocked when they inevitably dial your phone. Although third-party apps are available for purchase, the FCC has provided several steps the cost-conscious consumer can take instead of purchasing additional apps. Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize, never hit a button or answer “yes”, avoid providing personal information, ask your phone company about additional tools you can implement to stop these calls, and register your number on the “Do Not Call List”.
Although it is unlikely that car warranty scam calls will cease to exist in the near future, there are several steps that you and your loved ones can take in an effort to keep your information private. Scam calls are not only annoying, they are also dangerous. While blocking scam calls from your phone is certainly worthwhile, spreading awareness of these dangers is of equal importance in the fight to protect our information as we continue to progress through the digital era.
 Watch out for Auto Warranty Scams, FED. COMN. COMM’N, https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/beware-auto-warranty-scams. (last visited Apr. 13, 2021).
 See id.
 Kim Komando, Car warranty scam robocalls: Here’s why you get so many (and how to stop them), USA Today (Apr. 13, 2021), https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/komando/2021/04/08/tips-help-stop-flood-deceptive-auto-warranty-robocalls/7098844002/.
 See id.
 Bethany McLean, How Do Robo Calls Work?, AARP (Apr. 1, 2021), https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2020/how-do-robocalls-work.html.
 Jason Cipriani, How to stop robocalls: Every way we know to block the annoying scam phone calls, Cnet (Mar. 14, 2021), https://www.cnet.com/how-to/block-robocalls-and-annoying-scam-phone-calls-every-we-we-know/.
 Eli Blumenthal, Trump signs Traced Act into law in bid to help put an end to robocalls, Cnet (Dec. 31 2019), https://www.cnet.com/news/trump-signs-traced-act-into-law-in-bid-to-help-put-an-end-to-robocalls/.
 Supra, note 10.
 Chris Welch, How to stop annoying robocalls on your iPhone or Android Phone, The Verge (Sep. 10, 2020), https://www.theverge.com/21327304/spam-calls-how-to-stop-block-robocalls-robots-scam-iphone-android.
 Stop Unwanted Robocalls and Texts, FED. COMN. COMM’N, https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/stop-unwanted-robocalls-and-texts. (last visited Apr. 13, 2021).