Beware of “Adam.”
That’s the name of the voice who has been robocalling Coloradans about solar for months.
“This is Adam with Colorado sun. As a homeowner in Colorado, you’re entitled to …” begins the robocall touting savings on energy bills and getting cash from solar rebates.
That’s not us at The Colorado Sun. We’re a local news site. We don’t call people except to reach sources for our stories. We don’t ask for — or need — readers’ phone numbers. But believe us, we’ve heard from upset telephone customers complaining about “Adam.”
Yes, robocalls like this are illegal
“Adam” doesn’t mention what company he represents but regardless of his employer, robocalls like this are likely illegal, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which is the government agency behind the National Do Not Call Registry.
Calls made with an autodialer that spout a prerecorded message are robocalls. And robocalls for telemarketing purposes have basically been illegal since 1999 as part of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, according to the FTC.
“The robocall rule bans all telemarketing robocalls unless the consumer has written a letter to the company and said that they can make those robocalls. And I’ve never met anyone who’s done that,” an FTC spokesman said Monday.
There are five other exceptions, including recorded messages from political campaigns, charities seeking donations, pollsters and survey takers, debt collectors and for information calls, such as a doctor’s appointment reminder. None of these are allowed to include a sales pitch.
Here’s how to handle robocalls when you get them
The best thing to do when an unknown caller is on the line is to ignore it and let it go to voicemail. But humans are curious so if you pick up the call and realize it’s “Adam” or some other disembodied recording, hang up, advises the Colorado Attorney General’s Office.
Don’t say a word. And certainly don’t press any numbers if requested. That, according to the AG’s tips page, “will probably just lead to more robocalls.”
All consumers also can file a complaint with the National Do Not Call Registry, and register their phone number at donotcall.gov. But the registry only tells telemarketers what phone numbers not to call — it doesn’t stop robocalls, especially from scammers who ignore the rules.
Why these scams feel local
We’ve been collecting phone numbers from “Adam,” shared by consumers who reached out to The Colorado Sun to complain. None seem to be working anymore.
- 720-358-2646: “The number you have dialed is not in service.”
- 720-664-4574: “Hi, unfortunately no one is available now. Please try back again later. If you’d like to opt out, please press two now.”
- 720-475-2850: An immediate hang up
- Did you get robocalled by someone saying they were Colorado sun? Share the phone number with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Monday, “Adam” called one of The Sun’s editors from the phone number 720-475-2850. The editor dared not “press one,” as the recorded voice requested.
That phone number used to belong to Douglas Garrett, when he was general counsel for the now bankrupt Sports Authority in Englewood. Garrett said the “720-475” numbers were the numbers assigned to the sports retailers’ corporate headquarters by Comcast, their internet phone service.
He helped Sports Authority wind down operations and used the number until the very end on March 31, 2021. He retired the next day.
“We shut everything down that day,” he said. “That’s when we stopped paying Comcast. It sounds like the number’s been repurposed.”
According to a Comcast spokeswoman, an initial check by its security team found that the number is not part of the company’s active numbers.
Robocalling is getting easier for scammers
Robocalling has become easier — and cheaper — because it can be done with computer programs and very little, if any, staff. Callers can also spoof numbers by typing in a local area code or other phone number.
It’s become so common that even the head of the Federal Communications Commission can’t get away from it. “I’m a consumer, too. I receive robocalls at home, in my office, on my landline, on my mobile. I’ve even received multiple robocalls sitting here on this dais. I want it to stop,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in the agency’s response to how it’s fighting unlawful and malicious robocalls.
The FTC has gone after telemarketers, developers of robocalling programs, companies that employ telemarketers, lead generators that provide the consumer information, and more recently Voice over Internet Protocol services providers that are used by foreign telemarketers. Those efforts, along with advances in anti-fraud technology and other agencies, seem to be having an impact.
In March 2019, there were more than a half-million complaints to the Do Not Call registry. Nearly four years later in December, the number had dropped by more than 70% to 148,372, according to the most recent data available.
Tools and tricks to cut down on robocalls
T-Mobile has Scam Shield, which identified or blocked 41.5 billion calls last year, according to the company. AT&T has call-blocking tools for mobile phones and landlines. Verizon calls its service Call Filter and has additional tools that help customers block callers by type of industry.
There are also services like YouMail or Nomorobo that consumers can use to block calls to their phones. YouMail CEO Alex Quilici earlier told The Colorado Sun that robocalls declined 9.2% in Colorado last year. But that still meant 749.3 million robocalls targeted Colorado phone numbers. So far this year, Coloradans are averaging 22.3 robocalls, or 10 to 12 per month, Quilici said.
Complaints to the FTC are investigated so companies not at fault won’t be unfairly blamed (whew!). The decline in unwanted calls has a lot to do with the combined efforts of technology and government agencies.
“What we’re trying to do is bring enforcement actions but at the same time, we’re trying to hit all the choke points along the way,” said the FTC spokesman. “And we think that hopefully, if we hit enough of them, then fewer calls will make it through and it will become ineffective and not cost effective for these people who make these calls.”
How to complain about robocalls:
- Register with the Colorado No-Call list: coloradonocall.com
- File a complaint with the Colorado AG: coloradonocall.com/Public/Complaint.aspx
- File a fraud complaint with the AG: stopfraudcolorado.gov
- Register with or complain to the National Do Not Call Registry: donotcall.gov
- Report it to the federal Do Not Call site: donotcall.gov/report.html
- The Federal Trade Commission’s guide to robocalls: consumer.ftc.gov/articles/robocalls