Robocalls are automated phone calls that deliver pre-recorded messages to mass recipients at the same time using auto-dialers. The government of Georgia often uses robocalls to make public service announcements. Legitimate debt collectors, political campaign groups, and telemarketers also use robocalls for various legitimate purposes. However, they have become synonymous with phone scams in dispossessing people of confidential information and money.
Robocalls, like spam calls, are unsolicited but differ from spam calls in terms of timing. While robocalls convey time-sensitive information, spam calls are usually not limited by time. Sometimes, fraudsters spoof robocalls to trick innocent Georgian residents into sharing their sensitive data. Spoofed robocalls may appear to originate from reputable businesses and government agencies but are designed to deceive recipients into answering their phones. Websites that offer reverse phone lookup services can help differentiate robocalls from live calls, spoofed or not.
In 2019, Georgia recorded an estimated 3.6 billion robocalls out of almost 59 billion robocalls in the United States, which earned it the fourth-most affected state by robocall. The Georgia Public Service Commission regulates robocalls in the state, while the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) performs a similar function at the federal level.
What are Georgia Robocall Scams?
Georgia robocall scams use automated phone calls to execute various fraudulent activities aimed at stealing residents’ money and confidential information. Fraudsters prefer robocalls because of the convenience and anonymity they provide. They can pretend to be with familiar businesses or government agencies and contact a large number of people with spoofed robocalls at relatively low costs. Residents can use phone lookup services to differentiate automated calls and live ones. According to a 2019 YouMail robocall report, Atlanta, Georgia’s capital, recorded the highest number of robocalls in November, with almost 200 million robocalls. Most of these calls were targeted at ripping off residents. In May 2019, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, in coalition with 41 Attorneys General, engaged the FCC to embrace their anti-robocall and spoofing regulations to fight robocall scams.
Does Georgia Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
The State of Georgia subscribes to federal anti-robocall laws. Georgia initially maintained a statewide Do Not Call List but have now merged their list with the Federal DNC Registry.
The Abusive Telemarketing Acts or Practices
Enacted as an amendment of the Telecommunication Marketing Act of 1998, House Bill 1130 sought to prevent unfair and deceptive robocall practices against Georgians. Rep. William Jeffrey introduced this bill on January 16, 1998, and it passed third reading on March 2, 1998, on the floor of the House. The House passed it to the Senate on March 3, 1998, where it also passed a few readings. The Senate forwarded it back to the Georgia Legislatures after the third reading. The House subsequently sent it to Governor Zell Miller for approval. The governor signed this bill on April 14, 1998, and it became public law on July 1, 1998. This law prohibits the following:
- The use of threatening, intimidating, or indecent language in robocalls.
- Unsolicited calls placed to annoy, abuse, or harass residents.
- Telemarketing calls that deliver automated messages to call recipients before 8:00 am and after 9:00 pm Georgia local time.
Use of Automatic Dialing and Recorded Message Equipment Act
Senate Bill 379 was introduced by Senator Eric Johnson and read for the first time in January 2008. It bears the conditions for proper use of Automated Dialing Announcing Devices (ADADs) and stipulates appropriate penalties for violations. Governor Sonny Perdue signed it into law on May 12, 2008, and became effective on July 1, 2008.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in Georgia?
The State of Georgia defines specific guidelines for legitimate robocalls. These guidelines make it easy for Georgians to identify fraudulent robocalls, avoid scams, and seek redress for any violation. Automated Dialing Announcing Devices (ADADs) is usually employed to deliver robocalls. They automatically dial selected phone numbers and deliver pre-recorded messages to them.
Legitimate telemarketers must adhere to the following requirements in Georgia:
- Telemarketers who use ADAD must first obtain express consent from call recipients before contacting them with automated calls. For robocalls started by live operators, they must obtain verbal consent of the called party before delivering their messages. This type of permission is, however, only valid for a specific call and does not apply to subsequent robocalls.
- Telemarketers who use a 976 number must not initiate calls with an ADAD as per Georgia Code section 46-5-24.
- ADADs must only be used between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. except permitted by call recipients via written consent.
- Recorded messages must clearly state the names, telephone numbers of the individual or organization calling, and the purpose of the calls. This must be done within the first 25 seconds of calling. The phone number provided must be available during business hours by such telemarketing companies or their agent(s). They must also respond promptly and satisfactorily to inquiries made by their previous contacts.
- ADADs must automatically end calls within ten seconds of initiating such calls if there are no responses by call recipients.
Some entities are exempted from obtaining recipients’ permission for robocalls. They include:
- Public safety agencies for informing residents of emergencies.
- Schools, for communicating with students, parents, or employees.
- Organizations that already have established business relationships with call recipients.
- Companies for instructing their employees on work schedules.
Telemarketing companies who use ADADs in the state must obtain permits from the Georgia Public Service Commission before engaging in robocalls.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
The surge of robocalls in Georgia has made many residents lose confidence in caller identification services. They now dread answering calls from unknown numbers for fear of getting scammed. Also, the recent advancements in robocall technology have made identifying robocalls challenging. However, residents can use applications that offer reverse phone lookup services to identify automated calls and prevent robocall scams.
You can adopt the following to reduce the inundation of robocalls:
- Activate the call-blocking feature of your cell phone to block automated calls. You can also install third-party applications like Nomorobo, Hiya, and Truecaller from an online phone store. These call-blocking applications are potent in identifying scam robocalls and blocking them.
- Ignore calls from unknown numbers to reduce your chances of answering robocalls. If you mistakenly answer a robocall, hang up immediately. Discard any instruction to press a key or engage with a live operator. Scammers use robocalls to identify active numbers for future calls. Legitimate callers will likely leave messages for you if they cannot reach you. Repeated calls from unknown numbers that fail to leave any message on your voicemail machine are probably scams.
- Register your phone number on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. The FTC bars legitimate telemarketers from calling your number once you have been enrolled for 31 days. You can sign up online or by calling 1 (888) 382-1222 from the number you wish to register.
- File reports of identified robocall numbers with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online or by calling 1 (888) 382-1222. You can also file complaints online with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).