MEMPHIS, TN — Robocalls are an incessant nuisance across America, coming in at a clip of about 100 million a day, according to recent estimates. But a furniture and appliance company that targeted a Memphis woman with dozens of robocalls a day recently got its comeuppance after a court ordered it pay her $459,000 in damages.
Veronica Davis's phone started ringing after she purchased furniture from Conn's Home Plus, which does business in more than a dozen states. She figured making a purchase would silence her phone, but the calls only intensified, Davis told Memphis Fox News affiliate WHBQ.
Davis tried to block the calls until her service carrier failed her and wouldn't allow any more, she told the news station. The calls generated by an automatic dialing system persisted totaled more than 300.
"They just made my good days bad and my bad days worse," Davis told WHBQ, adding the robocalls left her feeling frustrated, intimidated and harassed.
"If you tell someone to stop calling and they continue calling you, they are breaking the law," Frank Kerney, Davis's attorney, told the news outlet.
Related: HBO's John Oliver Comes Up With A Genius Plan To Stop Robocalls
Others similarly targeted should write down the name and phone number of the company calling them. Fines could range from $500 to $1,500 per phone call, Kerney said.
The Federal Communications Commission said earlier this year that complaints of unwanted robocalls surged from about 172,000 in 2015 to 232,000 in 2018, though the agency said the number of complaints represents only a fraction of the volume of illegal and unwanted calls.
Service Providers Working To Stop Robocalls
Some robocalls are legitimate — a doctor's office may call to remind patients of their appointments or a pharmacy may alert them that their prescriptions are ready, for example — but the Federal Trade Commission says con-artists scam Americans out of about $9.5 billion a year, or $26 million a day.
Irritated consumers can take heart. Last fall, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai called on carriers to develop solid plans for Caller ID verification "without delay." If they don't, his agency may step in.
By the end of this year, major landline and cellphone carriers expect to roll out a Caller ID authentication system to block calls spoofed from another number.
AT&T and Comcast, two of the nation's largest phone callers, announced last week that they have created a successful collaboration to stop unwanted robocalls to both landlines and cellphones. The two companies used test phones on their consumer networks and successfully authenticated calls, and over the coming months, more major service providers are expected to test authentication services that let customers know the call is really coming from the number or entity listed on the caller ID display. Those companies include Spectrum, Cox, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile and Frontier.
USTelecom, an industry trade group, is working with the federal government to give Americans more peace of mind when they answer their phone.
What You Can Do To Stop Robocalls
While waiting for a solution, there are several apps and strategies to stop robocalls already available to consumers, according to a report by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
AT&T says its customers can dial *60 after getting an unwanted call. That allows customers to block up to 10 numbers, but as the Plain Dealer points out, many people get more than 10 calls a week. AT&T also says its Call Protect Service should protect consumers who get a spoofed call from their own numbers, though Nick Rossi of Strongsville told the newspaper it didn't work in his case when he got a call that falsely claimed to be from Microsoft telling him his account and other information had been compromised.
Verizon, the largest wireless company in the country, told the Plain Dealer it has invested "substantial amounts of time and resources upgrading our networks" and a "large portion and possibly a substantial majority" of calls will be verified by Caller ID this year.
The FTC has endorsed Nomorobo, which blocks about 90 percent of robocalls after one ring. It's free for landlines and $1.99 monthly for cellphone customers. The service blocks most "annoying robocalls, telemarketers, spam texts and phone scammers," Cox Voice spokesman Jeff Lavery told the Plain Dealer, and Spectrum spokesman Bill Morand endorsed the service as well, but it isn't universally available.