A robocall is an automated phone call initiated through a computer program called autodialer to deliver a pre-recorded message. The call could be from a live person or a robot; as long as an autodialer is used, it is a robocall. Robocalls were originally associated with political campaigns, telemarketing, and public service announcements, but fraudsters now use them more for phone scams.
Spam calls are unwanted or unsolicited calls, and a lot of robocalls nowadays are spam calls made with the intent to extort money from phone users. The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDA) handles all matters relating to robocall scams. It enforces the Consumer Code of Laws, which regulates the legal use of robocalls in South Carolina.
What are South Carolina Robocall Scams?
South Carolina robocall scams are centered around the use of automated calls to dispossess residents of their money and financial information fraudulently. Robocalls have become effective scamming tools for fraudsters because they can reach many targets at the least possible cost and time. However, phone users can use reverse phone lookup search to distinguish between a live call and a robocall.
Robocalls can be very annoying at the very least, and quite dangerous too. In 2018 the nation recorded 47.8 billion robocalls, and by 2019, the number had increased by 22% to 58.5 billion. South Carolina was among the states worst hit, recording 6.01 billion robocalls in 2019 (300 calls per person). The State Department of Consumer (SCDCA) reports that South Carolinians have been scammed, mostly through robocalls, out of about $750,000 this year alone.
In a bid to stop the menace, therefore, SC Attorney General joined a coalition of 40 state attorneys and major telecoms companies to fight illegal robocalls in the state. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alongside state Attorneys General in the country, flagged off an initiative called “Operation Call it Quits” to carry out a nationwide crackdown on illegal robocall operations.
How are Robocalls used in South Carolina?
Scam artists use robocalls spoofing methods to impersonate legitimate businesses and government agencies to defraud unsuspecting South Carolinians of financial information and money. They spoof the phone numbers of residents' local banks, credit unions, hospitals, the IRS, and even law enforcement agencies to gain the trust of their targets.
When trust is established, people are generally more inclined to respond positively to inquiries or instructions from such sources’ requests while declining to answer suspicious ones. With robocalls, scammers can reach out to thousands of targets speedily and at little or no cost.
Does South Carolina Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
Yes. On May 18, 2018, the state government signed the Telephone Privacy Protection Act into law to protect South Carolinians from all telephone scams, with focus on ID caller spoofing and unsolicited robocalls in particular. Section 37-21-50(A) of the Act specifically prohibits the falsification of Caller ID information.
The bill was initially introduced on the South Carolina House of Assembly floor as H4628 on January 16th, 2018. It went through three hearings at the lower house before it was sent to the Senate for ratification and eventual approval. The Governor signed it into law in May of the same year.
A brief history of the South Carolina Telephone Privacy Protection Act (TPPA) is presented thus:
- Jan/16/2018 - Bill was introduced and read for the first time
- March/8/2018 - The House amended bill
- March/8/2018 - The House read the bill a second time
- March/20/2018 - Bill was read the third time and sent to the Senate.
- March/20/2018 - Bill was introduced by the Senate and read for the first time.
- May/1/2018 - The senate read the bill the second time
- May/8/2018 - Bill was read the third time by the Senate and enrolled
- May/14/2018 - Bill was ratified R 258
- May/18/2018 - The Governor signed the bill
- May/25/2018 - Bill became effective by May/18/18
- May/31/2018 - Act No. 218
The state also adopted additional measures towards combating spoofing scams by collaborating with the FCC to mandate voice service providers to implement the STIR/SHAKEN caller ID authentication framework in their networks’ IP portions. STIR/SHAKEN are acronyms for “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) and Signature-based Handling of Asserted Information Using toKENs (SHAKEN) standards.”
The system validates the handoff of phone calls that pass through interconnected networks and allows the service provider of the person receiving a call to verify that each call originated from the number displayed on Caller ID.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in South Carolina?
Yes, there are. South Carolina requires legitimate robocalls to follow a set of rules prescribed in the State's telemarketing law. These provisions will help phone users in the state to know the difference between legal and illegal robocalls. South Carolina telemarketing law states that:
- Solicitors are prohibited from initiating a telephone call or sending a text message before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.;
- At the outset of the solicitation, the solicitor is required to identify themself correctly, the purpose of the solicitation, and the option to be added to the solicitor’s in-house do not call list;
- Any request not to receive solicitations must be honored for at least five years from the time the request was made; and
- A solicitor may not contact a telephone number contained on the National Do Not Call Registry.
The South Carolina Attorney General and the Department of Consumer Affairs are responsible for enforcing the Act. Any resident harmed by a violation of the Act is entitled to recover damages of $1,000 for each violation and $5 000 for each violation that a court of law finds to be willful, along with reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs.
Besides, Section 16-17-446 of the state code provides for state regulation of Automatic Dialing Announcing Devices calls. ADAD is an automatically dialed announcing device that delivers a recorded message without assistance by a live operator to make an unsolicited consumer telephone call.
All robocalls are captured under the ADAD regulating rules. However, some are legitimate, while others are prohibited by law.
The following requirements are mandatory for all legitimate ADAD/robocall in South Carolina:
(1) Disconnect immediately when the called party hangs up;
(2) They are prohibited after seven p.m. or before eight a.m.;
(3) They may not ring at hospitals, police stations, fire departments, nursing homes, hotels, or vacation rental units.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Not all robocalls are illegal or scam as most people have been made to believe. They are used for various legitimate businesses, including political campaigns and genuine telemarketing.
However, based on the volume and frequency of robocalls, they can be quite annoying and intrusive. Also, scammers often use them to steal financial and personal information from unsuspecting residents. It is pertinent for South Carolinians to put some measures in place to secure their assets from scammers' fraudulent activities.
The following steps will protect you from robocall scammers:
- Enlist your number on the National Do Not Call Registry maintained by the FTC to stop robocalls. This will help you identify robocall scams. Use the phone number you wish to register on the list to dial 1(888)382-1222.
- Do not pick calls from unknown numbers. This is the most reliable way to avoid phone scams.
- Hang up immediately; if you pick a call and discover it is delivering a pre-recorded message, hang up.
- Report unwanted calls to the appropriate agencies. South Carolinians may file a report with the SCDA by calling 1 (844) TELL-DCA (835-5322), by filling the Scam Report Form on the SCDA website, or by Tweeting @SCDCA using the hashtag #TellDCA. You may also contact the state law enforcement agencies.
- File robocall complaints online with the FTC or call 1 (888) 382-1222. If you get a spoofed robocall, report it to the FCC.
- Use the built-in call-blocking features on your cell phone to block robocalls. All Android and iPhones have these features. Alternatively, download and install any one of the different third-party applications that offer free call-blocking services. Examples of these include Truecaller, YouMail, Hiya, and Nomorobo.
How Can I Block Robocall Numbers on Android Phones?
The steps required to block robocall numbers are device-specific. Each device has an in-built call blocking protocol, depending on the make and version of the Android operating system running it. However, to block robocall numbers on your android phone, the following general steps apply:
- Open the phone app and select call history.
- Select the robocall number and find an option that says “block or report as spam.”
- Tap ‘yes’ to the message asking if you want to block the phone number. This confirms your intention to block the chosen number.
- Repeat the step for each number you wish to block.
How Can I Block Robocall Numbers on iPhones?
- Open your phone app and select recent calls.
- Select the info icon beside the robocall number
- Tap “Block this number.”