A charity seeking donations, a candidate who wants your vote, or an amber alert for a missing pet. They are all examples of legitimate informational robo calls. The key word, is informational, we found as long as the pre-recorded voice isn't trying to sell you something, the automated calls are not covered under the strict federal telemarketing rules and the "Do Not Call" Registry doesn't apply.
"You don't need prior written permission to receive those calls," says Heather Egan Sussman, a privacy attorney in the Boston office of McDermott, Will, and Emory. If you haven't gotten these calls yet, just wait, Egan Sussman says, you probably will. "There is a gray area, what we have seen over the last few years is the emergence of companies that are for hire and able to send out these types of pre-recorded phone calls."
Google "Robocall" and you will find dozens of companies that will send out you're pre-recorded messages to as little or as many people you want. Some require the customer to provide the phone numbers they wish to target, others sell lists. Pick a street, zip code, or the entire state; it all depends on how much money you want to spend. Using one of the online services, I entered a few numbers to call and recorded a message through an automated system, seconds later, the numbers I picked rang with my message.
"The potential for abuse is extreme," says Robert Siciliano, a Boston-based security and privacy consultant for MacAfee. He says there are benefits but also risks as robocalling becomes easier and cheaper for the average person to use from the comfort of their home. A jilted lover can dial up a nasty message about an ex and blast it all over town, a prankster can send out a bogus public safety warning, crooks can even fish for financial information. "I received a robocall from a local bank. I received one both on my office line and my mobile phone asking me to update to my master card information because my card had been locked," Siciliano says. "Chances are somebody entered their MasterCard number if they had an account with that particular bank," says Siciliano. Keep in mind, the caller ID might look legit. "One of the things that makes a robocall so nefarious is that it also works with caller ID spoofing with is essentially plugging in any phone number to make it look like that's where you are calling from," Siciliano says.
Many robocalls are important, and may actually contain information like news about an upcoming storm, but keep in mind, these calls can come from anyone anywhere, and just because it sounds important or urgent, that doesn't mean it always is.