Wisconsin robocalls are phone calls to Wisconsin residents made using auto-dialers which deliver pre-recorded messages. Robocalls are unsolicited and used by telemarketers to deliver recorded calls or text messages to landlines and wireless phones. Robocalls are especially useful for telemarketers and in political campaigns. However, some robocalls are spam calls that are targeted at ripping off innocent Wisconsin residents through phone scams.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), only a few kinds of robocalls are legal in the United States. These include calls and messages from healthcare providers, debt collection agencies, political campaigns, and charities. The vast majority of robocalls reaching Wisconsin residents are illegal.
What are Wisconsin Robocall Scams?
Wisconsin robocall scams involve automated phone calls made to Wisconsin residents with the intention of stealing something from them. Usually, a real human only gets involved if the call recipient follows the robocall’s prompts or decides to call back. These ill-intentioned persons attempt to swindle residents out of their personal information or anything of value through dishonest means. When a robocall is answered, the autodialer either connects the recipient to a live person or plays a recorded message. Robocalls may also use personalized audio messages to simulate an actual personal phone call. Since most robocalls appear anonymous, tracking a robocall scammer is difficult.
In 2019, over 515 million robocalls were received by residents of Wisconsin. That is up from the nearly 416 million robocalls in 2018 and 283.6 million in 2017. As of October 2020, approximately 347 million robocalls have been made to Wisconsin residents, an average of 61.5 robocalls per person.
How are Robocalls Used in Wisconsin Scams?
Persons who use robocalls to scam Wisconsin residents typically employ caller ID spoofing to impersonate trusted businesses and persons. With spoofing, scammers can assume the identities of other people and organizations such as government agencies and charities. Fraudsters are aware that residents are more likely to answer calls from people they know and reputable agencies. Once the trusted source's identity has been stolen, the scammer deploys their cons including asking you to support charitable causes, asking for credit or loans, offering travel packages, and exaggerating the returns on business and investment opportunities. The goal is to defraud the victim or steal valuable information.
Some robocalls are programmed to deliver pre-recorded messages from supposed government agencies and popular tech firms. A typical message will ask the called party to press certain numbers to speak with a live agent. The call is immediately transferred to the scammer if the call recipient follows this prompt. The scammer may in turn ask for personal and financial information while impersonating someone else. Some Wisconsin residents have reported that scammers have threatened them with arrest or jail if "fines" were not paid.
Does Wisconsin Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
Under the Administrative Rule ATCP 127.81, the Wisconsin legislature moved to limit the scourge of robocall scams in the state by making it illegal for anyone to:
- Use caller ID blocking when making a telephone solicitation
- Falsify caller ID information
- Use an electronically pre-recorded message in a telephone call for the purpose of encouraging a Wisconsin resident to purchase property, goods, or services, without having obtained a written agreement that contains the telephone number and signature of the customer.
Wisconsin Statutes 100.52 prohibits telephone solicitors from making robocalls to any number listed on the national Do Not Call Registry as at the time of solicitation. Any person who runs afoul of the Wisconsin anti-robocall laws may be required to forfeit $100 for each violation. Note that despite Wisconsin anti-robocall laws, you may still receive robocalls from:
- Political organizations, non-profit organizations, and people conducting surveys.
- Companies with which you have an existing business relationship.
- Companies you have permitted to call you.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is the agency responsible for enforcing adherence to the Wisconsin telephone solicitation laws, under Wisconsin Statute 100.52 and Wisconsin Administrative Rule ATCP 127.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin makes special provisions for legitimate robocalls. Robocalls must fulfill the following criteria to be considered legitimate in the state:
- No robocalls may be made before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
- Telephone solicitors are prohibited from calling any consumer who has asked the caller not to call
- Robocalls are prohibited from initiating withdrawal of funds from consumer accounts
- Persons responsible for robocalls must provide a 3-day right to cancel offers call recipients signed up for during their robocalls
- Any deceptive sales practices are prohibited
- Robocalls made with an intention to sell a product or service must provide full disclosure to consumers
- No robocall may be made to any number listed in the Do Not Call Registry
- Robocalls are prohibited from using any caller ID blocking feature when making telephone solicitations
- Robocalls must not relay electronically pre-recorded messages to Wisconsin residents without the prior consent of the called parties
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Although robocalls are intrusive and annoying, not all robocalls are scams. Still, a large portion of robocalls targeted at Wisconsin residents are initiated by persons with ulterior motives. These persons are determined to defraud unsuspecting Wisconsin citizens by stealing confidential information and money. Many residents have lost money to robocall scams ranging from a few hundred dollars to entire life savings. The under-listed guidelines may be followed to curb the spate of robocall scams:
- Do not answer a call with an unfamiliar caller ID. Let the call go to voicemail. Only return the call after determining that the caller is legitimate
- If you answer a call and you hear a pre-recorded message, do not press any button as instructed. Hang up immediately.
- Contact your telephone service provider to inquire about available tools to block robocalls. Such call-blocking options may already exist in your current service plan. If they exist, activate them on your device. Additional robocall blocking protection may also be on offer from your service provider for a fee.
- Install third-party call-blocking applications on your phone. These are available on smartphone app stores.
- Register your telephone number with the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Do not Call Registry.
- Be on alert for caller ID spoofing. Scammers can make their caller IDs look like ones you trust or know. Therefore, if a caller pressures you into divulging sensitive information, hang up immediately and report such.
- Report illegal robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communication Commission. Federal agencies can collate such reports and identify the source of unwanted calls and also file legal actions against offenders. If you prefer to file a robocall report by call, contact the FTC on 1 (888) 382-1222 or the FCC on 1 (888) 225-5322.