7 Investigates: Robocall Resources

MADISON, Wis. (WSAW) -- While there are laws in place to stop those annoying robocalls, the latest data shows they are increasing in Wisconsin, especially in the north central Wisconsin 715 area code.

"So it's like the robocallers have discovered your area," Alex Quilici, CEO of robocall tracking software company YouMail told 7 Investigates. "The bad news is it's growing. So it's almost doubled in the last six months or so."

December YouMail data shows Wisconsinites received more than 38 million robocalls, of the country's 4.7 billion.

Specifically, in the 715 area code, per person that broke down to four to five robocalls every day.

"And I wouldn't be surprised, based on what we see, if they called the highly populated robocall areas first. And then they work their way down to more lightly populated areas," Quilici said.

Wisconsin Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Michelle Reinen said her agency is also seeing that increase through their hotline's complaint reports.

"In August we saw in a single day we saw more automated calls from a scam artist as it relates to the utility scam than we saw in a normal month period of time," Reinen said. “It’s difficult to indicate, scam by scam, which method’s being used."

Why the laws are not working

There are laws in place aimed at keeping robocallers at bay.

1991's Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which allows consumers to sue for as much as $1,500 per violation and 2003's Do Not Call Registry.

"The Do Not Call Registry, in particular, the good guys follow it. But the bad guys view it as a no trespassing sign,” Quilici said. “And if you’re going to burglarize somebody you could care less about that sign out in front.”

The FCC also regularly hands out hefty fines. However, that risk does not seem to scare the bad guys either.

“A lot of these robocallers are overseas making it very, very hard. You’ve got to track back a number of calls through a number of carriers and then often times try to find that bad guy in an apartment building in India somewhere,” Quilici explained.

Last year, the Wisconsin Dept. of Justice announced Wisconsin’s attorney general is one of 40 state’s attorney generals that has created a bi-partisan group asking the FCC to create new rules.

They want them to allow phone companies to use new technology to better detect and block robocalls.

How to fight back

With robocalls likely here to stay, the experts say there are several steps you can take to help reclaim your phone line.

1. Do not answer a number you do not recognize. Engaging a robocaller means the robocaller will probably call back. That includes not hitting 9 to get on their "do not call" lists.

2. If you have a landline: Let your answering machine always answer first. If you do not have a machine, and you answer a robocall, hang up right away.

3. Resist the urge to call back. Again, engaging a robocaller means the robocaller will probably call back.

4. Download an app for your cell phone. They can confuse robocallers into thinking your cell phone has been disconnected. Quilici compared it to needing anti-virus software to constantly crack down on new online viruses.

5. File a consumer complaint. Filing a consumer complaint through the state's Consumer Protection Bureau means DATCP will initiate their own investigation and pass that information onto federal agencies.

Once the government shutdown is over, that means those federal partners will also receive the information.