Experts offer advice as Utah suffers ‘rash of robocalls’

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Department of Consumer Protection is sending a warning out to all Utahns about the skyrocketing number of robocalls.

“We are seeing a rash of robocalls,” said Francine Giani, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Consumer Protection.

Giani said even she has received an alarming number of calls the last few weeks.

“I’m getting a lot of calls to my personal lines," Giani said. "I have even gotten a text too. I got a text a few days ago saying I have unclaimed government monies that were owned to me. Technology is making it more easier for people to reach out and bug people.”

She said the worst part is people are falling victim to these calls, including her own family member.

“In the case of this individual, he was taken to the tune $10,000," Giani said. "That’s pretty significant for someone who is on a fixed income.

Giani said the friend in question was contacted and told his Microsoft computer was having problems, and that he needed to go to Wal-Mart and buy iTunes gift cards and send them in. He was stopped from sending the cards to the scammer, but because the surveillance cameras at the store showed him making the purchases himself, he was not able to get his money refunded.

Giani said lately consumers have reported the robocalls are coming into cell phones and the callers have the same area code as the victim and a number where the first three digits match the victim's phone number.

“I got one just this week that had the first three numbers, so it was 801 and the first three numbers, so I picked it up; I thought it’s probably someone here in the department, we got our phones at the same time, but it was not," Giani said. "It was a hotel telling me I won a free stay because I had stayed there before, and I had not stayed at that hotel.”

Chances are, if the offer is too good to be true, it is too good to be true.

“The free offer, the weekend trip: Nothing is for free," Giani said.

She also said if you do answer a call from a number you do not recognize and the prompt gives you some numbered options, like, “press three if you think we have reached you in error”: do not press anything. If you do, then that tells the robocallers there is a live person using that number.

To stop or avoid robocall scams:

1. Do NOT answer calls or texts from numbers you do not recognize
2. Register your cell phone and land line numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry: https://www.donotcall.gov/ or by calling 1-888-382-1222.
3. Contact your phone company, as Verizon, AT & T and T-Mobile can combat robocalls
4. Do not answer “yes” to robocalls asking questions
5. Beware of “spoofing” calls, which is when a caller pretends to be government agency or business. They even use real caller ID information to fool you

For more information or to file a consumer complaint, visit the Utah Division of Consumer Protection online.