Robocalls: How They Work

posted on Friday, February 21, 2020 in Fraud

You get a lot of unwanted calls. Many are from scammers.

Here’s how they work:

You pick up the phone and hear a recorded message — a robocall — or a live person selling something. Maybe it’s not who your caller ID said it was. It’s frustrating, and you just want it to stop.

Recorded sales calls are illegal, unless you give a business written permission to robocall you. If your number is on the Do Not Call Registry, you’re not supposed to get any sales calls — live or recorded. But scammers ignore the rules about when and how they can call you.

Scammers can use technology to make their calls look like they come from anywhere: the IRS, a business you know, a neighbor, or even your own number. Because phone numbers can be faked, you can’t trust your caller ID. So now what?

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Hang up. Don’t press a number. Just hang up the phone on unwanted calls. Consider call-blocking services to reduce the number of unwanted calls you get. Ask your phone carrier about call blocking and read expert reviews about your options. Learn more at
  2. Pass this information on to a friend. You may know what to do about unwanted calls, but chances are you know someone who doesn’t.

Please Report Scams

If you spot a scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

Your complaint can help protect other people. By filing a complaint, you can help the FTC's investigators identify scammers and stop them before they can get someone’s hard-earned money. It really makes a difference.

Want to know more?

Sign up for FTC Consumer Alerts:

Unwanted Calls Resources