As a local elder law attorney, I have learned that the telephone is a favorite tool of scammers attempting to part seniors with their life savings. Fortunately, there is a Federal law, called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (“TCPA”) that helps consumers stop the annoying and deceptive phone calls. The TCPA puts restrictions on junk robocalls, robotexts and faxes. The protections are valuable for seniors who need to limit the solicitations and keep the lines clear for important phone calls, such as those from family and medical providers.
While there is no full-proof method to stop unwanted robocalls and scam solicitations, the following tips can help regain some control:
1. Lodge a Complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. While you may not receive a response from the FCC, a history of complaints against a particular company may prompt the FCC to take action. The FCC is the only agency charged with enforcing the mandate of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and, if enough complaints are filed, the FCC may act to put an egregious violator out of business. Complaints can be filed online at:
2. Add Your Number to the Do-Not-Call List. While the Federal Do-Not-Call list does not stop all robocalls, it is a valuable resource for removing your number from the call lists of legitimate companies that do not want to run afoul of the law. It works for both landlines and cell phones. It will prevent these businesses from automatically contacting you by phone. However, robocalls from companies that you do business with, such as banks and credit card companies, will still get through (unless you revoke consent, see no. 3 below). To add your phone number(s) to the Do-Not-Call list, there is only one registry, located here:
For a good discussion of the rules regarding cell phones and the Do Not Call list, see this site:
3. Revoke Consent. If you are receiving robocalls from a company you do business with, they are likely have your consent (hidden in the fine print) to robocall you. Fortunately for consumers, you can revoke that consent at any time. Tell the caller you “revoke consent.” If the calls continue, contact customer service. Inform the representative that you revoke consent and that you want your number added to their own internal “do not call” list.
4. Do Not Engage With the Caller! Most robocalls include a prompt to press a key or give a voice command. However, pressing a key, even if the recording says it’s to remove your number from the list, tells the caller that your number is active and that you’ll likely answer future calls. Even worse, any voice response can be recorded and used against you by scammers to allege that you said “Yes” to purchase their products or services, (such as a five-year computer service contract!).
5. Get Caller ID On Your Landline and Do Not Answer Unknown Numbers. Force the unknown caller to leave a message. Do not return calls that seem suspicious, (such as that one from a purported grandson who just got into an accident in Mexico and needs money, but wants to make sure that you don’t tell Mom!)
6. On Cell Phones, Install Call-Blocking Apps. There are various call-blocking apps, such as YouMail and NoMoRobo, that provide a free or low-cost service to smartphone users. These apps filter out identified scam robocalls and allow users to block specific numbers and report the calls.