I was sitting at my kitchen table having lunch with my wife, when I got the call on my cell phone. I looked at the number on the screen, and it seemed that I was being called by Microsoft.
The thickly accented voice on the other end said the caller was from Microsoft's security department, and told me that I had to take action immediately.
"I do?" I asked. The voice told me to turn to my computer and start typing in a command. I looked at the hamburger on my plate with one bite taken out of it, and decided enough was enough. "Don't ever call me again," I said. "But, but…" the caller objected, so I continued, explaining that I was calling the police on my other line. The caller hung up.
That was my first lunchtime robocall for the day, but the second came a few minutes later. I just disconnected that one. My hamburger was getting cold.
Robocalls have become a national problem and for most people they're a worse problem than they are for me. People are losing millions of dollars from calls purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service, or they're opening their computers and networks to malware because of those phony security service or tech support calls.
Sometimes those calls are attempts to siphon millions of dollars from companies and sometimes they play on the fears of friends and colleagues who are told someone they know is in trouble.
The problem has been getting worse month over month to the point that the Federal Communications Commission has taken notice and is trying to encourage action. Over the last few days, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has written to carriers in the U.S., asking them to move forward on ways to solve the problem.
Now AT&T has stepped up to the plate and is offering to chair a strike force that will work on ways to end most robocalls, but so far that's pretty much all that’s happened. Considering that the FCC letter came only a few days before, that may not seem surprise.
But the FCC first asked for action against robocallers a year ago, and told carriers that blocking those calls wasn't against the law.
Since then, there hasn't been much visible action by carriers to block robocalls, but this is one area where visibility and reality aren't necessarily the same thing. It seems that some carriers are taking action, albeit quietly, to solve the problem. For example, Verizon has a number of potential solutions depending on which type of calling service you might be using.