It has become a dirty word, in the American lexicon. Robo-call. More Utahns are complaining their phones are lighting up more often, recently. One explanation may be the government shutdown, that has closed the federal website, donotcall.gov, where Americans go to report phone scams. Another may be that robots are arming themselves with new technology that beats the blockers many people have been using.
“It was Thursday night,” Gwen Peterson tells ABC4.com, “and my phone kept ringing.”
Gwen picked up her phone, swiped to the “recent calls” file, and started counting.
“Last night, it started at 3:25 a.m., from Serbia. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty.”
After a sleepless night, Gwen started investigating the calls. She discovered she was one of the newest targets of a new version of robo-calling, the most aggressive and persistent yet. The calls bypassed even the settings on Gwen’s iPhone.
“I was shocked that I was seeing these calls coming through, and I didn’t understand why because the do not disturb normal blocks any call.”
What appeared to be happening, was that the offending robot was rapid dialing.
“Call, after call, after call, sometimes every three minutes in a row.”
The sequence of quick calls apparently signalled her phone’s default setting to allow the fourth call through.
“I didn’t get any sleep, so finally, at about five in the morning, I shut my ringer off, because do not disturb wasn’t working.”
And the app Gwen had been using to block calls, an app called Hiya, didn’t block the late-night and early morning robo calls. She called her carrier, AT&T.
“And said I don’t know what to do. These numbers are fifteen digit phone numbers. They’re not even real numbers.”
Neither Gwen nor the AT&T tech could load the numbers into a blocked call file. As a last report tried to block all of the international calls to her number. That didn’t work, either.
“She figured out that they were probably purchasing a Google number through the United States,” Gwen says, “so that international block didn’t stop the calls.”
She took to Facebook, posted her problem, and asked for help. An Ogden police officer commented, suggesting an app that seems to be effective. It’s called RoboKiller. So far, so good, says Gwen Peterson. She’s hoping the new app works, in the middle of the night.