By Ian Bush


by KYW tech editor Ian Bush

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Robocallers and telemarketers combine to claim a dubious honor: the top complaint made by Americans to the Federal Communications Commission.

Tech and telecom companies are meeting with government officials next week about the problem, which has skyrocketed over the last year.

But there are steps you can take right now to fight back.

“Hello, this is Rachel at Cardholder Services…”

Across the country, there were 2.6 billion robocalls like this in September alone. That’s more than double the number from the same time last year.

According to a report by YouMail, nearly 50 million of them scoffed at the ‘Do Not Call’ list to ring phones in the 215, 610, 609, and 856 area codes.

Philadelphians got seven such calls apiece last month, on average. That’s too many. But we have nothing on Atlanta, where each person suffered through 40.

“It’s the economics of robocalling,” says Alex Quilici, YouMail CEO. “It’s become very cheap and very easy for someone to set up a little server and start making huge numbers of calls. And you don’t need that many people to agree to your scam and give you a little bit of money to make all that worthwhile.”

So should you listen to the spiel and option to have your number removed?

“That actually does the opposite,” Quilici explains. “You’re going to get put onto the ‘good’ list, and it probably leads to more robocalls.”

Instead, Quilici suggests not answering calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Let them go to voice mail.

And consider a service like the free YouMail, which works by tricking robocallers that your phone is out of service.

“It works not only for scammers but also for, say, a debt collector who’s hounding you and calling from 100 different numbers,” Quilici says. “And once they call from one number and hear your number’s out of service, they’re not going to call you from any of the other numbers. And so that dramatically reduces the number of robocalls that you get.”

We’ve also profiled NoMoRobo, which offers a similar robocall/telemarketer blocking service.

Government officials and companies — like Apple, AT&T, and Google — that make up the “Robocall Strike Force” are meeting on Oct. 26 to try to come up with ways to combat the problem.