NEW ORLEANS -- On the list of pet peeves, robocalls are near the top of everyone’s list.
“I hate ‘em. I hate ‘em,” said a local bellhop. “But I have to answer my phone because I'm a musician and I get gigs, so I have to answer.”
According to federal statistics, Americans receive 2.6 billion robocalls a month. A month. And they're getting harder to ignore.
“And they use the first six digits of my number, so it gets very annoying,” complained one man.
That's called spoofing. They can even spoof your entire number. In fact, the FTC says scammers just this week spoofed the real number of the Social Security Administration.
Some are savvy enough to spot a scam.
“That threw up a red flag when I heard that because the Social Security office doesn't call people on the phone,” one man said.
But thousands are not. According to the FBI, three-quarters of all economic crimes start with calls.
That IRS scam? It’s been around for years bilking $54 million from unsuspecting victims.
“Do you get robocalls?” we asked LA Attorney General Jeff Landry.
“I just got one on the way here!” he exclaimed. “So, believe you me, it irritates people out there just like it does us.”
Landry is one of 35 state attorneys general demanding the FCC allow phone companies to do more to block illegal robocalls. In the meantime, he says “never give out private information! Never agree to give a credit card over the phone.”
In fact, the best thing to do is hang up. If you engage in conversation, it lets the telemarketer know it's a live number and they may share it with others.
You can also add your number to the federal “Do Not Call” list at www.donotcall.gov.
However, if you've already tried that and it didn't really help, there are apps that could provide relief.
There are free ones and subscription-based ones. We tried the free ones first. If you have an Android or iPhone, try "Hiya." Several people in the WWL-TV newsroom gave it a try.
Producer Ian Kramar reviewed his call log noting new labels on calls.
“So, this was Cox telling me I needed to pay my bill. This was an actual survey from the city on the bicycle use,” he said.
Hiya’s "Warn Me" feature works like caller ID, labeling calls as spam, surveys and real business calls.
In terms of its effectiveness, Kramar said, “It didn't identify everyone, but it did identify most of the calls that weren't in my contacts so I thought that was helpful.”
Producer Sofia Hackett agreed.
“Well, so far it seems to be working,” she said. “I haven't gotten any calls since I downloaded the app.”
Hiya also offers a “Block” feature. News Director Keith Esparros tried both. First, he opted for the “Warn Me" option, which actually went back into his phone log and red flagged old calls as well as new ones.
“Sept. 19, I see one as a possible scam or fraud,” Esparros noted.
Last Friday, he switched from the “Warn Me” option to the “Block” feature and that seemed to do the trick.
“I think it's blocking them actually because I’m not seeing nearly the number I saw before I got that,” he said. “I was getting four (robocalls) calls a day.”
But if you're still having troubles after trying “Hiya,” know that there are others out there.
The Nomorobo app won an FTC contest for blocking robocalls, but it's $1.99 a month. Only you can decide if it's worth a try to silence the scammers.