Minnesota robocalls are telephone calls placed by auto dialers to deliver pre-recorded messages to residents of the state. An auto-dialer is an electronic device or software that can automatically dial telephone numbers. Robocalls are annoying and can be quite intrusive considering the unsolicited nature of the calls. Robocalls are used by telemarketers to publicize their products and services to large groups of potential customers. Political parties often use robocalls as campaign tools.
In 2019, over 516 million robocalls were received by Minnesota residents. 333 million robocalls have been received in the state up until October 2020, an average of 50.2 robocalls per person. Despite the legitimate uses of robocalls, many robocalls are spam calls that are used by crooked individuals to rip off unsuspecting Minnesota residents.
What are Minnesota Robocall Scams?
Minnesota robocall scams are fraudulent acts targeted at stealing money or sensitive information from Minnesotans. These phone scams are carried out using automated calls that require little to no human effort in targeting large groups of Minnesotans. The auto-dialers used in making robocalls can be programmed to connect recipients to live persons once the calls are answered. A live agent, typically the scammer, uses devious means to obtain money or confidential records. Residents may use phone lookup services to differentiate live calls from robocalls.
How are Robocalls Used in Minnesota Scams?
After data breaches, crooked data brokers sell thousands of phone numbers to scammers who carry out their nefarious activities by spamming these lines with robocalls. However, scammers know that many people will hang up or decline phone calls from unknown numbers. Therefore, they use caller ID spoofing to trick their targets. Phone spoofing is a common tool employed by scammers to make their caller IDs look like ones from reputable organizations as well as friends, families, and neighbors of their targets.
The target hears a pre-recorded message along with a prompt to press a button or number to speak with a live agent. The fraudster at the other end of the call assumes the live agent role and demands personal and financial information for bogus reasons such as verifying the target’s bank accounts, tax filings, and credit details. In other cases, the robocall delivers a sales pitch with the aim of swindling the target. In IRS robocall scams, the scammer may ask the target to pay a fine to avoid arrest or jail.
One common trait of robocall scam is the atypical methods of payment requested by scammers. These include wire transfers, gift cards, and cryptocurrencies. Minnesotans can identify and avoid robocall scams by using reverse phone lookup services.
Does Minnesota Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
Minnesota Statutes 325E.27 prohibits the use of prerecorded or synthesized voice messages except under certain circumstances. The law sets aside specific rules that must be followed by anyone who seeks to use robocalls in any form. A bill, HF3099, sponsored by Rep. Zack Stephenson aims to be the "toughest" anti-robocall law in the United States. HF3099 seeks to ban caller ID spoofing, force telecommunications companies to use the latest technology to block robocalls, and give the state attorney general and consumers tools to avoid robocalls.
After an initial violation, further contraventions of HF3099 would require a fine of up to $1,000 per violation. Penalties for theft by swindle or identity theft accomplished through robocalls prohibited by HF3099 could include a $10,000 fine or five years in prison.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in Minnesota?
In addition to the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) which restricts telemarketing calls and other uses of robocalls, Minnesota makes special provisions for the legitimacy of robocalls. Robocalls typically use Automatic Dialing-Announcing Devices (ADADs) to deliver pre-recorded messages to call recipients. Minnesota defines an ADAD as any device that selects and dials telephone numbers and that, working alone or in combination with other equipment, disseminates a synthesized voice or prerecorded message to the telephone number called. The following requirements are mandatory for a legitimate robocall in Minnesota:
- A caller may not use or connect to a telephone line with an ADAD unless the subscriber has voluntarily consented to the receipt of the message.
- A caller may not use an ADAD unless the message is immediately preceded by a live operator who obtains the subscriber's consent before the message is delivered. At the outset of the message, the live operator must disclose the name of the organization, the purpose of the message, the identity of goods or services being promoted, and if applicable, the fact that the message intends to solicit payment or commitment of funds.
- A caller may only use an ADAD designed and operated to disconnect within ten seconds after termination of the telephone call by the subscriber.
- A caller may not use an ADAD or make any commercial telephone solicitation before 9:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m.
Any caller who violates these guidelines is subject to the penalties and remedies, including a private right of action to recover damages. However, robocalls from certain institutions are not covered by these provisions. Such institutions may reach out to Minnesotans by robocall at any time of the day and require no live introductions. These include:
- Robocalls from school districts to students, parents, or employees
- Robocalls to subscribers with whom the caller has current business or personal relationships
- Robocalls advising employees of work schedules
- Robocalls from a nonprofit tax-exempt charitable organization sent solely for the purpose of soliciting voluntary donations of clothing to benefit disabled United States military veterans and containing no request for monetary donations or other solicitations of any kind.
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Although robocalls have several legitimate uses, a large portion of the robocalls received by Minnesotans is initiated by scammers hoping to prey on residents by obtaining confidential information for identity thefts. Besides, the sheer number of incoming robocalls can be intrusive and annoying. Reverse phone number lookup can help residents identify robocallers and stop scammers in their tracks.
Minnesota residents can take the following steps to avoid robocalls:
- Do not answer. If you are unfamiliar with a phone number, do not hesitate to let the call go directly to voicemail.
- Hang up. Do not press any numbers. A robocall scammer usually asks you to press a number to speak with a live operator. Pressing the number indicates to the scammer that the line is active, which in turn means that more robocalls can be made to the phone line. If you press the button to speak to a live operator, the operator who doubles as the scammer will eventually ask for money or say they will remove you from their list, which ends up being untrue.
- Verify. Do not call any number or go directly to a website that you are directed to on the call. Always do your research and verify any number, persons, or website online rather than relying on any information you are given.
- Report robocalls online to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or call the FTC on 1 (888) 382-1222. The more complaints are filed, the more the FTC can help stop robocalls and share the information with the public and with law enforcement agencies.
- Subscribe to receive FTC's Consumer alerts.
- Contact your phone service provider if it has call-blocking tools that you can use to block unwanted calls on your phone.
- Install and use a third-party call-blocking app if your provider or phone manufacturer does not provide one
- Register your number on the National Do Not Call Registry.