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If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it's a robocall. Robocalls trying to sell you something are almost always illegal. Many are also probably scams. Here’s what to know about robocalls and what to do about them.

Are Robocalls Legal?

If you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person, it's a robocall. A robocall trying to sell you something is illegal unless the company trying to sell you something got written permission, directly from you, to call you that way. To get your permission, the company has to be clear it’s asking to call you with robocalls. The company also can’t make you agree to the calls to get a product or service.

If you’re getting robocalls trying to sell you something, odds are the calls are illegal. Many are also probably scams.

Why Do I Get So Many Robocalls?

Scammers. It’s cheap and easy for them to make robocalls over the internet from anywhere in the world.

What If a Robocall Seems To Be From the Government?

Scammers make robocalls that say they’re from government agencies calling about your Social Security number, taxes, or Medicare. They say that if you don’t pay or you refuse to give them your personal information, something bad will happen or you’ll miss out on some government benefit. It’s a scam. 

If someone calls you out of the blue and insists you hand over personal information, wire money, put money on a gift card, use a payment app or send cryptocurrency, it’s a scam whether the caller says they’re from the government or a business. Many people report getting robocalls about extended car warranties, debt relief, or credit repair, too. Learn more about other common phone scams.

Don’t rely on your caller ID. It’s helpful when your caller ID labels a call as a potential scam. But not all scam calls will get flagged. And scammers can fake the name and number that shows up, making it look like a call is from a government agency like the Social Security Administration or a local number.

Caller ID

Are All Robocalls Illegal?

No. For example, messages that are purely informational or calls to collect a debt aren’t illegal (though robocalls that try to sell you services to lower your debt are illegal and are almost always scams).

Your state also might have other rules for robocalls.

How Do I Get Fewer Robocalls?

Call-blocking and call-labeling services can help you get fewer robocalls. The call-blocking or call-labeling option you choose will depend on whether you’re getting calls on a cell phone, traditional landline, or home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP).

See what services your phone carrier offers, and look online for expert reviews. For cell phones, also check out the reviews for different call-blocking apps in your app store.

What’s the Best Thing To do If I Get An Illegal Robocall?

Hang up. If you hear a recorded message from someone trying to sell you something, the call is almost always illegal. It’s also probably a scam. Hang up. Pressing numbers to speak to someone or remove you from the list will probably only lead to more robocalls. And the number on your caller ID probably isn’t real. Caller ID is easy to fake, so even if it shows that a call is coming from nearby or a company you know, you can’t trust it.

Block. Call blocking can help reduce the number of unwanted calls you get.

Report it to the FTC at Report the number that received the call, the number on your caller ID, and any number you’re told to call back. Also report the exact date and time of the call, if you know it. Knowing all of this information helps the FTC track down the scammers behind the call. Even if you think the number on your caller ID is fake, report it. The FTC analyzes report data and trends to identify illegal callers based on calling patterns.

The FTC takes the illegal callers’ phone numbers you report and releases them to the public each business day. This helps phone companies and other partners that are working on call-blocking and call-labeling solutions. Your reports also help law enforcement identify the people behind illegal calls.

What Else Is the FTC Doing About Robocalls?

The FTC continues to bring enforcement actions against robocallers and has already stopped people responsible for billions of robocalls. You can read about recent FTC cases and other robocall-related actions in the FTC’s press releases.

The FTC also works with other law enforcement agencies and encourages industry efforts to combat robocalls and caller ID spoofing. The FTC has led initiatives to develop technology-based solutions, including a series of robocall contests that challenged tech experts to design tools that block robocalls and help investigators track down and stop robocallers.

Why Doesn’t the Do Not Call Registry Stop Robocalls?

The National Do Not Call Registry is designed to stop unwanted sales calls — live calls or robocalls — from real companies that follow the law. The Registry is a list that tells registered telemarketers what numbers not to call. Being on the Registry won’t stop scammers from making illegal calls.

Even though the Registry can’t stop all the unwanted calls you’re getting, being on the Registry could reduce the number of calls you get and make it easier for you to spot scam calls. If you get a robocall, and you haven’t given the caller written permission to call you with robocalls, the call is illegal, period. That’s true whether your number is on the Registry or not. 

Learn more about unwanted calls at

Learn more about the Telemarketing Sales Rule that governs robocalls on the FTC’s Business Center.