By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Last year, Americans received 46 billion robocalls — that’s according to YouMail — a company that helps people block calls.

Only a tiny fraction get reported to the government, but of those that are, the number one complaint is: Trying to sell you an auto warranty.

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So, why so many car warranty robocalls? Good Question.

“They’re pitching safety and security with these warranties, but basically, it’s a piece of paper if you get one,” says Amy Nofziger, head of fraud victim support at AARP.

Nofziger says it’s hard to know if all of these calls are scams.

“But here’s what I will say — if you are on the Do Not Call list, which a high percentage of Americans are, then I 100% assume it’s a scam,” Nofziger says. “We have heard from people who have purchased these that they actually do get something in the mail that resembles a warranty, but the problem is it’s not as described. It doesn’t cover anything like they said over the phone.”

Unless a person gives permission to accept a robocall (ex: a pharmacy prescription opt-in), recorded robocalls are against the law. Voice-over internet technology now makes it so easy for scammers to make thousands of calls per minute.

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“For pennies, really, they can dial thousands of people at once,” says Nofziger. “If they can get a couple of hundred victims a day at $3,000 each, I mean that’s big business for them.”

So the biggest question people want to know: How can they stop or slow down these calls?

“Number one, whenever possible, don’t answer the phone if you see the number that looks suspicious,” says Bao Vang, Communications Director of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.

During a recent webinar hosted by the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, Aaron Foss, founder of Nomorobo said that while the research is mixed on whether answering robocalls will lead to more of them, anecdotal evidence suggests it can.

“Is it the end of the world is you accidentally press one? Do you have to burn your phone? No, do you have to move out of the country? No, don’t push one, don’t interact with them,” Foss said.

Both Nofziger and Vang suggest people still sign up for the Do Not Call Registry because it will, at the least, cut down on legitimate unwanted calls. There are also settings on most phones to filter unknown numbers and most phone providers will offer filtering options as well. Apps like Nomorobo, Hiya or YouMail can also help people block unknown numbers, but Nofziger warns people to be sure to read the privacy information on apps before signing up.

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Finally, both Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commissions ask that people report these robocalls to them because that’s the information the government uses to track and prosecute criminals.

Heather Brown