A robocall is an automated call that delivers a prerecorded message to a target audience. These calls are made to residents using auto-dialers and do not involve any live conversations with the recipients. Most robocalls are counted as an offense against the public order in Montana. The Unlawful Automated Telephone Solicitation Statute 54-8-216 prohibits the use of robocalls to make unwarranted solicitations or commit fraud in Montana. However, some telemarketers may use robocalls if they are duly registered with the Montana Secretary of State, and they follow the state guidelines on how and when to place robocalls.
Despite this strict anti-robocall statute, Montana residents still receive many unsolicited calls from businesses and politicians. In November 2019, Montana residents received more than 429,000 daily, which equals 17,900 robocalls per hour. Seven of the top 20 robocalls placed came from numbers with an in-state 406 area code. In most cases, these calls are used to defraud or obtain sensitive information from innocent persons.
What are Montana Robocall Scams?
Montana robocall scams refer to all illegal obtainment of sensitive information or money from residents using robocalls. Generally, any activity that involves illegally obtaining money or information from individuals is a scam. What differentiates robocall scams from other phone scams is the means with which they are executed. In Montana, fraudulent marketers often impersonate legitimate businesses or government agencies to commit crimes. Scammers use robocalls to identify a target before engaging these individuals with a pre-recorded script.
Typically, scammers place calls to several phone numbers using auto-dialers, but not all the recipients are active. The receiver may be asked to press a button to end the call; scammers use this to determine the active numbers. Residents who believe that Robocall scams have targeted them should report to their County's Attorney General.
Does Montana Have Anti-Robocall Laws?
Yes, Montana is one of the states where robocalls are strongly discouraged. As stipulated in the Unlawful Automated Telephone Solicitation Statute, it is illegal to initiate a telephone solicitation without the recipient’s consent. According to the Montana statute, individuals cannot use an automated telephone system or device for the selection, dialing, and playing of recorded messages to residents for:
- Offering goods and services for sale
- Soliciting information that is personal to the recipient
- Gathering data or statistics
- Promoting a political candidate during an election or any use relating to a political campaign
- Conveying information on goods or services with the intent of sealing a deal.
The statute also prohibits telephone solicitations when the recipient's number is enlisted in the National Do Not Call Registry. Any individual who violates any aspect of this statute may pay a fine of up to $2,500. Residents can report violators to their County Attorney General or the County Sheriff's Department.
However, legitimate businesses can use robocalls to contact potential customers, but this is done following state guidelines. Telemarketing activities are regulated by the Montana Telemarketing Registration and Fraud Prevention Act. According to Montana law, telemarketers shall disclose the following information when making telephone solicitations whether live or through a robocall:
- The seller’s identity and the purpose of the call, which in this case, is to sell goods or services
- Before any payment, the telemarketer shall also disclose the total cost of goods, all material restrictions, or limitations on purchasing the goods or services.
- A telemarketer may not misrepresent the performance or effectiveness of goods and information on prize promotion.
- The telemarketer shall allow buyers to cancel the purchase as long as the request is made before signing an agreement or offer to purchase.
- The telemarketer shall furnish the buyer with a written notice to complete the sale agreement.
Montana is also one of the states that have endorsed the new TRACE Act, enabling voice service providers to participate in a call authentication framework to block unwanted calls. The Act creates inter-agency collaborations towards the fight against the illegal use of robocalls.
Are there Special Requirements for Robocalls in Montana?
To qualify as a legitimate robocall in Montana, the robocall must come from a registered telemarketer in the state. In Montana, telemarketers are required to register with the Montana Secretary of State, after which they can do business as legitimate ventures in the state. Telemarketers in Montana must apply for renewal of registration annually to the department.
Montana recognizes that robocalls are important to legitimate businesses, and as a result, the state allows registered businesses to use robocalls when they meet the following requirements:
- There must be a pre-existing relationship between the recipient and the telemarketer.
- A live operator shall obtain permission from the potential customer before initiating the robocall.
- The caller must disclose the caller’s identity and the call’s purpose within the first fifteen seconds of the call.
- The call must fall within the hours of 8 am to 9 pm.
- The call must not keep the recipient disconnected from the caller for more than the time stipulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
How Do I Stop Robocalls?
Robocalls most times constitute a nuisance to the receiver. Residents are bombarded with unsolicited calls every day, and sometimes they lose their money to the scammers at the other end of the phone. Avoiding robocalls is very important at this time, and residents have been advised to take the following steps in protecting themselves from robocalls.
- Avoid calls from organizations that you have no business with. If a telemarketer calls more than once after you decline the call, report the number to the appropriate authorities.
- Hang up if the caller fails to introduce themselves within the first 30 seconds of the call. Montana law specifies that all legitimate telemarketers inform their customers of the purpose of the call before the solicitation popper.
- End calls when it is clear that it is a robocall. Do not follow any instructions you receive during the call. Fraudsters often request that the recipient press a button or call a live agent for more information. This is usually a trick to find out if the phone number is active.
- Add your phone numbers to the Federal Do Not Call Registry. This prevents illegitimate telemarketers from calling the number. Residents may also inform companies to add them to their Do Not Call list. This will stop further engagement between them and the company.
- Download and install a call blocking app or any other third-party application. With any of these applications, residents can identify and block robocalls. Applications like True caller, Hiya, and Nomorobo are currently some of the best call blocking apps in the market.
- Use reverse phone lookup tools to ascertain the true identity of callers.