It’s the same voice, same message every time.
“Hello. This is the Marriott Hotel, calling to let you know you’ve won a complimentary one-night stay at any of our locations. Please stay on the line for more information.”
At first, it might seem believable. But you don’t recall filling anything out for a contest so you start to get suspicious.
And for good reason.
Scammers use the name of this widely known hotel chain and promise of a free — all expenses paid — overnight vacation to convince unsuspecting victims into giving them their financial information.
Sadly, many people fall for it. Fortunately, someone caught on and reported it.
“Marriott International has been made aware of a series of fraudulent telephone calls being made in different parts of the world where the caller offers a complimentary stay at a Marriott hotel to entice the person taking the call to listen to a sales pitch unrelated to Marriott,” a hotel spokesperson said in 2017.
Still, the scammers are relentless and they come up with new ways to trick people into handing over their money.
At least three times a day I get a phone call that appears to be from a local number — but is actually not — from a scammer.
My AT&T app usually blocks most of them from evening coming through, but there are several times a day a new number calls that has not yet been recognized as potential fraud and my phone rings.
It’s so annoying that now anytime a number I don’t recognize calls I just ignore it. Doesn’t matter if it is someone I know, I send the call to my voicemail and wait to see who it is. Then I have to check my voicemail to see if the call was someone I actually know, or not.
About 99 percent of the time, it is not someone I know. It’s a recording from a robocall.
According to a recent study by Hiya, I’m not the only one screening my phone calls. Americans are using their cellphones less and less to make and receive calls because they are tired of dealing with robocalls.
“It should come as no surprise that the pervasiveness of spam calls is having an impact on how Americans use their phones. Now less than one in two phone calls is answered,” Hiya CEO Alex Algard said. “At the same time, there’s been a significant increase in pick up rate for calls that are identified as legitimate businesses. This shows that trust in who is on the other end of the phone is absolutely paramount to consumers these days.”
The study reveals that more than 25.3 billion robocalls have been made so far in 2019, and it increases each year by 128 percent. Each person with a cellphone receives an average of 16 unwanted calls each month.
It almost feels like have a cellphone nowadays is a nuisance. Simply because there are so many unwanted phone calls. I often want to throw my phone into the trash can.
So what can we do?
For starters, register with the “Do Not Call List” with the Federal Trade Commission at donotcall.gov. Although, scammers don’t really care if you are on that list or not. They’ll keep calling.
Features Reporter Jessica Pounds can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2333, or firstname.lastname@example.org.