Table of Contents_
It is estimated that in 2020 alone, US phone customers received an estimated 45.9 billion robocalls. The majority of these spam calls are made by spammers who utilize software dialers to connect and call as many numbers as possible. So what can you do about this? How can you stop these unwanted calls, and answer your phone with some peace of mind and protect your privacy as a consumer?
The following guide will provide you with the steps you can take to do just that.
There are four main kinds of spam calls one can expect to receive:
These sorts of calls have been going on for decades, however, the simplicity of the latest technology has caused them to increase dramatically in recent years. In an hour a single computer can make thousands of calls by utilizing Voice over Internet Protocol. In recent years, it has become a lot easier for scammers to con people by using technology that allows them to call people with a legitimate number displaying on the recipient’s Caller ID. This is known as Caller ID spoofing and it allows scammers to bypass lists that blacklist dubious numbers.
More than 4 million requests were received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) from phone users from December 2019 till the same month the following year, to be included in do-not-call lists. Around 71% of the complainants had received robocalls and 22% had been contacted by live callers. It is worth noting that the aforementioned figures only indicate the number of people who came forward and filed complaints with the FTC and FCC.
YouMail, an anti-robocall company estimated that 4.6 billion of its subscribers received scams or robocalls in February 2021 alone. In the same month, a similar company Robokiller estimated a 26% increase from the previous year with a staggering 5.8 billion spam texts. Robokiller estimates that by the end of 2021, spam call figures may reach as high as 70 billion while spam texts may reach as high as 90 billion by the end of the year.
There may be several reasons for people to receive spam calls:
For the most part scam calls are not personal. Scammers usually pick out area codes and will sequentially dial numbers in that area code. They may also dial numbers at random. Several robocallers call random numbers to see if anyone picks up. They then sell these lists of numbers to other scammers. Similar tactics are also used with text messages. Scammers may often send out messages with links to see whether people click on the links in the messages or reply asking to opt-out.
It is also theoretically possible for robocallers to purchase phone number lists from legitimate sources to use in their scams. This may happen easily since there isn’t much oversight on how data is sold or shared once it is collected by companies.
Though most scammers target mobile customers at random, some have a more focused approach. In 2019, over 40,000 calls made in the first half of the year were analyzed in a survey conducted by First Orion, a company offering scam protection services. They also conducted a blind study of around 5000 US-based mobile subscribers who had been contacted by scam callers. In these studies, they found that in around 75% of the cases, scam companies already had the personal information of subscribers and utilized this to extract additional information which led to direct financial losses incurred by subscribers.
While customers have started to become wary of incoming calls from unknown numbers, scammers have kept pace by adopting a new tactic- enterprise spoofing. They impersonate legitimate businesses by spoofing their main number for outbound calls.
Here are some of the common signs of robocall scams.
In many instances, scammers may impersonate government employees or representatives calling you on behalf of institutions like the IRS, Social Security Administration, or Medicare. Or they may pretend to be calling from known businesses like a tech company, utility company, or solicit donations on behalf of charities. Some scammers will even make up fictitious names that sound official. The name and number you see on your caller ID may not be real as such scammers often utilize technology that changes these details.
The caller may tell you about fictitious problems like issues with your computer, or about an emergency affecting you or your loved ones. Another common pretext used is that there is an issue with an account you hold, and some information is required for verification. You may even be told that you have been blacklisted by the government, or you owe a certain sum of money. Other scammers may use a more positive approach telling you that you have won sweepstakes or lottery but a fee is required to collect your winnings.
If the caller is pressuring you to act without giving you any chance to think about it, it is very likely a scam. Or they may try to dissuade you from hanging up. These are steps taken by them to ensure you do not have the time or opportunity to check up on them or verify their credentials. You might be told your computer is getting corrupted. You may even be threatened with lawsuits, arrest, deportation, confiscation of business or driver’s license, or deportation.
Scammers may frequently** **insist on payments made through gift cards or money transfer companies, etc. You may be sent a cheque with instructions to deposit it and then send money over to them. Sometime later you may find out the cheque was a fake.
Here are some steps to take to stop spam calls cold in their tracks.
Upon receiving a robocall or an obvious scam call, hang up immediately and report it to the FTC. You can make a report on their website at complaints.donotcall.gov. You may also contact them at 1-888-382-1222.
If you continue to receive robocalls or scam calls, you can contact your service provider regarding this. Most mobile service and phone companies offer free products and services to help you deal with or block unwanted or nuisance calls.
Call Blocking refers to devices or technologies that can halt most illegal robocalls and other unwanted calls before you even receive them. Landlines, mobile phones, and any phones that utilize the internet (VoIP) each have options for call-blocking. It is worth noting that if you avail of this option, even some legitimate calls may get blocked along with the spam. Call labeling is also offered by some companies. This facility will add categories such as “scam likely” or “spam” to any incoming calls. You may then decide if you wish to answer the call. You can download a call blocking app from an online app store. Some reputed call blocking apps include Robokiller, Nomorobo, YouMail, and true caller. However, it is important to note that all call blocking apps are effective, and some may even steal personal data on your phone. Be sure to look up expert reviews online before deciding on the right app for you.
Cellphones often have in-built features in the menu that allow you to block certain numbers. However, there may be a limit to the numbers you can block using this feature. Many devices also have a do not disturb feature, which allows you to choose certain hours not to receive calls. They will be forwarded to voicemail.
You can have your mobiles or landlines included in the National Do Not Call Registry, which prevents telemarketers from placing calls to your registered numbers.