You Can’t Believe Everything You Hear (Phone Scams)
By: Ben Jennings
Life is getting better in many ways; fewer fraudulent phone solicitations is unfortunately not an example. According to the YouMail Robocall Index, there were 4.7 billion robocalls placed in the U.S. during December 2018 alone! What can you do?
The Do Not Call List
At DoNotCall.Gov, you can confirm your number is registered, or register it if it’s not. The same list works for cell numbers. And the original law was changed over a decade ago so that if you have ever registered, the registration won’t expire. Nice laws don’t hinder criminals, but DoNotCall registration is free and actually helps other services identify spammers.
Cell phone apps to block calls
There are a number of apps which have varying degrees of success in identifying or blocking these calls, such as NoMoRoBo, Hiya, and RoboKiller. (Google “cell phone robocall blocker” for more ideas.) These are typically low cost, so you have little to lose by trying them.
Carrier services to block calls
This past year, I found the app I was using simply wasn’t up to the deluge of calls I was receiving and I went to a carrier-based service (for me, AT&T Call Protect). They have a free version, but I gritted my teeth and got the premium, $3.99/month version. I will say this has mostly done the trick—I went from 20-30 robocalls a day even with a phone app to 2-3 rings a day from unknown numbers (who don’t leave voicemails).
If you’re still fed up
What we might call the “nuclear option” is to simply decline every call—unless it’s from someone in your phone’s contact list. Yes, you may miss some legitimate calls—but they will leave a voicemail and you can easily call them back. While I can’t convince my wife to fully snip the cord, I personally NEVER answer a call to our home landline (which I call “the spam line”), and I never give out the number to friends or people with whom I do business. I also decline every call to my cell phone unless it’s from a number I recognize. (iPhone users can do this automatically by setting “Do Not Disturb” to allow only calls from your contact list.)
If they still got through:
What to do
Immediately say, “No thank you, good-bye,” and HANG UP. Be cynical—If you think the call is legitimate, call the business back at the number you have for them (or that you look up and know is correct).
What NOT to do
Don’t “confirm” information. Don’t be polite (I hate to say that—I KNOW you’re polite). Don’t press to be taken off a list; this just lets them know the number is active and will likely lead to more calls.
Help out your friends
Talk about calls you’ve received, and how to avoid falling for a scam.