Unwanted phone calls and text messages continue to surge no matter what different efforts lawmakers and regulators take to limit them. In the first four months of this year, the call-blocking service YouMail reports that more than 12 billion robocalls were made to homes in America. That’s comes to about 4 million every hour. This is a steady increase compared to last year. Live calls from telemarketers are also continuing to increase.
And why is this so? Sadly, the only answer is that they work. It only costs scammers and spammers a few dollars per day to simultaneously send a blast of tens of millions of calls with autodialers. The senders and many of them are con artists, will spend about $438 million per year on these robocalls. Those calls will generate more than 20 times that amount in income, at almost $10 billion a year.
The criminals that are generating the calls can easily hide their tracks. Calls will often travel through a maze of networks. They will often be displayed on caller ID screens with phony “spoofed” numbers. These numbers may appear to be local or from trusted businesses and government agencies. Additionally, they are changed frequently on purpose.
This is nothing personal. Spammers often don’t even know who owns targeted numbers. They may not also know if the numbers are active. But no doubt you’ve been targeted. And you will continue to be. The question is; how do you defend yourself?
First, you can try not picking up. But the calls that do reach your voicemail greeting could identify that you have a working number, and are ripe for calls in the future.
Here is a list of do-it-yourself defenses that you can use that have decreased that number of automated and live spam calls received by more than 90 percent.
- You can answer with silence. When you answer by saying hello or anything else, automated voice-activated calls will launch the
robocall recording or will transfer you to a call center. This is where a live operator will angle for your personal and financial information. But by saying nothing, it will usually disconnect these calls within seconds. It does so with no robo-message or callbacks from that bogus number. If it happens to be an unsolicited “live” caller, wait for that person to speak first to break the silence. If you don’t recognize their voice, simply hang up.
- You can try a “not in service” recording. By using a portable tape recorder and a microphone attached to a handset, you can copy a “this number is not in service” message during a callback to a scammer’s spoofed number. Since it is still cued, you can play that recording, again, saying nothing. You do this when answering calls before they go into voicemail in hopes your number will be removed from spammer calling lists. So far, it has been an effective way to decrease callbacks from these incoming numbers.
- You can trap them with an app. Smartphone users have plenty of options that will flag and block some fraudulent calls and text messages. Some of these services are free, while others cost a few dollars per month.
Customers of AT&T have the ability to use Call Protect. Verizon Wireless provides an app called Caller Name ID. Sprint offers Premium Caller ID. And T-Mobile has Scam ID and Scam Block. You can also purchase app like RoboKiller that will filter calls for a few dollars a month, or for free you can use YouMail.
Another freebie that is available for virtually every landline user: Press *77 to block “anonymous” and “private” numbers, then you can deactivate it anytime with *87.
To block individual numbers that slip through on an iPhone, first open the phone app, then tap the circled “i” icon to the right of the spam number that called, and then scroll down and tap Block This Caller. For Android smartphones, first open the phone app and tap the calling number, next select Details, and then tap Block Number.
- You need to know which calls to avoid. The most common calling cons are sales pitches that promise to reduce your debt and credit card rates or to get you pre-approved for loans. They may offer free or low-cost vacations, time-shares, home security systems and medical supplies. Lastly, they may originate from government and utility company impostors.
- The dropped or “one-ring” call is a common trick to prompt a quick callback from you. Beware of area codes 284, 268, 876 and 809, which actually originate from Caribbean countries with high per-minute phone charges.
Robocall volume tends to be the highest on Friday and Tuesday. And the most frequently targeted numbers are in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, New York City, Los Angeles, Houston, Birmingham, Ala., and Miami.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post on The Best Ways To Stop Spam Calls. As stated, this problem is on the rise and not expected to go away soon. Please feel free to leave your Comments or Questions below and I will promptly respond to them. If you know of a Scam that I have not written a post on, please leave the information below and I will be glad to investigate. Take care and have a great day.