How to Stop Scam and Spam Calls on Your Phone
November 27, 2019
By Heidi Van Peursem
Deposit & Loan Specialist
Tired of getting unwanted calls on your phone? You're not the only one.
According to a recent report, the FCC Consumer Complaint Center received 232,000 complaints of unwanted calls in 2018 (up more than 25 percent from 2017). In this article, we'll discuss measures you can take to block these unwanted phone calls and avoid annoying interruptions (or worse — scammers).
Types of Unwanted Phone Calls
The complaints received by the FCC include all types of calls — everything from annoying sales robocalls to scammers reportedly trying to steal money from victims.
Any time you answer the phone and hear a pre-recorded message, it’s a robocall. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), “a robocall trying to sell you something is illegal unless the company has your written permission to call you that way.” If you receive a robocall like this, hang up immediately. Do not press any buttons, even to “remove yourself from the list,” because it could lead to more robocalls.
Certain types of robocalls are still legal under FTC and FCC guidelines, like medical appointment reminders, school closing announcements and calls from charitable organizations, to name a few. This is why scammers often pose as these entities when they make phone calls.
Calls from fake numbers (spoofing)
Scammers often use fake caller ID information to trick you into picking up the phone. This technique is called “spoofing,” and it’s more prevalent than ever. When someone spoofs a local number, you're more prone to answer because you recognize the area code. It's usually best to ignore any number you don't recognize, even if it looks like a local number. If it's important enough to answer, the caller will leave a voicemail.
Especially this time of year, pollsters, political parties and representatives of candidates running for office will frequently call, gauging or asking for your support. These types of calls are allowed under FTC regulations. However, keep reading for ways you can make sure these types of calls don’t disturb you.
Ways to block unwanted calls
Here are five things you can do to avoid annoying interruptions and potential scammers associated with unwanted calls.
1. Join the National Do Not Call Registry.
The U.S. government has established a national “Do Not Call” list, and signing up is easy! Just visit www.donotcall.gov and register your phone number today. By law, telemarketers must consult the Do Not Call Registry before calling.
It’s important to note: scammers don’t care if you’re on the Do Not Call Registry — they’ll call you anyway. And politicians and charitable organizations are also still allowed to call you. But being on the list is at least a good way to separate the legitimate phone calls from the scammers who claim to be from real companies.
It can take up to 31 days to be added to the registry after you submit your phone number.
2. Download a call blocker app.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, “the best defense against unwanted calls is call blocking.” There are a number of call blocker apps you can download to your phone. Some are free, and others will charge you a monthly fee.
How a call blocking app works:
Generally, a call blocking app will access your contact list and silence any calls from a number that isn’t listed in your contacts. You can make them ring silently, go straight to your voice mail, or ignore them altogether.
More sophisticated call blocking apps can prescreen your calls even before the phone rings and block certain callers that other users have flagged as fraudulent.
Click below to find a list of call blocking apps compiled by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), a trade organization that represents the U.S. wireless communications industry.
NOTE: The descriptions and links are for informational purposes only. Northwestern Bank does not endorse any non-NWB product or service, and is not responsible for the content of non-SNB websites.
3. Contact your phone carrier.
One effective solution is to contact your phone company directly to see if they offer any call blocking services. Below are links to call blocking information pages, created by several of the popular phone carriers in the U.S.
AT&T: Mobile Security & Call Protect
Sprint: Block, restrict or allow voice calls
T-Mobile: Mobile Security
U.S. Cellular: Robocalls
Verizon: Stop unwanted calls
4. See what built-in features your phone has.
Go to your phone’s settings and what built-in features your phone might have. Many smart phones allow you to block specific numbers. Most phones also have a “Do Not Disturb” function that allows you to set your preferred hours to receive calls or to send them straight to voicemail.
5. Report unwanted calls.
No matter what precautions you take, you won't be able to prevent every unwanted call. If you do receive one, report it directly to the Federal Trade Commission at www.donotcall.gov.
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