Some scams can make a telltale sound—rinnng, rinnng! Yup, the dreaded robocall. Not only are they annoying, but they can also hit you in the pocketbook.
In the U.S., unwanted calls rank as the top consumer complaint reported to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), partly because scammers have made good use of spoofing technologies that serve up phony caller ID numbers. As a result, that innocent-looking phone number may not be innocent at all.
Whether the voice on the other end of the smartphone is recorded or an actual person, the intent behind the call is likely the same—to scam you out of your personal information, money, or both. Callers such as these may impersonate banks, government agencies, insurance companies, along with any number of other organizations that give them an excuse to demand payment, financial information, or ID numbers.
And some of those callers can sound rather convincing. Others, well, they’ll just get downright aggressive or threatening. One of the most effective tools these scam calls use is a sense of urgency and fear, telling you that there’s a problem right now and they need your information immediately to resolve whatever bogus issue they’ve come up with. That right there is a sign you should take pause and determine what’s really happening before responding or taking any action.
Avoid and stop robocalls with these tips
Whatever form these unwanted calls take, there are things you can do to protect yourself and even keep you from getting them in the first place. These five tips will get you started:
1) Check your caller ID closely
Okay, maybe you can file this one under “obviously.” Yet be aware that scammers excel at spoofing. They can make a call look like it’s local or just familiar enough. If you get caught off guard and answer a spammy call, hang up immediately. If you’re unsure about the number, you’re better off letting your voicemail screen the call for you. Picking up the phone to determine if a call is legit or not could help a scammer verify that you have a valid line, which could lead to more nuisance calls down the road.
2) Don’t return calls from unknown numbers
So, let’s say you let an unknown call go through to voicemail. The call sounds like it’s from a bank or business with news of an urgent matter. If you feel the need to follow up, get a legitimate customer service number from a statement, bill, or website of the bank or business in question so you can verify the situation for yourself. Calling back the number captured by your phone or left in voicemail could play right into the hands of a scammer.
3) Don’t give in to pressure
As you can see, scammers love to play the role of an imposter and will tell you there’s something wrong with your taxes, your account, or your bank statement. Some of them can be quite convincing, so if you find yourself in a conversation where you don’t feel comfortable with what’s being said or how it’s being said, hang up and follow up bank or business as called out above. In all, look out for pressure or scare tactics and keep your info to yourself.
4) Sign up for your national do not call registry
Several nations provide such a service, effectively a list that legitimate telemarketers will reference before making their calls. While this may not prevent scammers from ringing you up, it can cut down on unsolicited calls in general. For example, the U.S., Canada, and the UK each offer do not call registries.
5) Look into apps and services that block unwanted calls
Many mobile carriers provide additional apps and services that can block unwanted calls, often as part of your smartphone’s service plan. There are third-party apps that do this as well. Yet do your research. You’ll want to see if those apps are legitimate and if they can effectively let “good” calls through without blocking them.
Go a step further. Protect your smartphone with mobile security software or apps
While security software and apps won’t block robocalls, they increase the security of your phone overall, which can protect both you and your data. You have a couple of options here. You can grab comprehensive security software that protects all of your devices or pick up an app in Google Play or Apple’s App Store. This way, you’ll have malware, web, and device security that’ll help you stay safe on your phone in general.
Taken together, these steps can help you beat or outright block unwanted calls like robocalls—and be safer (and maybe less annoyed) as a result.