Robocalls: The Cockroach of the Communication World

The phone rings at 9 a.m. (sometimes 9 p.m.) from a local area code, and as you down your second cup of coffee you quickly answer. You hear:

“Hello, My name is Amanda and I am calling about your student loans. We can help you consolidate …” or 

“Congratulations! You have won a round trip cruise to…” or

“Hello, this is John from Microsoft, and I am calling in regards to a virus we have identified coming from your computer…”

Like a roach that can’t be squashed, these calls have multiplied and infiltrated our lives, wasting our time and challenging our privacy. Perhaps you mash the # key, try waiting to politely request removal from their their phone list, or maybe you grumble a few choice words and cut the call. The local area code had you duped and maybe you are getting 2-10 calls like this a day.

Needless to say, in some cases, robocalls throw us into concern, convince us we must talk to Microsoft about our computer being hacked, or leave us wondering if there is still something remaining on our student loans. Several of my new clients have given up credit card information to resolve “fixing a computer problem” opening up the door to identity theft and remote access to personal information. Others simply can’t find peace and quiet.

Blocking numbers is one method to squash this bug, however, as phone scammers and robocalls are discovered they change or spoof another number and the process continues. In some cases, they spoof a legitimate person’s phone number and when angry people “return a call” to the identified number, there is much confusion.

I love what one programmer did—a superhero really in the world of robocalls—to stop a fake IRS call center from scamming other people: he designed a script that called the scammers 28 times a second, essentially tying up their phone lines and preventing them from calling out. But who has the skill to do that on a daily basis?

Why did this happen?  Earlier this year, among the plethora of roll-backs the new president has enacted was one in regards to allowing Internet Service Providers (who also manage our phones) to sell and share our personal data to marketers. Since that early change, the robocalls have tripled on my phone lines AND NOW my service providers want me to pay for “added” privacy!

The question is what can be done to reduce this influx of calls? This has been a hot topic on my visits lately. So here are some things you can do RIGHT NOW!

  • Register every phone you have with the National Do-Not-Call Registry. Although most people do not have time to report calls (which I HAVE done for some clients who are getting repeat calls), it is one small effort to keep your name off the lists. If you get an unsolicited marketing call on your cellphone, first ask the caller how they got your number and firmly tell them you don’t want to be contacted again (AND that you are on the Do Not Call registry). If they call back, file a complaint with the FTC at donotcall.gov or 1-888-382-1222.
  • Register your landline phones with Nomorobo – I recently set this up for a client. There may be some quirks if you have VOIP with the same company who brings you internet and cable TV!
  • Use the free app Truecaller to help filter your calls to your cell phone.(Recommended by Kim Komando, my favorite technology goddess!)
  • Get a Google Voice number. I have had one for nearly 10 years. It is what I publish on all my sites and with all my services. I use the GVoice app on my phone to screen calls. I can easily block phone numbers, and they have a phone “spam” filter that helps to reduce the call volume. This keeps my cell number private and for use with the people that matter.
  • Finally, NEVER believe a caller! NEVER! Even if they identify themselves as your visa card company, hang up and call your provider directly and get the scoop. You will NEVER get a call from the IRS (only official mail). You will NEVER get a call from Microsoft about problems with your system. (Isn’t that an invasion of privacy anyway?) And you will NEVER solve a debt problem with a random company that calls. NEVER BELIEVE ANYONE unless they are on your personal contact list!

Unfortunately, at this point in our digital game, we can only do our best to stay up on keeping our data secure and private, and make every effort to stay ahead of the roaches that feed off our fears and time. However, every little bit helps. If you have found something that is working, please share! And if you need help in implementing these tips to reduce the influx of robocalls, I can be your saving grace!

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