Peace at last: How to avoid almost every phone scam call: Internet Scambusters #1,006
Scam calls are costing Americans $30 billion a year, with one in every five of us having lost money to phone crooks.
In this week's issue, we'll explain the simple steps you need to take to block most calls, or what to do if you want to stop them almost completely.
Plus, we have three new scam alerts to help keep you out of the clutches of crooks.
Let's get started…
Block Those Scam Calls, Spam Calls, and Robocalls Now!
Scam calls, don't you just hate them? And they're not just about pre-recorded robocalls either. Spam calls from real people are also part of the daily torture most of us endure as our landline and cell devices continue to pester us.
Last year, scam calls cost almost 60 million Americans a total of nearly $30 billion. Robocalls accounted for 60 percent of these, but the rest were made by humans. And the biggest offenders were insurance marketers.
The nub of the problem is simply this: Scam call rogues aren't interested in rules. Yes, there are laws about what unsolicited callers can and cannot do. And there's a national Do Not Call registry, which lists the names of people who don't want to be harassed.
But this means nothing to crooks and, sadly, sometimes even legitimate firms who fail to follow the rules. Plus, they have technology to help them -- to disguise where and from whom a call is coming, to automatically call thousands of targets every hour, and even voice robots that can pass themselves off as real people.
Fortunately, though, there are now more ways than ever to beat most of these phone call crooks, both with apps and hardware.
But it's a complex issue because different devices and service providers have their own ways of trying to beat the scammers. You need to invest some time to establish the best combination for you from what's available.
How to Block Cell Phone Scammers
There are the 3 key actions you should take to block unwanted cellphone calls:
- Find out and use what your phone itself can do, usually by exploring security settings. As a minimum, know how to use the "block this number" feature.
- Learn and use what your cell phone service carrier does to help. All the big names, like Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, can alert you to or block suspected scam calls. Visit your provider's website and search from there.
- Install a call blocking app that can identify both spam calls and robocalls. Your carrier may have one and there are scores of third-party apps, either for Apple's iOS devices or Android phones. Some are free and others charge either a one-off or recurring fee from $3 to $20 a month. Generally, you get what you pay for.
You can research this topic yourself, but here are some of the currently best-rated call blocking apps for 2022:
iOS/iPhone: Robo Shield, Truecaller, Nomorobo, YouMail, RoboKiller, Malwarebytes Mobile, Hiya, Mr. Number, AT&T Call Protect, T-Mobile Name ID. (Source: Comparitech)
Android: Truecaller, Hiya, Call Blacklist, Mr. Number, Call Control, CallApp, Avast Mobile, Should I Answer? (Source: Fossbytes)
How to Block Landline Callers
Follow a similar route as for cell phones. Some landline phones do have built-in security features, including call-blocking and number blacklisting. Most also have a dedicated app that installs on your PC or mobile. Install this and use available security settings to monitor calls.
However, to get the best security, you probably need a piece of hardware, a call blocker that connects to your phone. These work by checking massive databases of scam call numbers and by using artificial intelligence to sense if a call is suspect -- if for instance the caller is using spoofing technology to trick caller ID.
This is an area that's seen big advances in technology in recent years. Again, it's worth doing your own research to identify the product that best meets your needs. But, in this case, cost (mostly in the $50 to $150 range) doesn't always equal effectiveness.
Amazon's top recommendation is the CPR V5000 ($86), followed by a Panasonic ($149).
Some of the other, popular dedicated call blockers (i.e., not actual phones) include: Sentry, Panasonic, T-Lock, Enf510, Digitone, Taggpoint CB1K, CT-CID801, TelPal, ANGGREK. The highest rated manufacturer is CPR. (Source: MSN surveys)
What About VOIP?
Maybe you're one of the millions of people who use a hybrid phone service that connects your landline via the Internet -- known as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP).
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends following the guidance for landlines. That means checking with the service provider. For example, one of the biggest names in the business, Ooma, has a desktop app that offers call blocking.
Block Them All!
If you really want to batten down the hatches on scam callers, it's best never to answer a call from anyone you don't recognize and even to "whitelist" callers who you will speak to. Let all the others go to voicemail -- without even ringing your phone.
Peace at last! But make sure you check your voicemail daily for legitimate calls.
For more help. Download this consumer guide from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Stop Unwanted Robocalls and Texts or check out this new report from PC Magazine: How to Block Robocalls and Spam Calls.
One thing you can be sure of is that scammers will continue to find ways to avoid call blocking. So, the most promising weapon to fight them is to deter them through tougher penalties when they're caught.
Last month, the FCC proposed fining one scam call culprit $45 million. That tells you how much money the robocall and spam call crooks must be making!
This Week's Scam Alerts
Text Trick: You get a text message, sometimes with an attached photo of an attractive person, that seems to have been sent to you by mistake. You tell the sender, maybe even try to get acquainted. Hey presto! A scammer now knows they have a number and perhaps name of someone who is live and can be targeted in future scams. Or maybe you're on the first rung of a romance scam. Sadly, it's best not to reply to wrongly addressed messages.
Money for Nothing?: Investors chasing the elusive "get-rich-quick" goal may be in line for compensation if they paid for trading programs from a firm called Raging Bull that allegedly told subscribers they could make $10,000 a week. The company has agreed to refund disappointed customers to the tune of $2.4 million.
Doubled Losses: US consumers reported scam losses of $5.8 billion to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) during 2021, according to recently published figures. The number is more than double that for the prior year.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!