Robo Calls and How to Keep Them from Targeting Your Loved Ones

We all have received those annoying robocalls-where you answer and it’s an automated message of someone selling you something or possibly even trying to scam you into giving personal information. And, lately I’ve noticed that I receive these call more frequently and they are seeming to come from the same area code as my number or from the area code of the city/state I’m currently in.

I was listening to an episode of Reply All and they investigated why we are receiving an uptick of robocalls and how the phone numbers these calls are being made from look similar to ours.

What they learned is that (and this should be no shock given my past blog posts about our lack of data privacy here and here) but our location data is often being sold to companies who can target robocalls to us based on our location. In addition, robocall companies have found loopholes around current regulations that would otherwise prevent these calls.

These robocalls can be harmless, but there are also other robocallers who are looking to scam vulnerable populations into sharing sensitive information.

Good news is that the FCC is working on the regulations with cell phone carriers themselves to block these calls, but in the mean time, here are some ways to prevent and deflect these calls:

  1. Block the robocaller number after receiving a robocall
  2. Sign up for the DoNotCall list
  3. Activate carriers free blocking (I did not know this was available!)
  4. Utilize Apps like Nomorobo and Youmail (these services say they have back end processes that know how to filter through true robocalls versus calls from your child’s school, for instance. I have not tried these myself so I can’t confirm if this is the case)

The FCC also has a great list of what not to do when receiving a robocall that would be great to share with your loved ones or aging parents (see below):

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be aware: Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller – or a recording – asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes.”
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
  • If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
  • Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
  • If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
  • To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.

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