By Summer Stephan
Have you ever wondered why your mobile phone suddenly started receiving intrusive phone calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize? Maybe you think you fixed the problem with your iPhone by using the block caller feature, but the next day a nearly identical phone number is calling — just one digit off from the phone number calling the day before.
Before you stop answering calls altogether, let me explain what’s going on. As annoying as they are, not all of these calls are the same. From the phony sweepstakes, to the utility company threatening to shut off your electricity unless you pay now or the caller asking you to take a political survey – there is a reason you can get some calls to stop but not others. The simple answer is some are legal and adhere to checks and balances such as the National Do Not Call Registry. And, the others fly under the radar because they are illegal and use technology to attempt to scam victims.
Inexpensive technology such as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows scammers to pick the area code and country that will display on the victim’s caller ID. Calls can originate from anywhere in the world, yet appear as though they are a local caller.
Scam calls come in two general forms: pre-recorded calls and non-recorded calls. Pre-recorded calls are typically referred to as robocalls and are considered illegal unless the caller has prior consent from you or the call is purely informational. Unfortunately, the Do Not Call Registry does not block robocalls from accessing and calling your number.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently began working with mobile carriers and app developers to finally put an end to scam calls. They may not stop these annoying calls for good, but there are ways you can help prevent scammers from reaching you.
- Do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize.
- If you receive a call from an automated caller, hang up immediately and report the number to https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/.
- If you answer a scam call, never give out personal information, regardless of how urgent the scammer may try to make the situation feel.
- If someone calls saying they are from a legitimate company or organization, don’t trust the caller. Instead, contact the organization on your own to confirm they are trying to reach you.
- Talk with your service provider about tools they offer to identify and/or block unwanted calls for little to no cost such as AT&T’s Call Protect app, Verizon’s Caller Filter, and T-Mobile’s Scam ID.
The National Do Not Call Registry removes your number from lists of sale solicitors, but does not stop calls from legitimate political, surveys or charity organizations. To add your name to the National Do Not Call Registry, follow the steps below:
- Visit https://www.donotcall.gov to access the official registration page for the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry.
- Click on the “Register Your Phone” link in the blue circle.
- Click on the “Register Here” link in orange.
- Follow the three steps on screen and click submit.
If you follow the steps listed above, you should stop receiving any type of sales calls after 31 days.
With these tools, you can feel more assured that the next call you pick up will be your friend asking about lunch on Tuesday rather than a bogus caller informing you that a free trip to Cancun is yours pending the confirmation of your bank account information.
— District Attorney Summer Stephan has dedicated more than 29 years to serving justice and victims of crime as prosecutor. She is a national leader in fighting sex crimes and human trafficking and in creating smart and fair criminal justice solutions and restorative justice practices that treat the underlying causes of addiction and mental illness and that keep young people from being incarcerated.