48 BILLION! 48 billion…with a B! That’s how many robocalls were made to phones in the United States last year!
These unwanted, illegal and spoofed robocalls are by far the Federal Communications Commission’s top consumer complaint. At the BBB we receive literally hundreds of these calls every month.
Whenever I make speeches or talk to people about the BBB, the No. 1 question I get asked is, “How do I stop robocalls?” Reducing the number of robocalls you receive reduces your chances of being the target of a scam.
Here are some tips to deal with the number of calls and exposure to the frauds they are trying to perform on you. I suggest you make these rules to live by.
Really, make them part of your personal life rules!
1. Do not answer calls from unknown numbers, and if you do answer, hang up immediately! This first rule, for some reason, seems to be the toughest to institute and follow, especially for the older consumer. We have long been conditioned that every phone call may be important, so we answer it. Scammers are aware of this tendency and use it to their advantage. If they get you talking, their chances of scamming you are increased hundred-fold.
2. Even though your caller ID is showing a “local” number, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a local caller. Technology allows fraudsters to make any number they want appear on Caller ID. Again, scammers are aware people are more likely to answer local numbers than those out of the area. See rule No. 1!
3. If you decide to ignore rule No. 1 and answer the phone, do not respond to any questions. If you are urged to press a button or number to stop getting the calls, don’t do it! If you do, you have been identified as a potential target.
4. Don’t believe any calls claiming to be from a government agency or private company. Simply hang up and call the phone number in the phone book, on the website of the company or government agency to verify the authenticity of the request. If you are asked to make a payment, you’ll have probably received a written statement in the mail before the phone call. If you are pressured to provide information immediately, be very cautious!
5. Use a robocall blocking app on your Android or iPhone smart phone. Nomorobo, Hiya, RoboKiller, Truecaller and Call Blocker are a few of the most popular apps for your smart phone. Installing one of these apps can save you from receiving literally hundreds of scam robocalls.
6. Whether you have a landline or use a cell phone, if you have a voicemail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some services allow you to access your voicemail simply by calling from your own phone number. Hackers could spoof your home phone number to gain access to your voicemail if your password isn’t set up.
These tips to help you reduce robocalls are pretty easy to follow if you do as I suggested and make them part of your life’s rules to live by.
But if you think these are excessive, you will do yourself a big favor by at least instituting rule No. 1!
Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org.