Robots on The Rise: 6 Tips for Protecting Yourself Against Robocall Scams

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

Telemarketing has been around since the early days of the telephone. Now that we have caller ID and the “do not call” registry, unwanted cold calls have become less of a problem for most of us — but that doesn’t mean they’ve completely disappeared.

In fact, with the rise of automated telemarketing — otherwise known as robocalling — it looks like the annoying calls have simply evolved. If these automated calls could simply be chalked up as the digital version of cold calling, it would be the least of our worries.

But many of them are deliberate scams designed to trick people into sharing their account details, social security numbers, and other personal information. Based on consumer reporting, the Federal Trade Commission estimates there are 2.6 billion of these calls each month.

protect from robotsMaybe you know better than to give personal information over the phone, but some scammers can use any response you give, even a simple “yes.” For example, one of the robocall scams circulating in 2017 started with the line “Can you hear me?” If someone answered “Yes,” the response was recorded and used to authorize fraudulent charges on the victim’s accounts over the phone.

Some robocall scams will impersonate familiar entities like the IRS or charity organizations. In one recent scourge of fraudulent robocalls, recordings posed as Google account specialists. Another tactic these scams use is known as spoofing — calling from a phone number that will look familiar to you, perhaps sharing the same area code or prefix.

Authorities are cracking down on this type of fraud, but they are still far from eradicating the problem — if that’s even possible. Meanwhile, there are many ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of a robocall scam.

#1. Don’t answer the phone for an unfamiliar number. If you answer, immediately hang up. Do NOT speak or key any responses.

One of the first lines of defense is not to interact with these machines at all. Answering and immediately hanging up is the next best thing, but you’re likely to keep getting more calls. It’s better not to give any indication that you’re a “live” target.

#2. If you responded to a call in the past and suspect it was a scam, check your accounts.

Don’t feel bad if you’ve fallen for one of these scams — they’re designed to fool the best of us. Simply check your accounts for suspicious activity and change important passwords. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately if your account has been compromised.

In fact, checking your account regularly is a good practice. Add it into your routine and the exercise won’t even take that long!

#3. If you suspect you may have received fraudulent calls, report them.

These kinds of calls, even if they aren’t exactly scams, are illegal in many cases. Never hesitate to report suspicious calls to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker or the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) Help Center. Even if the scammers didn’t get to you, reporting them will make sure they don’t get to anyone else.

#4. Ask your carrier if they have a robocall blocking service.

In November 2017, the FCC approved rules that give carriers more license to block suspicious calls. If there’s a service in place, make sure you opt into it.

#5. Fight back: install a robocall-blocking app on your mobile device.

Just as telemarketers have shifted their efforts to cell phones, robocall scams are increasingly targeting mobile phones. Apps such as “Robokiller,” “Nomorobo,” “Should I Answer?” and “Hiya” use robot-detecting technology to create another line of defense between you and the latest scam.

#6. Keep your number to yourself.

Just about every online form asks for a phone number, but you don’t have to give this information away. The more your number gets out there, the greater the chance robocall scammers will get their hands on it. Treat your phone number like it’s a part of your personal identity and guard it carefully.

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