Avoid Robocall Scams: Tips from Consumer Protection Experts
Approximately 60% of the complaints filed by the FCC each year are due to consumers receiving unwanted calls. While combatting robocalls and spoofing is the FCC’s top consumer protection priority, spam calls are still being made in vast quantities. Here are several helpful tips from consumer protection experts that will help you be protected from robocall scams:
Don’t answer or respond to calls from unknown numbers - Calls from unknown or suspicious numbers should go straight to voicemail. Be especially careful if the caller ID shows a local number that’s unfamiliar - this doesn’t mean it’s a local caller. Scammers often spoof local phone numbers to improve answer rates by leading consumers to believe the caller is nearby.
If a call is answered and the caller claims to be from a legitimate company or organization, hang up immediately and call them back using a valid number found on the company website. Alternatively, if you do business with them, use a number from your latest bill.
If the call is a recorded statement and asks you to press a button or say “yes” to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify live respondents or to use your “yes” response to apply unauthorized charges on your bill.
Never share personal or financial information over the phone. Be especially cautious if there is urgency or pressure to share information / make a payment immediately. Always check with a charity (for example, by calling or looking at its actual website) before donating to them. Government agencies will never call to ask for personal information or money.
Keep your contacts list up to date. If whitelisting is enabled on a mobile phone, all calls from numbers not stored in the contacts list will be blocked. This will result in nearly all spam calls being blocked, however, there is a downside to this approach - it is highly likely that legitimate calls from people not included on the contact list will also be blocked.
Consider using additional robocall-blocking protection. The major wireless carriers now offer services that can block calls and alert you to incoming calls from unwanted sources at no additional charge. Third-party robocall blocking apps can also help cut down on spam calls for a small monthly fee.
File complaints with the FTC and FCC. Reporting scam calls and providing information about unwanted calls allows these agencies to track trends and support law enforcement investigations. Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can help authorities track down and stop scammers. In addition, phone companies and call-blocking apps use data provided by the FTC to update call-blocking lists. With recent legislation, the FCC now has access to stronger law enforcement provisions, enabling them to go after repeat offenders more aggressively than in the past.
Complaints about unwanted calls can be filed with the FTC here, and with the FCC here. If you have lost money because of a scam call, make sure to contact your local law enforcement agency for assistance.