With the advent of mobile cell phones, it seems you cannot escape unwanted phone calls and texts these days. Many are merely annoying, but others may actually be designed to scam you out of your hard-earned money or your identity.
Pranks or Actual Harassment?
When everyone just had a landline, young kids liked to call and prank their neighbors and even strangers with hang-ups and jokes. However, these days, you will likely get an earful that does not include a joke or a quick hang-up. Some signs that a phone caller is harassing you are:
- Obscene or threatening language.
- You hear the sounds of breathing, but no one is speaking.
- An aggressive sales pitch.
- Intimidation tactics to get you to give up personal information or payment details.
- Pressure to donate or give money to a charity.
- Frequent unwanted calls.
- Imitating a legitimate caller to try and scam you.
When someone repeatedly calls you even after you have requested that they stop, immediately hang up the phone. Do not engage them in conversation; it will only reinforce the behavior.
Report the calls to the FTC immediately using the form on their website.
The Do Not Call Registry
The Do Not Call Registry was designed to protect American citizens from unwanted calls from telemarketers and other sales agents. However, this does not apply to political activists and other groups.
You can easily add your name to the Do Not Call Registry. However, keep in mind, only legitimate telemarketers will abide by these laws. You may still get harassing calls from scammers, stalkers, and others.
Third-Party Phone Lookup Services
You should also check out the various third-party phone lookup services. Many of these can identify the caller, and then you can report them to the police. More sophisticated scammers will spoof their phone numbers or route them through equipment, so they appear to come from a legitimate source or just another fake phone number, so you won’t know who they are. However, you might get lucky if you run the number through one of these helpful services.
Caller ID Apps and Blockers
A popular type of harassing phone call these days are robocalls. In response to the rising number of spam complaints, companies have created helpful caller ID and call blocking apps that you can install and use to end the madness. A few of the top apps to check out are:
- Nomorobo - sends spam calls to voicemail or blacklists it.
- Hiya Caller ID and Block - targets phone scammers with a vast database of fraudulent phone numbers. It also blocks spammers and telemarketers.
- RoboKiller - a popular app that blocks calls and irritates scammers with a message of your own.
- Truecaller - caller ID and phone call blocking. It also works on text messages.
- YouMail Voicemail and Spam Blocker - visual voicemail app that blocks scammers and robocalls.
Contact Your Phone Carrier
You may also want to contact your phone carrier and report the caller abuse. Most carriers have built-in spam blockers that you can activate just by calling them. They may also offer paid services if you want more options.
Block Calls Manually on Your Phone
Both Android and iOS phones now have call-blocking capabilities. You can easily identify the caller ID and flag it as spam. However, if callers repeatedly call using different numbers, you will have to continue to block them each time.
How to Report Harassing Phone Calls
If you receive a lot of robocalls, scam calls, or just harassing callers, you can report it to the FTC on their website. If you prefer not to use their complaint form, you can call them at 1-888-382-1222. Be sure to have the spammer’s phone number handy when you call.
How to Avoid Spam Call Scams
It may be impossible to avoid all harassing phone calls, but you can follow these tips to minimize them.
- Never answer a call from a number you don’t recognize.
- Use an app or service to block spam and robocalls.
- If you answer the call and someone tries to pressure or threaten you, hang up immediately and report it.
- Do not give out any personal information (especially your social security number) over the phone to a caller who requests it, regardless of why they say they need it.
- Do not pay scammers over the phone, even if they pretend to be from the IRS or some other government agency.
- Put your number on the Do Not Call List. This will keep legitimate telemarketers from calling you.
- Research causes and other organizations before donating any money to them.
- Set a strong password on your voicemail service.
- Speak to your phone company about call blocking and spam blocking services.