How to put a stop to those annoying robocalls

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Last year, there was an average of four billion robocalls made per month. It’s become an epidemic, and the number one complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. The first thing you must do to stop them is register your cell phone and home phone on the Do Not Call List at donotcall.gov. This should eliminate about 35 percent of unwanted calls.

The other 65 percent are coming from scammers. If it’s a robocall, hang up and block the call on your cell phone. On an iPhone you can block the call by clicking on the “i” next to the number then scroll down and click Block this Caller. To block a call on an Android, click on the number you want to block, click on the three dots on the top right-hand corner then select Add to Reject List. That caller won’t be able to call you unless you unblock them. The problem with this method is most robocall companies have dozens, if not hundreds, of phones numbers and will call you from another number.

There are several apps that will help stop unwanted calls. Robocall blocker apps will prescreen your call before it rings, block “unknown” calls and certain types of calls that have been flagged as fraudulent. Many robocalls imitate your number or area code to try and force you in answering the call and these apps know the difference between your neighbor and a spam call or text.

Nomorobo claims they have a database of 655,000 identified spam numbers and offer a free 14 day trail. After 14 days, the cost is $1.99 a month.

Hiya claims they have 450,000 numbers in their database and also offers reverse phone number lookup, caller ID. The service is free.

Robokiller claims they will automatically block 1.1 million spam numbers. They offer a free seven day 7-day and then its $0.99 a month.

Scammers aren’t just using robocalls, they’ve moved into text messages as well. If the text gives you the option to stop them by replying with the word STOP, then do so. If you don’t know who it is or you know it’s a scammer, then don’t respond. Instead, forward the message to SPAM (7726) and then block the number. Most carriers participate in a service that will use this information to try and block future spammers. Android users can also report text messages by going to Menu, then People and Options, then Block, and selecting Report as Spam. The new iPhone should get more spam reporting options this September with the release of iOS 12.

The robocalls have become such a nuisance that users have given up and obtained a new phone number instead. If you find yourself getting to this point, a bonus might be that a lot of wireless carriers offer deals for new lines. Be careful who you give out your new number to. Many businesses, especially online companies, sell your data to third parties and once it’s sold, you’re back to getting robocalls. If possible, give them a business number instead.

Robocalls have only two purposes; to get you to use or buy a particular product or service or to scam you out of your money. If it’s the latter, please remember these guidelines: The IRS will never call you saying you owe money, If you owe money to any government agency or they need to reach you, they will send you a letter.

Never send money over the phone or via email to anyone who says they’re trapped in a different country with no money. If you receive a message that someone hacked into your email or that your computer has a virus, never give out your passwords to anyone. Instead, change your password immediately.

If you’re told that you won a contest of any kind and it’s actually legit, they will never ask for a credit card or any money to claim the prize. Unless you called them yourself, you don’t owe money to the utility company so never give out your credit card information. If you feel it could be true, hang up and get the utility number off their website, don’t just call the number they give you.

If someone offers you $2,000 but you have to give them $500 of it for fees, you better believe that check is a fake. If you shop on apps or social media, never send or accept cashier’s checks, money orders, or even regular or business checks no matter what the person tells you. If they say they only accept money orders then they are scamming you. Try companies like PayPal or Venmo. Cash always works too.

Be careful of companies offering debt consolidation, student loan payoffs, or grant money. Contact the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org to investigate them further to make sure they are a legitimate and reputable company.

Everyone is on their phones, working, socializing and shopping and scammers are trying to take advantage. Never give out credit card information, social security or driver’s license numbers, bank information, or passwords over the phone or email, and don’t forget to block those scammer calls!

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Kerry Keith