Protecting your money and privacy from some unwanted cyber-attention
No, this is not yet another example of these oh-so-trendy neo-Luddite hysterics trying to get you up in arms against yet another horrible, terrible, doomsday-boding tech threat. It doesn’t look like the artificial intellect (in a giant human-like hardware form) is going to conquer our world and take it away from us any time soon.
But, speaking of time, the phenomenon known as “robocalls” (aka “call spam”) does seem to take away a lot of it from us. And, coming to think of it, not just time, but, quite often, our money, or, in the worst case scenario, some of our health as well, by severely disrupting our normal life. From misleading us into thinking that we owe some tax money to the Government (even if few of us still buy into this oldest trick in the book, it still works on some) to getting us to turn our real phone number over to scammers, there is a wide array of ploys and schemes to swindle us out of our earnings and / or misuse our identity. And this is happening right now, right here, with the growing number of examples in the news and police reports.
Then again – or, rather, because of that – so does the number of the ways to counteract the said ploys and schemes. And we don’t just mean the corporate or governmental protection, such as the recent Traced Act, allowing the authorities and law enforcer to do more to prosecute fraudsters, or the solution implemented by wireless carrier networks – that is, the technology named SHAKEN/STR – in order to block the phone spammers.
No, there are also means you can personally use to defend yourself, so to speak, on the grassroot level, without waiting until the aforementioned Act will come into effect or the Android 11 with the expanded robocall identification will enter the market. These means might require more effort and quick thinking than just completely relying on someone else to protect you, but they are, firstly, effective, and, secondly, at hand already. Plus, to use quite a few of them, you just have to exercise your common sense. (Let alone the fact that they are completely free).
And we are going to outline some of these counterticks below. Because even the most obvious is not always readily seen, and because coming prepared is invariably a good thing.
So, what can you personally do to avoid falling a victim to phone scammers, spammers and the like?
For one, you can exercise a set of following precautions. Some of them look simple, but can work wonders and yet, often get forgotten.
First and foremost, the calls from the numbers you don’t know (or can’t see) are a big no-no. (Not to mention the blocked numbers, which are blocked for a reason). Also, don’t think that if a number appearing on your screen looks like a local one, then it must indeed be local. It could well be masquerading as one, so the shorter the conversation, the better. Just in case.
Plus, there are three big red flags virtually announcing a scam coming a mile away. Number one: a recording on the other end, asking you: “can you hear me?” Number two: a request to press a number to talk to “a representative”. And number three is a stranger’s voice asking you a question which just about prompts you to answer “yes”. In all these cases hanging up immediately is the best course of action.
Another very suspicious case would be a call from someone introducing themselves as a company representative (whatever the company in question might be). If in doubt, call the named company personally, but not before you disconnect. Every legitimate company has their official number on their site, so you can quickly check if the call was genuine (and usually, find out that it was not).
And never, ever follow the promptings to press any numerical characters (unless it was you who initiated the call to one of the said genuine numbers). It will only confirm to the scammers that your phone number actually exists and can be sold to whoever is willing to buy. Make no mistake, there are enough of those who are.
That is, again, what you can do quickly and completely independently, without relying on anyone’s help or involving third parties in your protection.
However, if you want some extra assistance or would rather have some constant, always-on defense system watching out for you, there are certain options you also can use right now, for various OS’ and devices.
Google, for example, can route suspicious calls straight to Google Assistant, thanks to their new Call Screen feature, and then you won’t even hear such a call. Apple, in turn,included the unwanted calls prevention in their iOS 13 platform. It is aptly named “Silence Unknown Callers”, and it does pretty much the same: reroutes the calls coming from unknown sources (that is, from the numbers not contained either in your contact list, or in your mailbox, or in your “Messages” folder). The only difference is, this feature sends such numbers to the voicemail box. But, as we know, easier ways come with a price: by going for this option you may well miss an important call, too. After all, some of those do come from the numbers which are not stored in our own phones.
Besides, you can draw your network carrier’s attention to spam messages bombarding your mailbox. Just forward those to the number 7726. Mind you, it won’t stop the texts’ onslaught at once, but it will most likely work in the long term.
And finally, there are some free third party apps that also can help.
For starters, there is the Hiya application, which works on both Android and iOS devices. It receives quite a positive feedback and is reportedly easy to use.
Then, if you are a Samsung Galaxy device owner, go to Settings – Caller ID and choose “Spam protection”. It will give you a quick way to report any spam, and the setup is a breeze, too.
If you are on Verizon and use Fios, there is the Nomorobo service available to you (existing also in the phone app form). However, it is free just for VoIP users. If you are not one of them, you will have to pay a hefty $2 per month for it.
But the Google Voice phone number is free. Sign up to it, and it will be at hand to use for many other signups, without giving away your real phone number. And when (rather than if) the robocallers will start targeting your Google Voice number instead, there is the block feature to fend them off. (Though, admittedly, this also can be a lot of work, but at least, your actual number will be safe).
There is no denying, of course, that all the above solutions are imperfect on their own. But, until something better comes along, they can quite nicely help you to keep those pesky not-so-intellectual robots at bay, when used in combination.
2 deleted messages in this conversation. View messages or delete forever.
- Stop annoying robocalls to your phone using every trick we know – CNET
- Sell your Phone, Tablet or other device Online – iGotOffer
- Everything About Apple’s Products – The complete guide to all Apple consumer electronic products, including technical specifications, identifiers and other valuable information.
Robocalls are finally getting blocked [Video]
Video uploaded by The Verge on December 12, 2019