Getting a phone call from a number that is marked as restricted, repeated calls from an unknown number, or receiving constant phone calls from someone claiming to be a government agent are all reasonable grounds for suspicion.
If you are receiving harassing or suspicious calls, do not pick up the phone and do not call back. Before even considering answering the call, read on so you know what you might be getting into. And if you’re still in the dark about who’s on the other end, there are ways find out exactly who’s calling you so that you can ensure that you’re not communicating with a stalker or a scammer.
It’s good to be wary of any number calling you that is not saved on your contacts.
When an unknown number calls your line, it's best not to pick up or return the call. Anyone can make their number unknown using the No Caller ID feature, all it takes is entering *67 before the number when dialing. The No Caller ID feature was created to prevent tracking. But now, many people use the No Caller ID feature for more sinister reasons.
Callers who restrict their numbers have done so by requesting it through their phone carrier. Their number may be restricted for a good reason, but it’s possible they could be a fraudster trying to get their hands on your personal information.
If you’re getting calls from a restricted or unknown number, it’s best to be on the safe side. Request a trace from your phone company, use call tracing software, or just wait for your phone bill at the end of the month. Tracing the number will then allow you to use a reverse phone lookup to find out who’s on the other end.
If you don’t recognize the caller’s name or company, you can block the number through your phone carrier. However, if you’re a business person, you may want to think twice before blocking a restricted number, as some clients prefer to hide their phone numbers when conducting business.
A phone number's first three digits is known as the area code. These digits function as a user's geo-identifier, reporting the location of the caller. However, there are people who go out of their way to acquire an area code different from their actual location.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) some area codes have been associated with scams and robocalls. These are a few of them:
If a number with one of these area codes calls you and you are not expecting a call from that area, do not answer.
Call spoofing occurs when a caller intentionally falsifies their number. Scammers frequently utilize call spoofing to conceal their identities. These scammers may use spoof technology to make calls appear to be coming from your neighborhood by spoofing the area code of their targets. They can even spoof a number that is saved in your contacts to trick you into answering.
Scammers often use call spoofing to impersonate a company, agency, or government institution that you may already know and trust. If you respond, they will employ scam scripts to try to steal your money or personal information that could be exploited for malicious purposes.
For instance, you might have missed a call from the Sheriff’s office phone number claiming that you were absent for jury duty. In a voice message, the caller tells you to call back immediately, provide your information, and pay fees in order to avoid incarceration. What’s wrong with this picture?
First of all, they aren’t requesting you to appear in person. Second, they’re asking for you to make remote payments to them, often through gift cards or directly to a bank account. If the court wanted to take action, they would serve you with a summons or ask you to appear.
Call spoofing can be dangerous, but knowing the signs of a spoofed call can help you avoid falling victim to scams.
A robocall is a phone call that utilizes computerized auto dialing to deliver a pre-recorded message to the person on the other end. Typically, robocalls are illegal. According to FTC rules, only very few types of robocall are legal:
Being on the receiving end of these annoying calls day in and day out can get frustrating. Luckily, it’s possible to avoid and prevent unsolicited calls by using call block services or downloading a call-blocking app for your phone.
In June 2021, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a report finding that many service providers are improving their call blocking services to better detect robocalls and scams. Call-blocking services let you flag certain numbers and add them to a list, blocking their calls automatically. Cell phone companies often provide call-blocking tools.
There are numerous apps available that can assist you in avoiding spam callers. Some are entirely free, while others include expensive upgrades and extra features:
Each of the top four cell phone companies (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) offers robocall prevention in some form. All of them promise to filter spam calls before they reach you, but each of them has different ways of protecting you from spam calls or scammers.
Call-blocking devices from Verizon range in price from $70-$100. A pre-set list of illegal numbers comes with the CPR Call Blocker V5000 and the CPR Call Blocker Shield. They also allow you to create a block list with over a thousand numbers.
You can get the AT&T Call Protect app for free if you have AT&T. The software allows you to block calls from numbers that aren't in your contact list, as well as calls from suspected fraudsters. A premium edition is now available, including reverse number lookup, which reveals complete information about the unknown number that just phoned you. It will cost you $3.99 per month to subscribe to Call Protect Plus.
Scam ID, Scam Block, and Name ID are three T-Mobile services that protect you against scammers. Scam ID and Scam Block are free apps installed on your phone and ready to use. Scam ID alerts you to incoming scam calls, and Scam Block prevents questionable calls from reaching your phone. Some fraudulent calls are still received. Name ID takes a step further by allowing you to direct specific calls to voicemail, such as telemarketing, political, and nuisance calls. This service costs $4 per line each month.
Sprint doesn't have a lot to offer in terms of call-blocking technology. However, Premium Caller ID costs $2.99 a month for the privilege of seeing the names of persons who aren't already on your contact list.
If you discover that an unknown number calling you is most likely a scammer, the first thing to do is report to the FTC or call 1-877-382-4357 to lay your complaints formally.
The Do Not Call List, also known as the Do Not Call Registry, gives everyone a choice about whether to receive telemarketing calls. Users can submit sketchy or dangerous phone numbers and register their own phone number to stop telemarketers from harassing you with calls.
If you’re still receiving unwanted calls from restricted or unknown numbers, you should report the numbers to FCC Consumer Complaints or call 1-888-225-5322.
Staying vigilant of calls from odd area codes, unknown numbers, or any unwanted calls can save you from becoming the victim of a scam. Although it might not be scammer on the other end, the calls can still get annoying.
If you’re ever caught wondering, “Who is calling me?”
The best way to proceed is running a reverse phone lookup to find out.