One of our favorite Seinfeld episodes is when Jerry Seinfeld gets a telemarketer call as he and his friends are walking out the door:
Caller: Hi! Would you be interested in switching over to TMI long-distance service?
Jerry: Oh, I can’t talk right now. Why don’t you give me your home number and I’ll call you later?
Caller: I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to do that…
Jerry: Oh, I guess you don’t want people calling you at home?
Caller: Uhhh no…
Jerry: Well now you know how I feel!
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls – are the FCC’s top consumer complaint. Have you noticed a spike in robocalls and calls using phone number spoofing? How many spam/scam phone calls do you get per day? Some days it feels like I get over a dozen phone calls from numbers I don’t recognize or numbers trying to mimic people I get calls from regularly. It is so annoying!
With all the phone scams, robocalls, and spoofing going around, STRATA’s in-house Cyber Security Coordinator, Tyler Labrum, has some great tips on protecting yourself from being scammed, spoofed (and annoyed!):
Ignore them. If it’s important, they will leave a message. There are several free, third-party call blocker apps such as Hiya and Nomorobo (just to name a few). iPhone and Android phones also come with built-in features for blocking specific phone numbers.
iPhone – Go to Settings > Phone. Tap Call Blocking & Identification. Under “Allow These Apps to Block Calls and Provide Caller ID,” turn the app on or off. You can also reorder the apps based on priority. iPhones also have an opt-in “Silence Unknown Callers” call-screening and blocking feature.
Android – Some Android devices allow you to block unknown callers. While the process will vary among different devices, you can typically open the Phone app and enter the settings menu. Find the option for blocking numbers and activate the feature.
Stock Android – The simplest way to block a phone number is to open your Phone app and access the section containing your recent calls. Long press on any of them and select “Block number.”
Samsung – Open the Phone app > Select which number you want to block and hit “More” (located on the top-right corner) > Select “Add to Auto-Reject List” > To remove or make more edits, go to Settings – Call Settings – All Calls – Auto Reject
LG – Open the Phone app > Tap the three-dot icon (top-right corner) > Select “Call Settings” > Select “Reject Calls” > Tap the + button and add the numbers you want to block.
For more information about robocall blocking, you can also visit fcc.gov/robocalls.
Phone Number Spoofing:
According to the FCC, “Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is coming from a local number or spoof a number from a company or government agency that you may already know and trust. If you answer, they use scam scripts to try to steal your money or valuable personal information, which can be used in fraudulent activity.”
Tyler Labrum’s main tip is, “When in doubt, reach out.” He says “Hang up and call back any organization that asks for information over the phone. You can never be too careful, and it’s worth a few extra minutes of your time to avoid giving personal information to a scammer.”
Here are some consumer tips from the FCC to stop unwanted robocalls and avoid phone scams:
- Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
- You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be Aware: Caller ID showing a “local” number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.
- If you answer the phone and the caller – or a recording – asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should just hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
- Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with a “Yes.”
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security Numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords, or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set up a password.
- Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools they may have and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device to block unwanted calls.
- If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
- To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call List. Legitimate telemarketers consult the list to avoid calling both landline and wireless phone numbers on the list.
*You can legally block the transmission of your phone number when you make calls, so your number will appear “unknown.” Doing so is not spoofing.
How do you protect yourself from spoofed calls?
- Register your telephone number on the National Do Not Call list. https://www.donotcall.gov/
- File a complaint online about a telemarketing call. https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/; or by phone: 1-888-225-5322; TTY: 1-888-835-5322; ASL: 1-844-432-2275.
- Add a call blocker app or utilize the call blocking features on your wireless device.
- Ignore them.
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