According to a CBS News report, Americans were bombarded with over 29 billion spam robocalls last year.
While the national Do Not Call Registry helps, it only prevents calls from telemarketers that follow the law.
Hiding Behind Spoofed Numbers
A large part of the problem is that spam callers also spoof phone numbers.
"Spoofing" means that the number that appears on your caller ID is not the number that the call is actually coming from. In many cases, it's a random number, belonging to a real person or business, that they're using to appear legitimate to the people receiving the calls.
Spoofing makes it more difficult for industry professionals to trace these calls and effectively block them.
Many individuals and businesses have been victimized by spoofing. They reported receiving several voicemails and calls from angry recipients of the spam calls.
The ABA reported on a situation last year where a law firm's number was spoofed to misdirect client funds to a spammer's account.
How Did They Get Your Number?
After the initial aggravation of the phone call wears off, take a moment to think about how they got your number in the first place.
There are three likely sources that spammers have gotten your phone number: the apps on your phone, your social media profiles, or online forms and surveys you have completed.
Apps on your phone ask for permissions when you download them. Be wary of any app that asks for permissions that go above and beyond the needs of the app.
For example, a flashlight app can ask to read your phone number, device ID, and other identifying information. The app developer can sell this information to spammers.
Including personal information such as your phone number, address, and date of birth on your social media profile can be risky as well.
You may only make this information available to friends, but many of us "friend" people we don't actually know on social media sites.
Online forms and surveys also serve as easy access to personal information as we tend to not read the fine print associated with them.
How to Get Away From Spammers Once They Have Your Number
Of course, now that spammers have your cell phone number, the most important thing is to prevent calls from getting through to you.
Here are some tips for getting rid of those annoying phone calls:
- Check to see if your service provider has any security apps. Most of the major carriers, such as Verizon and AT&T, have information available.
- Download a stand-alone call blocker app. There are several out there to choose from. These apps will identify that unknown number for you and utilize a database of known spammers to block those calls before they reach you. Just be sure to research the app before you download it to verify it's not additional spam.
- Use a disposable phone number in forms and surveys. Unlike spoofing, these burner numbers aren't hijacking someone else's real number for your purposes.
- Do not include your phone number in social media profiles. Social media is one of the easiest ways spammers get phone numbers. We don't really know all of our "friends" on social media. Also, a friend's profile being hacked would give the hacker access to your information.
- Don't answer or respond to unwanted calls or texts. Block the number if they do not leave a voicemail message. If you answer to tell them "do not call," you are only verifying that you have a valid number. Since they are likely spoofing anyway, the next call will come from another number and you will probably receive more than ever.
- Be sure you register with the Do Not Call Registry. If you are unsure if you previously registered, you can verify that as well on the website: www.donotcall.gov.
Despite our best efforts, we will probably never be able to avoid all spam calls. We can certainly take steps to reduce the amount of spam calls we have endure every day, though.