Seniors are the victims of financial fraud in alarming numbers. One of the favorite tools of scammers is the telephone. There are about four million robocalls an hour in the United States, and untold numbers of calls from live telemarketers.
Experts tell us not to answer the phone, if we do not recognize the caller. However, if your phone sends missed calls to voice mail, the spammer will likely call back, now that he knows it is a working number. Experts offer some savvy solutions on how seniors can avoid spam phone calls and cut these annoying calls by more than 90 percent.
Know When to be on Your Guard
If you live in Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, and Birmingham, Alabama, you are in a frequently-targeted area. Spammers tend to make their highest number of robocalls on Tuesdays and Fridays. Of course, anyone living anywhere can get robocalls and phone calls from live con artists on any day of the week.
Know Who is Calling
The largest cell phone service providers offer features that can help you identify who is calling. These features are usually at little or no charge, but you should check the cost with your company.
Block the Spammers
Let’s say someone whose number you do not recognize called you. You did not answer. Instead, you Googled the phone number and discovered that many people had reported the caller as a spammer. You can block that number on your cell phone, so all future calls from that number will not even ring. Of course, professional scammers use multiple phone numbers, but just keep blocking them as they cycle through their numbers.
You can block “anonymous” and “private” numbers on your landline, by pressing *77. To deactivate the blocking, press *87.
Some services like YouMail and RoboKiller will filter your calls for free, and for a nominal fee, you can get the ad-free version of the apps. You can select various options to tailor the app to your needs and preferences.
If You Do Not Want to Block Callers
You still have options if you do not want to let calls go to voice mail, use a spam blocker app, or pay for caller ID. A low-tech solution that anyone can perform is to go ahead and take the call, but do not say anything, not a single word. Here is how it works:
- You pick up the phone but do not say “hello” or anything else. Usually, the robocall/telemarketer phone system will automatically hang up within a few seconds.
- If there is actually a “live” person on the other end of the call, remain silent. Wait out the person, so he or she speaks first. If you do not know the person or recognize the voice or you realize that it is an unwanted call, just hang up without saying anything.
- Another tactic is to keep a portable tape recorder next to your phone and, instead of speaking, play a recording to spammers that says that your number is not in service. Just make sure you do not talk to the caller.
Just Stay Safe
Whatever technique you choose to deal with telephone con artists, keep yourself and your money safe. Do not give any personal or financial information to a caller. Do not give your credit card or checking account numbers over the phone.
If someone calls you, claiming to be from the IRS, the electric company, your mortgage lender, or anyone else demanding payment or offering you a deal that sounds too good to be true, just hang up. These are almost always fraudulent calls. Legitimate businesses will send you a mailing, not try to get your information or money over the phone.
The laws in every state are different, so you should speak with an elder law attorney in your area.
AARP. “5 Ways to Stop Spam Calls.” (accessed January 8, 2019) https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2018/tips-to-stop-spam-calls.html
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