How To Deal With Telephone Spam

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Telephone Spam Intro   How To Deal With Telephone SpamThe greatest aspect of the telephone? The fact that you can speak to anyone at a moment’s notice, even if they’re halfway across the world. Sit back and think about that for a second because it’s amazing. But there’s also a drawback: spammers can constantly attempt to reach you with texts and calls and you may feel helpless against the endless barrage.

Fortunately for us all, there are actually a few measures we can take to protect ourselves against phone spammers and telemarketers. Some of these measures are more serious than others (e.g., inflicting financial fines against the perpetrators) and others are just for our own sanity and peace of mind. Check them out and use the ones that work best for you.

Forward to 7726 (SPAM)

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If you’re suffering from text spam, this solution might help you out (and others as well). Text spam can come from a lot of sources, though usually the spammers get your number from online contact forms and public profiles. If you truly want to stop all future text spam, don’t ever give your number away. Ever.

But when you do receive text spam, forward it to 7726 (the keypad combo for the word SPAM). Your wireless carrier will send you a reply asking you for the phone number that sourced the text. Text them back and your carrier will block that number from sending out any more unsolicited spam.

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I’m not sure how many mobile carriers utilize this service, but it definitely works for Verizon and AT&T. If you want to make sure that your carrier has something similar, search Google for your carrier’s name and the phrase “text spam.” This works in the US, but your mileage may vary in other countries.

Report to a Phone Spam Service

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Text spam may not be your biggest problem; what about phone call spam? Most phone call spam arrives in the form of telemarketers, and they usually call when you’re about to sit down for a hearty meal of dinner. Other forms of phone spam can occur all throughout the day and they’re all equally annoying. How can you hit them where it hurts?

If you live in the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a form that you can fill out. It’s the 1088G complaint form and I’ve heard that it’s quite effective on a personal level. It’s not even inconvenient since you can just fill out the 1088G form online, never having to leave the comfort of your desk chair.

If you live outside the US, you may be able to find a similar complaint service to report spam callers. In the UK, for example, you could try complaining to the ICO.

Register for DoNotCall

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If you want to be more proactive about not receiving spam calls, there are services that will place you on a “do not call me” list. Conveniently, the service is called DoNotCall by the FCC. Register your number and you’ll stop receiving calls after a month. If you do receive a call after a month, you can report the number to the FCC and the spammer will suffer some serious fines.

If you’ve been badgered to sign up for a “do not call” listing, then there’s a good chance it was a fake service that actually farmed your phone number. Here’s a notice by the official DoNotCall service:

Scammers have been making phone calls claiming to represent the National Do Not Call Registry. The calls claim to provide an opportunity to sign up for the Registry. These calls are not coming from the Registry or the Federal Trade Commission, and you should not respond to these calls.

Of course, the DoNotCall registry is only for the US. If you live outside the US, you may be able to find a similar spam-call-blocker service to keep yourself protected from unsolicited calls. In the UK, you might try Ofcom’s TPS service. For other countries, you’ll need to do some Google searching of your own.

Create a SPAM Contact

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If you don’t want to mess with call registries and complaints, you could go the passive route by creating a SPAM contact on your phone. With this SPAM contact, you just pick up calls as normal when they come in. If the caller happens to be spam, then you add that number under the SPAM contact.

Now, every time a previous spammer calls you again, you’ll see it come up as SPAM and you can ignore it. You can even set a custom ringtone for the SPAM contact as 30 seconds of silence and you won’t even be bothered when they call. Of course, with this method, you’ll have to deal with a spammer before you can block them AND it only works if your phone allows multiple phone numbers per contact.

Conclusion

And now you have four methods of dealing with telephone spam under different circumstances. Be wary that even when you take measures against spam callers, they’re always trying to engineer new ways to spam their messages to innocent phone owners… just like with email spam. But if you follow the suggestions above, you can at least reduce their impact on your life for now.

Have any other ideas and suggestions for dealing with phone spammers? Please share them with us in the comments!

Image Credits: Stop Spam Via Shutterstock, Texting Via Shutterstock, Frustrated Caller Via Shutterstock, Spam Contact Via Shutterstock

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48 Comments -

Michael Heffner

I’ve found the best method for voice calls is answer and don’t speak. after a 5~10 seconds hang up. Do this a few times and they don’t call back.

Muz RC

agreee when spammer call, answer it then put it on speakers turn radio full volume sure that will be he last call…

Michael Heffner

I know what they do is annoying but I’d rather not risk the physical injury to their hearing, not to mention the possible lawsuit in today’s sue happy world.

techguyknows

Some will just keep calling me, no matter what. :(

Joel Lee

Haha. I always heard that answering the call puts you on their “valid phone numbers” list, but I guess if you give them the silent treatment a few times they end up removing it? Pretty clever if it works.

Akhil Kumar

For blocking SMSs in India, send ‘START 0′ to 1909.
Check this site for more options: http://www.nccptrai.gov.in/nccpregistry/
Thanks Joel, you made me google it.

Nishanth Kesavan

Yes, I have done the same and I have never received a telecaller calls till now and am happy:D

Joel Lee

That’ll definitely be helpful for our readers in India. Thanks!

Thank You

I’m using Android phone, the StudioKUMA Call Filter app works great for me.

Joel Lee

I’ll check that out. Thanks!

macwitty

If they do not accept a “No thank you, I’m not interested” I sometimes start to read for them from the morning paper. Another time I start to talk another language.

Abhijith R

One of the things which annoys me

MakeUseOf TechGuy

None of these actually work, of course (well, i cant comment on the first one since it’s US only). I’m registered on the governments do not call TPS thing, but it doesnt stop them. Filing a report is wirthless, since the calls have an overseas (blocked) number, and even if they do say what company they work for – it’s a lie. True story: company phoned up my wife saying they were three UK – actually they were from a subsidiary of carphone warehouse (POS company, don’t ever touch them) – said she was eligible for free samsung phone. She said “no, i dont want it, please speak to my husband, the bill payer”, and they falsified the request anyway, and sent us a “free” phone and upgraded contract. When I eventually found out who it was – their support number was a premium rate line, so I called Three directly and they helpfully called them for me in a conference call – I then had to arrange to send it back to them since we obviously didn’t want it. They promised to investigate, but unsurprisingly I never heard back about the phone call – which they HAD recorded.

dragonmouth

“they falsified the request anyway, and sent us a “free” phone and upgraded contract.”

In the US, if a company sends a unsolicited product, it is legally considered a gift and the recipient is NOT liable for any costs.

MakeUseOf TechGuy

Heh~ I would’ve kept it if it wasnt such a crap phone…

PM Jones

Dragonmouth’s comment is right on target. That a recipient is free to keep any unsolicited product or service has been in effect in the US for many decades – in England possibly longer!

If you find yourself in a similar situation, the best thing to do is to report the company to your state’s Attorney General (heavy fines for deceptive trade practices) AND the Federal Trade Commission – also resulting in fines and double or triple damages being awarded to the plaintiff/victim.

Further, in a situation where the issue involves cell and/or landline matters, a complaint should also be made with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.)

Check the entity’s website to determine whether you can save time by filing online.

HTH Cheers!

Joel Lee

Thanks for your contribution. I’ve learned something today!

James Johnston

To be honest, most of these tips really don’t work. The National Do Not Call list only works when honest telemarketing companies use this service.

From the research I did on this new type of telespam , there are a few scam companies that use auto dialers that will call you over and over again. Basically these scams are just trying to gather info about you. Half the time, when you answer its dead air, the other half is some scumbag trying to trick you out of your personal information and using that info to forward on to another spammer or selling your info off to the highest bidder.

You report their number to the above mentioned services, they might get shut down eventually, but they open up somewhere else under a different phone number and business name offering the same scam.

The best thing you can do is not answer the phone when they call. They might call you 20 or 30 times, but after a while they stop calling. Some carriers will block these calls. But it may cost you.

Some smartphones have apps for blocking these calls. If you aren’t using a smartphone, like us, creating a spam contact works the best. Every time a new spam number comes in (usually wait 3 or 4 times and they never leave a voice mail) I will add the number to list. This contact group is set to silent or just a single low level beep to let us know they called.

The SMS reporter for AT&T works. I report them every time I get a spam text and they almost never get another text from that number. If I do get repeat, I report it again, and I never get a text from that number.

Joel Lee

“The best thing you can do is not answer the phone when they call. They might call you 20 or 30 times, but after a while they stop calling.”

Unfortunately, when nothing else works, this is the last resort. Fortunately for me, I have a personal policy of never picking up the phone if I don’t recognize the number and it’s worked well so far.

James Johnston

I recently starting screening all unknown calls as well. Even if I know the number I let go to voice mail if I don’t want to answer the call. I forwarded my voice mail service to Google Voice so they can text a transcript of the voice and I receive an email of the voice mail as well. That way I do not have to check the voice mail and still know what the call was about.

Bben

Google Voice – they have a anti phone spam feature that doesn’t just block the spam caller, it sends the tone and the phone message that says “This number is no longer in service” If the call is from a autodialer, the tone causes most to immediately disconnect and remove your number from their computerized calling list. If it is an actual human (not likely) the no longer in service message usually cause them to cross your number off their list.

This works for annoying non spammers that call too. AND, you don’t have to do it while they are on the line. You can do the block later from the Google Voice call log on your computer. If you want to mess with them, you can even record a personal message just for calls from that specific number.

James Johnston

I forgot about that feature. I’ve started handing out my Google voice number to everyone and just forward the calls to my cell. But right now, I rarely get spam to my Google Voice Number. Mostly to the number I have had for the last 15+ years.

Joel Lee

Wow, that’s pretty cool. I don’t know too much about Google Voice but if that’s the case, maybe it’s worth looking into as a service to use.

James Johnston

Its a great service and I hope Google doesn’t get rid of it like they have Google Reader. The downside is the last I checked, you can’t port your number to them and in my area their isn’t a number left. You have to keep trying until Google gets more numbers.

dragonmouth

You have to re-register for the National Do Not Call List every 5 years. There are some entities that are exempt from the Do Not Call prohibitions. Political campaigns and charities are allowed to call any time, as many times as they feel like.

I still have a land line and I use an answering machine and caller ID to screen my calls. When I see a number I do not recognize, “unknown” or “blocked”, I let the answering machine pick it up. Very, very rarely does the caller leave a message.

PM Jones

Not my experience, unfortunately.

Carol

You do NOT have to re-register to be on the DO NOT CALL list–once you register, it is FOREVER!!

dragonmouth

“You do NOT have to re-register to be on the DO NOT CALL list–once you register, it is FOREVER!!”

That’s not what those in charge of the Registry say. That’s not what my phone says. My five years have expired some time ago. Since then I’ve inundated with calls.

Carol

My comment is based on what I was told recently by the folks who handle the DO NOT CALL registry. I have checked my phone number which I registered over five years ago and it is still on the DO NOT CALL registry. Apparently you got different information.

Fik-of-Borg

I just keep a very short whitelist of contacts (very close family, very close friends and very close coworkers) and block everyone else.

Joel Lee

Seems like that might actually be the most foolproof plan.

Aaron Couch

Somehow my cell number got out among the masses and companies have been calling me and asking for someone else. Just plain weird.

So I did some research and found that there’s an app that can block calls. It’s called Mr. Number and since I’ve installed it, it’s always come through. The only time it can’t work is if you’re currently in a call and a spammer calls.

Joel Lee

I went to check it out and Mr. Number looks promising. And yeah, it’s really annoying when your phone number somehow gets out and dozens of places call you regularly… ugh. Thanks Aaron!

Here’s the link if anyone else wants it: http://mrnumber.com/

dragonmouth

“Somehow my cell number got out among the masses and companies have been calling me and asking for someone else. Just plain weird.”

Your number has probably been recycled. Phone numbers, unlike Social Security numbers are not unique and do get recycled. The previous owner of the number got into a list marketer’s database. Then the number was sold as part of a list. You got the phone calls.

My wife had a similar problem with her cell phone. She kept on getting calls in Spanish at all hours of the day and night. For along time the callers would not accept the fact that “Fernando” no longer had that number. Then after couple of years, the finally calls stopped. What might have also helped was that when I used to answer her phone in German.

Whabligone

on my smartphone (android) I use Eset Mobile Security, it has a antispam option where you can set black and white list.

Whabligone

on my smartphone (android) I use Eset Mobile Security, it has a antispam option where you can set black and white list.

Zhong J

The reason they know your phone number is because you either been sharing it alot or your personal information is leaked. I never have that problem before, usually it’s telemarketing done online. My phone is always dead silent (sometimes).

So secure your information and stop giving away to third parties.

PM Jones

Question for the group –

How do you deal with robo calls? If you answer and wait for a few seconds, you get a recorded message with options to press this or that for further information or such. When I’m not home, the call is recorded by my voicemail system. Who needs these constant daily annoyances?

Joel Lee

I ignore all unrecognized phone numbers that call me, but in the rare case that I feel like picking up and the voice on the other side is not a human or completely silent, I’ll just hang up.

PM Jones

It sounds like some of the comments and/or solutions apply to cell phones. Can someone clarify which relate *ONLY* to cells or to both systems?
Thanks & Cheers!

Ed

Robocalls: We get tons of them any more, where they tell the answering machine “press 1 for this option, press 2 for that option, …, or press whatever to stop receiving these calls.” We’d rather not just turn off our answering machine, but these slimeballs make it tempting. Just for a test, we pressed the “whatever” key on one of these calls, and received several calls from the same place over the next few days, proving that they were liars as well. How do we deal with these people? (And yes, we’ve been on the Do Not Call list for several years.)

Keith Swartz

Oh, yes! Now here we have some much needed practical information. Thank you Joel & MUO.

Achraf Almouloudi

Block their numbers using Avast if you’re under Android.

CB

I use a program called PhoneTray; http://www.phonetray.com/ It’s cut down on having to deal with spammers, scammers, and robodialers massively. The Do Not Call list is just asking for more spam as irreputable jackholes use it as a source list of known good numbers and it has loopholes for politicians to call you anyway.

Richard Borkovec

The sad thing is that even on the “Do Not Call List,” you’ll still get phone calls. I’ve had plenty recently, and I make sure I’m on that list.

Dakota

I always have an MP3 of the standard “Not In Service” message on my PC, and when telemarketers ect call, I play that and hold my phone up to my speaker.

Michael Angelo Sevilla

Thank you for this info.

Now, spammers – go away! :)

Partho

there is no cure apart from one thing i.e, don’t just speak up anything JUST HANGUP on their face. it’s really a high time where millions’s of people have been fooled by them.
say one magic word ” I’m in FBI, don’t dare to call me again”

This might work because this helped me lot.