Robocall scams driving you crazy? Here's how to fight back

Jeff Elder 7 May 2019

Hounded by weird robocalls? Learn how to respond to calls from scammers with our list of the latest tips and tools.

You get a call from a number you seem to recognize. The caller says they work for a big company you do business with. They seem to know things about you. Then they ask for more information – your birthdate, Social Security number, or credit card number.

This is a robocall scam. And even if you are too savvy to fall for it, you may feel swarmed by the frequency of such calls. A new report says robocall spam (all unsolicited automated calls, not just those from scammers) surged more than 325% last year to 85 billion calls globally. The scam callers have also adopted sophisticated tactics, such as spoofing the incoming phone call’s number to resemble your own. And scams have extended to voicemails, inconveniencing call recipients more as they have to listen to and delete messages.

The Avast Blog team reached out to the US Federal Communications Commission, which recently released its first report on robocalls. “Illegal robocalls are a persistent problem,” FCC spokesman Will Wiquist told us. “Recent reported upticks in volume are concerning and likely related to the profitability of these calls” as well as the ease of making large volumes of spoofed robocalls.

But you don’t just have to take it. Here are the FCC’s latest tips and tools for fighting back against the scammers ringing you day and night.

How to fight back against robocall scams

  • Don’t answer your phone if you don’t recognize a number – even if the number is from your area code or seems close to your own number.
  • Tell family members – especially the elderly or others who may be vulnerable – not to take calls from unfamiliar numbers.
  • Don’t fall for scams in which the caller claims to represent the government or law enforcement asking you for money.
  • If you do need to look into an issue that a suspicious caller has discussed with you, hang up and call the agency or company at a number from a recent bill or legitimate website. Do not call the number the caller used or provided to you.
  • If you know a call is fraudulent, do not engage with scam artists in any way. Even pushing a button on your phone to supposedly remove yourself from a call list can provide personal information about your phone and identity.
  • Scammers also have found ways to collect information to make them seem legitimate. Be aware – and tell your family members – that just because a caller knows your name or even personal or financial information does not mean they are legitimate.
  • Do not provide financial or personal information to unknown callers, ever.
  • Do not let anyone pressure you to pay a debt using a gift card or money order.

Other tools

  • Wireless carriers have taken big steps recently to address robocalls. Ask your company for their tools and resources for fighting robocalls. Here is where to seek that information from different carriers.
  • Block spam and other unwanted calls with Avast Mobile Security – free antivirus for Android phones.
  • US consumers can file a complaint about a robocall scam with the FCC here.
  • Register for the FCC’s Do Not Call list, or verify that you are already registered here.
  • Investigate third-party apps that block robocalls here.
  • Download the full FCC report on robocalls here.
  • To learn more about robocall issues globally, read this report.

The fight against robocall scams is not futile. In March, the US Federal Trade Commission shut down four separate operations responsible for making billions of robocalls. The robocall operations solicited donations to fake veterans charities, pitched bogus search-engine optimization, and supposedly sold home-security systems, among other scams. In settlements the defendants have agreed to pay more than $20 million.

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