Technology is great at keeping us connected. Unfortunately, now and then, it connects us with someone or something really creepy.
The creepy messages you’re receiving could be robocalls, pre-recorded and sometimes robotic voices. Some claim to know the recipient’s routine and may even reveal what seems to be identifying information. Typically, they intend to scam or harass the recipient. Human or otherwise, nuisance callers sometimes aim to intimidate, threaten, or blackmail the victim.
Automated robocalls that phish for your personal information or attempt to get you to agree to charges are also illegal. In 2016, the Federal Communications Commission created a Robocall Strike Force to tackle the problem, developing technologies to block nuisance callers proactively and verify their identities. And California statute 653m PC prohibits obscene, threatening, or repeated electronic messages or phone calls intended to harass and annoy.
According to a recent Truecaller Insights US Spam & Scam report, 30 percent of Americans have reported being a phone scam victim in 2020, with almost a quarter having lost money. Whether it’s a scam or a form of harassment, the proliferation of nuisance phone calls is a serious matter. If you’ve had creepy messages on your phone, or you’re worried about what to do if it happens, read on. Take back the control of your phone line with these five simple actions.
1. Let unrecognized, unsolicited calls go to voicemail
Most scammers don’t leave messages. Ignoring unknown numbers is one way to screen out nuisance callers. If you’ve been receiving creepy messages, all the more reason not to interact with the caller. Whether it was a case of accidental timing or you deliberately let the call slide, not talking to the person was probably for the best. And a voice message is evidence that may come in useful, especially if the calls continue.
Note that if someone you don’t recognize is trying to talk to you, it could be a voice phishing attempt, in which the caller is typically intent on recording your voice saying the word “yes.” They can potentially use this to authorize charges on a bill or stolen card. It’s best not to talk with people if you are suspicious or can identify them as frauds.
2. Check their identity
Resist talking to the caller unless you have verified their identity. An authoritative voice on the line can be enough to convince some people that it’s okay to share privileged information. It’s not.
On no account should you share personal details with the caller if you don’t know who he or she really is. Instead, you might ask for a company number with which to call them back. Then verify their identity with Nuwber – type the phone number and see what information on that person comes up.
You may feel less threatened or creeped out when armed with the identity of the person leaving the messages. If you doubt the identity of the caller, check it. Don’t give them any information, and don’t say “yes” until you know who they really are.
3. Keep a written log of events
Write down all the occasions the caller attempts to contact you. Include times as well as dates. Transcribe each message and make any notes about it that seem relevant.
This may seem over-the-top at first, but written records like these can prove extremely helpful if things escalate, particularly if you involve the police. Reporting annoying phone calls is one thing, but an accurate account of the frequency and content of the messages can help people make objective decisions about what’s happening and what they can do about it.
4. Tell people about the messages
The Federal Trade Commission will help you stop unwanted phone calls and text messages. Report the messages and any other attempts to contact you.
You can also call the police if you’re feeling harassed or threatened. They are used to such reports and won’t be surprised to hear from you. It’s best to tell them early so that you get a police case number, and they’ll be able to refer to the incident on file if things escalate.
Suppose your call helped uncover a pattern that helps stop the perpetrator? Your report could help police identify a serial abuser before they can harass more people.
5. Block the caller
Ask your service provider to block the number if you are getting repeat calls. Having reported the caller to the police may help you get this done swiftly. Your service provider may also have a call-blocking service that can block nuisance numbers in general, including robocalls. If you can’t block a number through your service provider, an outside service may do this for you.
Registering at the National Do Not Call Registry (it’s free) will prevent marketers from calling you within a month. Visit the website or call 1-888-382-1222 or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY) from the phone number you wish to register. If you still receive sales calls having blocked telemarketers, this is a sign that the “company” calling you is a scammer.
Call-blocking apps that alert you to potential fraudulent calls and let you report scammers are also available. Two of the most effective and popular apps on the market are Hiya (iOS and Android) and Should I Answer? (Android).