The Law Doesn't Matter To the Scammers

Apparently, new phone system technologies and software not only facilitate cheap, high-volume calling (thousands in a second at very little cost), but allow the callers to operate from anywhere, including overseas (apparently they love the Caribbean and I can't blame them!), and to display fake caller ID information (including making their number appear local or that of a legitimate business or government agency). The U.S. National Do Not Call Registry has little deterrent effect on these clever scammers!

The incredible time and cost effectiveness of these aptly named "robo-calls" makes them the perfect new way to pitch many rip-offs (or capture credit card and personal info to use for other financial frauds). The topic of these calls may be alluring to the unsuspecting or needy recipient: energy saving devices to reduce your utility bills; charitable or political contribution requests; student loan forgiveness or refinancing; lower credit card interest rates; low cost vacations or time shares; car and home warranties and protection plans; and so many more I don't have space to list them all here (see my prior scam articles).

Well, then, what can you do to start eliminating these robocalls (besides the National Do Not Call Registry)? Here's a quick summary of what I've learned.

There Is No Perfect Solution But These Actions, Taken Together, Can Be Effective

1. Do not answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer and then hang up, the calling party will know they have reached a real number and that you are likely to respond, which will only encourage them to call back! The same will happen if you answer and press a designated number to "opt out" of future calls! The main problem with this approach is you may miss important calls (like I feared with regard to Mom). And, as I also learned the hard way, letting a call go to voicemail just indicates to the caller they've reached an active number and you'll be targeted you for a call back. So you have to do more.

2. If you feel the need to answer (or just mistakenly do), only say one thing. "Put me on your do not call list!" Be emphatic, blunt and clear. Repeat it again if you get any response other than "Yes." Don't merely say "can you take me off your list?" or "I hate getting these calls" or anything else the caller can seize upon to state a follow-up question or engage you in conversation.

3. For a traditional copper-wired land line, ask your phone service provider how to utilize their free call blocking system or purchase a blocking box. For example, many phone companies use a *77 screener. By merely dialing once *77, it will block calls showing a caller ID such as "anonymous" or "private". If you have a wireless phone cradled in a base unit, you may be able to do the same thing using the base unit features. In either case, you may have to specially indicate certain friendly callers who you want to accept. For an even more effective level of call blocking you may buy a low cost "box" that hooks up to your phone, such as CPR V500 Call Blocker or Digi-tone Call Blocker Plus, or use the service Nomorobo (for certain land lines). But again, none of these options are perfect and they could screen out important emergency warnings, like apparently happened to some victims of the horrific Paradise

4. If you have a cell phone, you'll have to obtain a special call blocker app. They typically cost very little. Nomorobo (for cell phones) or YouMail are popular ones. If you are using an iPhone, Robokiller or Truecaller may work better. Note: just blocking individual numbers through available settings on your cell phone doesn't help when the callers use a different number next time!

Laws May Change, But So Will the Tactics of Scammers

There are number of federal and state legislative proposals to crack down further on unwanted and often illegitimate phone calls. Unfortunately, the scammers will always try to adapt as quickly as new laws are enacted. Oh well, we'll just have to react again, in response, when that happens.

Anyway, for right now, I've got to get going and implement some of the recommended call-blocking actions myself!

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.