If you own a phone, you’ve received an unwanted call from a telemarketer, or spam robocall trying to sell you a product.  You may have noticed that many of the calls are from phone numbers that seem to come from your own area or one of your phone contacts, with a familiar area code. This is a practice begun a few years ago called spoofing: that’s highjacking a local number to give the impression the call is local and perhaps from someone you know.

But don’t be fooled – technology has advanced in this area often to the detriment of the innocent consumer who can get inundated with these calls multiple times a day.

The Federal Communications Commission has acknowledged that spoofing is a continuing problem, especially for older adults

How do these robocallers get your number to begin with?  In ways that would seem fairly benign on the surface.  Paying closer attention to when you give out your phone number can reduce the chances of your phone number being distributed to the world.

Here are a few ways your number is obtained by robocall companies:

  1.  You’ve given out your number publicly, on social media, warranty cards, or online services like e-commerce sites.   Ever wonder why many sites ask for permission to access your contacts, or to send you notifications for the latest sale?  Refusing to add your number will cut down the chances of your number being distributed.
  2. You automatically accept Terms of Services for on-line services without actually reading or understanding what you’re agreeing to.  Chances are, hidden in all of that text, is the permission granting the site to distribute your information. Do you really need to provide the app you just downloaded permission to access your contacts?  Think twice before checking off that little box.
  3. Signing up for credit cards.  Credit card companies often give away your information, so in the long run, you may want to consider if that 25% savings you get upon opening a new account is worth it.

So what to do if you’re receiving way too many robocalls?  Consider these options:

  1.  Add a Robocall killer app to your phone.  The nominal monthly fee may be worth stopping the aggravation of unwanted calls.
  2. Register on the Do Not Call List.  Do take note, however, that even this registry seems to have been skirted by more aggressive robocall companies.  This is supposed to be good for five years, but as marketing companies become savvier, you may have to revisit this before then.
  3. Be cautious with new mobile apps that ask permission to access your contacts.  If you want to have your neighbor join you in Words With Friends, ask them in person rather than have the app send out notifications on your behalf.
  4. Don’t overshare your number online. If you have a non-business email signature with your phone number, consider removing it.  Does the carry-out restaurant where you’re ordering lunch need your number?  Be mindful of where you’re sharing your information, especially on social media.

Written by our member, The Move Makers.