What is a robocall, and how to stop robocalls?
Robocalls are automated phone calls, often associated with scams and unwanted solicitations, which can be a nuisance to individuals and businesses alike. According to Statista, around 87% of the US population owns a smartphone, which means nearly 9 in every 10 Americans is a potential target for robocalls.
Robocalls often start with a prerecorded message but can switch to a live call with an operator. Tracing robocall scammers can be challenging as many use advanced tools to mask their locations and may also be calling from overseas.
Read this comprehensive guide for more on:
- Robocalls meaning: What is a robocall?
- How do robocalls work?
- Robocall examples
- Stopping robocalls: steps to take to stop robocalls
What is a robocall
As the name suggests, Robocalls are automated phone calls that deliver pre-recorded messages to a large number of recipients simultaneously. Robocalls are typically made using computerized systems and can be used for various purposes, including political campaigns, telemarketing, and even public service announcements. However, they are primarily associated with fraudulent activity and scams, making them a significant security and privacy concern for anyone with a phone.
How do robocalls work
Robocalls work by using automated systems, which can quickly dial thousands of phone numbers. These autodialers are programmed to call a list of phone numbers and deliver pre-recorded messages once the call is connected. The autodialers can be set to call specific area codes or phone number prefixes, allowing robocallers to target specific regions or demographics.
Robocalls can also employ deceptive tactics such as caller ID spoofing, which allows the caller to display a fake or misleading phone number on the recipient’s caller ID. The spoofing attack technique is often used by scammers to mimic legitimate organizations or government agencies in order to trick people into answering calls.
Types of robocalls: Robocall examples
Debt collection robocalls
Debt collection robocalls are usually from creditors or debt collectors attempting to collect overdue payments. Such robocalls can be intimidating and relentless, employing aggressive tactics to pressure individuals into paying their debts. Please remember to verify the legitimacy of such calls to avoid falling prey to scams.
Healthcare or Medicare robocalls
Robocalls related to healthcare or Medicare can be scams. Such calls may claim to offer free medical services, insurance coverage, or prescription drugs. Avoid sharing any sensitive information with such callers.
Charity robocalls tug at our heartstrings, appealing to our desire to make a difference. Unfortunately, many of these calls are fraudulent and aim to exploit our generosity. Scammers may pose as representatives of well-known charitable organizations. It’s best to donate directly to charities through their official channels to avoid being deceived by scammers.
Car warranty robocalls
Car warranty calls may claim that your car warranty is about to expire and offer extended coverage options. However, many of these calls are scams trying to obtain personal and financial information.
During election seasons, political robocalls flood our phones, promoting candidates, parties, or agendas. While such calls may be legal in some locations, they can still be intrusive. Fortunately, you may be able to opt out of receiving political robocalls in some jurisdictions.
Telemarketing robocalls are automated calls aiming to sell products or services. While legitimate telemarketing calls do exist, many robocallers pretend to be telemarketers in an attempt to defraud consumers.
Free trial scams type of robocalls
Free trial scams are designed to lure unsuspecting individuals into providing their credit card information for a supposedly free trial period. However, once the trial ends, charges are applied to your credit card without consent.
Please carefully read the terms and conditions before signing up for any free trial. Please also avoid sharing your credit card information with untrustworthy parties.
Loan scams robocalls
Loan scams target people that need financial assistance, promising quick and easy loans. These predatory scams involve upfront fees or requests for personal information, resulting in financial loss or identity theft.
Spoofing scams involve manipulating caller ID information to deceive recipients into thinking the call is from a trusted source. Scammers may impersonate government agencies, financial institutions, or even friends and family. Please be wary of such calls. In addition to manipulating caller ID, scammers may use AI-generated voices to trick you into thinking the call is from someone you know.
Travel scams target people seeking discounted travel deals. Travel scam robocalls may use enticing offers for luxurious trips at low prices. However, these offers are usually fraudulent. As usual, the goal of such scams is to gain your sensitive information or money. Always book your travel through trusted agents or websites.
Foreign robocalls are calls originating from outside your country and are a growing threat. Foreign robocalls can be problematic because overseas scammers exploit international regulations and law enforcement limitations. In addition, overseas scammers may use technology to manipulate caller ID in order to trick you into thinking the call is from a local number.
Location verification robocalls
Location verification robocalls are designed to confirm where you live. Such calls may ask you to enter or confirm your zip code or area code. Although the calls may seem harmless, location verification robocalls are often a ploy to collect data for malicious purposes.
Voice verification robocalls
In a voice verification robocall, a scammer may try to trick you into speaking to record your voice. For example, they may ask questions that lead you to say your name or the word “yes.” The goal of such calls is to collect enough data to impersonate you for fraud.
What happens if you answer a robocall: Potential risks
1: Your phone bills can go up
If your cellular provider charges you for every call that you engage with by the minute, your phone bill could spike due to robocalls. Blocking robocalls is the best solution to this problem.
2: You may become a target of identity theft
It’s no secret that robocalls threaten user privacy. Scammers may use automated calls to gather personal information from unsuspecting victims by posing as authority figures. For example, they may pose as people from organizations like banks or government agencies and ask for sensitive details like social security numbers or credit card information. Any confidential information you share with a scammer may be used for identity theft.
3: You’re at risk of getting malware
Some robocalls are designed to initiate a malware attack on your system. For example, a robocall tech support scam will start with an automated voice claiming your computer has a virus. If you follow the call’s instructions, you may actually download malware to your computer or device.
Please ensure that you have security software installed on your computer and phone. In addition, avoid clicking any suspicious links texted or emailed to your device.
4: You may lose money as a result of a robocall
Scammers can use robocalls to trick their targets into giving away their money. They may employ tactics such as offering fake investment opportunities or claiming that you owe money to a certain organization. They may even pretend to be the police, like with fake law enforcement arrest warrant calls. Please be skeptical of any unsolicited calls that request immediate payment or promise unrealistic returns.
5: You may get your voice recorded without your knowledge
Some robocalls may record your voice without your knowledge for malicious goals such as impersonation or blackmail. That’s why you must avoid engaging in conversations with unknown callers. Protecting your voice is just as important as protecting your personal information in a world where AI can quickly and convincingly mimic your voice.
What to do if you answer a robocall
- Hang up as soon as you realize that it is an automated robocall
- Don’t follow any instructions
- Avoid giving any personal information
- Do not engage with the call
- Secure your accounts
- Report the robocall
As soon as you realize that you have answered a robocall, hang up immediately. Do not engage in any conversation or respond to any prompts to minimize the risk of fraud.
Don’t follow any instructions
Robocalls may carry instructions or requests, such as a demand for payment or information. Please remember that legitimate organizations usually don’t request sensitive information over the phone.
Avoid giving any personal information
Never provide any personal information, such as social security numbers, credit card details, or passwords over the phone to an unknown caller. If you’re concerned, contact the organization directly using a trusted phone number or website.
Do not engage with the call
Engaging in conversation with a scammer can lead to undesirable consequences. Remember, some experienced fraudsters are skilled at manipulating conversations to extract personal information or money.
Secure your accounts
More than a quarter of Americans fell for scam calls in 2021, with many suffering from identity theft or financial losses as a result. So, please take immediate action to secure your accounts if you think you may have been targeted. Change passwords for your bank accounts, email, and any other sensitive online platforms. Monitor your financial statements closely for any suspicious activity and report any strange transactions to your financial institution.
Report the robocall
Contact your phone service provider and provide them with details about the robocall. You can also report scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC is coming down hard on robocallers, and consumers need to do their part.
How to stop robocalls
Tip 1: Use the Do Not Call registry
The Do Not Call registry is a database maintained by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can use it to opt out of receiving telemarketing calls. Simply visit their website or call their toll-free number to register your phone number. However, many scammers typically disregard this registry, so you must take other measures to stop robocalls.
Tip 2: Don’t answer unfamiliar numbers
Robocallers often use spoofing techniques to make their calls appear legitimate. By not answering these calls, you deny scammers the opportunity to engage with you or verify your number. If the call is important and authentic, the caller will leave a voice message.
Tip 3: Do Not Disturb
Most smartphones offer a Do Not Disturb feature that lets you silence calls and notifications from unknown or blocked numbers. Use this feature to filter your calls.
Tip 4: Use third-party blockers
Many third-party blockers utilize advanced algorithms to identify and filter out unwanted calls. But before installing any of these apps, research their features, user reviews, and compatibility with your device. Avoid downloading blockers that seek unnecessary permissions.
Tip 5: Use spam filtering
Most smartphones have built-in spam filtering capabilities that automatically detect and divert suspected spam calls. Activate this feature to stop spam calls.
Tip 6: Block numbers
You can manually block frequent robocall numbers. While scammers often use different numbers, blocking some of them can offer a little relief.
Tip 7: Avoid giving out your phone number
Minimize the exposure of your phone number to reduce the likelihood of receiving robocalls. Provide your number to businesses selectively and only share it with trusted individuals. In addition, consider using alternate contact methods, such as email or instant messaging.
How to stop robocalls on iPhone
Apple provides options such as enabling Silence Unknown Callers, which automatically sends calls from unknown numbers to voicemail. You can also utilize third-party apps from the App Store that specialize in blocking robocalls.
How to stop robocalls on Android
Use the Block Unknown Callers on Android to send unidentified calls to voicemail. Additionally, you can try a reputable call-blocking app on the Google Play Store to stop robocalls on Android.
How to stop robocalls on landlines
To stop robocalls on landlines, you can consider subscribing to a call-blocking service offered by your telephone service provider. Such services may allow you to block specific numbers, filter out unwanted calls, and customize call settings.
What is the difference between a spam call and a robocall?
While both are unwanted and intrusive, spam calls refer to any unsolicited calls, including those made by humans. On the other hand, robocalls are automated calls that use pre-recorded messages or artificial intelligence to communicate with recipients. Please keep in mind that some robocalls start with pre-recorded messages but can shift to a live caller.
How to recognize a robocall
Scammers employ different tactics to trick unsuspecting victims into giving away valuable personal information or parting with their money. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to spot a scam on the phone. Here are some signs of a fraudulent robocall:
- A recorded message that attempts to sell you something.
- A voice that sounds like a real person but has off-timing responses.
- Calls about products or services you do not own.
- Messages that convey a sense of urgency and often end with a request for payment.
- Messages that threaten you with legal action and often end with a request for payment.
- The robocall tries to trick you into saying “yes” with a question like “Can you hear me?”
- The call asks you to share confidential information.
- The call claims to be from an authority like a government agency, bank, etc.
What does it mean when you get a robocall?
When you receive a robocall, you receive an automated call with a pre-recorded message. Chances are that thousands of other people are receiving the same call as you.
Can a robocall hack your phone?
A robocall can’t hack your phone. However, scammers and other threat actors can use them to trick you into downloading malware on your device. For example, a robocall may trick you into visiting a malicious website designed to deliver Trojans or spyware.
Can robocalls steal your identity?
No, robocalls can’t steal your identity. However, they can be used as an attack vector for identity theft. For example, a scammer may use a robocall to trick you into sharing sensitive information.
How do I get a robocall to stop calling me?
- Register your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce the number of legitimate telemarketing calls you receive. As mentioned, this is unlikely to prevent illegal robocalls though, because scammers often disregard the registry.
- There are various call-blocking services and apps that can help filter out unwanted calls. Use them to reduce the number of robocalls you receive.
- Avoid sharing your phone number with untrusted sources. Please also exercise caution when filling out online forms or signing up for services.
- If you receive a robocall, hang up immediately. In addition, block the number.
- File a complaint with the FCC or the FTC when you receive an illegal robocall.