Over the last several years, phone scams have seen a sharp rise with no signs of slowing down. Research from the Better Business Bureau shows that more than two-thirds of all scam phone calls are made over the phone and that number is increasing year over year. Between 2016 and 2017 the number of phone related scams jumped nearly 20% and is expected to keep growing.
Scammers have been using technology to their benefit for years without facing much push-back but thankfully it looks like that is about to change. As first reported by USA Today, nearly all the major U.S. phone carriers are taking action to help thwart scammers attempting to reach consumers by phone.
What Companies Are Doing to Protect Users
To combat spoofed phone numbers, telemarketers, and scammers, some phone companies are marking suspicious callers as “Scam Likely” on Caller ID in an effort to warn their users of potential danger. Others have implemented new standards for their internal processes to help identify and eliminate these scammers.
All four of the major wireless companies have implemented STIR and SHAKEN standards. STIR, Secure Telephone Identity Revisited, is for call-certification. SHAKEN, Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using tokens, is a verification process that prevents callers using spoofed or fake phone numbers from contacting you.
In addition to these protections, each of the major phone companies are providing additional protections to help fight against unwanted calls.
Along with ongoing internal efforts, AT&T launched Call Protect, a free app that blocks robocalls. The app has been responsible for more than 365 million blocked calls since mid-2018.
AT&T’s internal team examines over a billion calls daily to look for patterns that might expose robocalls and scam callers. They also offer Call Protect Plus for an additional charge that gives users access to Enhanced Caller ID, a reverse number search feature, and customized call controls.
Back in January 2018, T-Mobile introduced caller verification standards to help protect their users from potential scam callers. The program goes through a process to verify that the caller is a real person attempting to contact you and flags anyone using faked or spoofed numbers.
T-Mobile also offers a feature called “Scam Block” that allows consumers to block scammers before they have the chance to contact them at no additional charge to your current plan. T-Mobile says that they’ve blocked more than a million scam calls that since the release and the company has plans to continue their efforts to protect their customers.
In addition to implementing SHAKEN/STIR policies, Sprint encourages its users to download their Premium Caller ID service for an additional monthly charge. The program offers labeling and blocking services to let you see who is calling, even if the caller is not in your contact list. Plus, you will be able to see the name of the caller.
As the nation’s largest wireless carrier, Verizon has done some heavy lifting on their part. They have compiled a list of nearly 300 million phone numbers associated with spam and robo-calls, with the list continuing to grow every day.
The company has announced plans to make combating this issue a top priority in 2019, announcing plans for a free spam-alert feature and call blocking tools that are expected to launch in March 2019.
Until those features are ready, Verizon encourages customers to download Call Filter, an app that blocks unwanted calls based on possible risk level for an additional monthly charge.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
It’s going to take more than just phone companies to eliminate the scam phone call problem, consumers must be aware of what they can do to protect themselves. The Better Business Bureau has put together a list of tips on how to spot and avoid common phone scams:
- Don’t Know the Number? Don’t Answer. The simplest tip you can follow is to stop answering calls from phone numbers you don’t recognize. Oftentimes, these scammers are hoping to get you on a call with them, so they can start working their magic. Remember, anyone who legitimately needs to get in touch with you will be able to find another avenue if you don’t answer the phone.
- Don’t Interact with Automated Calls. Some scammers will send automated calls to consumers asking them to press a number on the key-pad to be removed from a call list. In reality, they’re using this as a way to alert the scammer that they’ve reached an active number. If you encounter a call like this, hang up and block the caller.
- Alert Businesses You Think Are Being Impersonated. If you interact with a scammer that is impersonating a legitimate business, hang up and call the business to alert them of the scam. Many businesses are unaware of scammers using their name until alerted by someone who the scammer has interacted with. By contacting the real business, you can help prevent others from being scammed.
- Help Blow the Whistle on Scammers. Ultimately, the biggest role you can play in preventing scam phone calls is alerting others. Before you block a number coming from a scammer, be sure to record the number and write a brief description of the scam you encountered. Once you’ve done that, you can report these scammers to several organizations, including filing a report through BBB’s Scam Tracker.
- Protect Yourself Against Unwanted Calls. Another way to stop unwanted calls and cut down on legitimate telemarketing calls is to join the Do Not Call Registry at DoNotCall.gov. Although this won’t stop scammers, consumers will receive fewer calls, making it easier to spot the fraudulent ones.