Every day, I receive at least 2 or 3 calls from numbers I don’t recognize. Some numbers are simply listed as “unknown”, others have area codes that match mine, and the rest are from all over the country. I hardly ever answer a call from a number I don’t know – my rule of thumb is that if it’s important or from a trustworthy business, they’ll leave a message.
Because I don’t answer, and the callers almost never leave voicemails, I often wonder who these people are. I’m signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry: it’s for personal phone numbers, and you can register online or by calling 1-888-382-1222. At first, I thought this would prevent all unwanted calls, but this isn’t actually true. The FTC says that registering your number will reduce the number of unwanted sales calls you get, but it only prohibits sales calls from telemarketers. Registering won’t have an effect on the number of political, charitable, debt collection, informational, and telephone survey calls you receive (FTC.gov).
If you’ve been registered for more than 31 days and are still receiving sales calls, they may be scams. The FTC notes that most legitimate companies respect the Registry, and won’t call if you’re on it. If you receive one of these spam calls, report it to the FTC and BBB Scam Tracker.
Getting on the National Do Not Call Registry certainly can help reduce the number, but you’re still bound to receive unwanted calls. According to the FTC, internet-powered phone systems have made calling cheap and easy for scammers – they can do it from anywhere in the world and they can hide from law enforcement by displaying fake caller ID information.
The FTC advises that if you’re on the Registry and get a sales or illegal robo-call, don’t interact or press any buttons, and just hang up. If you’re bothered by these and other unwanted calls, a new release from the FTC outlines a number of different options for limiting them – ranging from downloading a mobile app to contacting your phone carrier.
It’s important to be wary of unsolicited phone calls in order to protect yourself from scams. Phone calls are the top overall means of contact for scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker: out of the 34 scam types, phone calls are the top means of contact for 20 of them. Scammers have even been calling consumers claiming to be from the National Do Not Call Registry – if you receive one of these you can be assured it’s fake. The Registry or the FTC won’t call you.
Any unsolicited contact – whether it be by phone, email, social media, or mail, should be cause for suspicion. Don’t give out personal information or respond unless you’re sure it’s from a trustworthy business and is legitimate – even if you don’t provide information or money, you could be signing yourself up for more calls just by responding. Look up businesses on bbb.org and do your research before responding to any communication. And if you’re contacted by a scammer in any way, shape, or form, report it to BBB Scam Tracker and the FTC.