First off, it’s important to understand the difference between spam and scam calls.
What are spam calls?
Many legitimate companies use telemarketing to grow their business. For example, companies that you’ve done business within the past or a nonprofit that you previously donated to might call you if you’ve given them the right to do so.
However, spam calls are specifically where a company is cold-calling a massive amount of people at once or continues to do so after someone has requested not to be contacted. In general, spam calls are more of a nuisance rather than outright illegal.
What are phone scams?
Scam calls, on the other hand, are illegal and are usually an attempt to steal your money. There are many different kinds of scams, such as robocalls pretending to be from a government department.
The more information there is about you available on the internet (such as your home address, birthday, occupation, family members etc.) the more sophisticated the scams can be.
Also spoofing, where the caller IDs can be altered to look like someone from your neighborhood is calling, can make phone scams more difficult to detect.
What to do if you receive a suspicious phone call
Here are some general best practices when dealing with potentially fraudulent spam or scam calls.
Hang up all robocalls or suspicious phone calls immediately.
Be suspicious about any claims that you’ve won a prize or vacation package
Block and report all suspicious calls on your device (see instructions below)
Report scam calls to the FCC & FTC (see instructions below)
Always independently research and fact-check any company that is asking you for information or trying to sell you something
Remember that government officials would never threaten you or ask for sensitive information over the phone
Don’t be pressured into believing you have to make an immediate decision
Don’t say anything if a caller starts asking yes or no questions, such as “Can you hear me?” Scammers might try to record you saying “yes” and use it as proof that you agreed to buy something
Don’t provide any sensitive information such as your credit card/bank account details or social security number
Don’t wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card over the phone
Don’t talk or dial any numbers in the automated menu as it can alert scammers to the fact your number is in use
Don’t trust the caller ID even if it looks like the call is coming from your neighborhood
Pro Tip – Stay Aware of Common Telephone Scams Keep up to date with the most common telephone scams so you can spot them if they’re attempted on you. According to the FTC, the two most common phone scams are from companies promising to reduce your debt and imposters pretending to be government officials. Also, calls about medical prescriptions, warranties, and vacation timeshares are often common scams.
Why should I report scam numbers?
It’s recommended to report spam calls and scam numbers because it helps government officials to investigate and prosecute companies involved in illegal telemarketing and phone fraud.
If no one reports the calls, the scammers and spammers won’t get caught and are able to continue targeting people.
So how to report spam calls? And how to report phone scams?
How To Report Spam Calls
First off, when you receive an unwanted call, you should ask the person on the other end of the line to remove your number from their call list and not call again.
If the company that is calling you is legit, then they should consent to this.
However, if the company keeps contacting you regardless, then the next step is to block and report the number via your mobile device.
How to report a spam phone number on an iphone
To report spam calls on iPhone, you need to do the following on both your Phone app and FaceTime app:
Go to recents
Tap the i button next to the number you wish to block
Tap “Block this caller”
How to report a spam phone number on an Android
Open recent calls
Tap and hold the phone number you want to block
Tap block number in the dropdown menu
Tick the “report call as spam” box
Pro Tip – Turn on Google’s Spam Filter to Reduce Nuisance Calls Android users can also enable Google’s spam filter from the Phone app, which will block all calls that Google suspects to be spam. This is how you do it: – Open phone app – Tap the three dots in the corner – Tab Settings – Tab Caller ID & Spam – Enable the option to filter suspected spam calls
How to report a spam text to your carrier
You can report spam texts via your network carrier. This is quick, easy, and free of charge:
Forward the message to 7726 (which spells “SPAM”)
You’ll receive a message confirming it’s been received
Your wireless carrier will then use this data as part of their spam fighting efforts
The FTC Do Not Call registry
The Do Not Call registry is a service provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Unlike the other options listed in this guide, this isn’t used to report individual nuisance numbers. Instead, individuals can submit their personal phone number to the registry, to inform telemarketers they do not wish to be contacted.
While this is worth doing if you’re receiving unwanted calls, it will only stop legitimate telemarketers who play by the rules. Companies that flout the rules or straight-up fraudsters don’t give a hoot about the registry, so it won’t stop those calls.
Also, the registry doesn’t apply to political organizations, charities, telephone surveyors, and companies that you’ve been a previous customer of.
Where To Report Phone Scams
As phone scams are illegal and a more serious problem than spam, dealing with them is also different.
The government agencies responsible for fraud calls in the US are the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which is where you should report scam calls.
How to report scam calls to the FTC
The FTC is a government agency that enforces federal consumer protection laws that prevent fraud, deception, and unfair business practices. There are two options to report scam calls to the FTC:
First you need to choose an option that best describes the type of fraud call attempt you received.
Next step, provide as much information about the call as possible, such as caller ID and time of the call. You can also add additional comments to describe what happened. The more information you provide, the more useful your report is to the FTC.
The last step is to add your personal information and that’s it. Your report is ready to be sent!
How to report scam calls to the FCC
The FCC is a government agency responsible for implementing and enforcing communication laws and regulations. You can report both spam and scam calls to the FCC.
This is a simple one-page report. Add as much information about the call you received as possible and then submit your report.
How To Stop Scam And Spam Calls
While reporting scam and spam calls helps the authorities to track down and prosecute the people behind these operations, it’s not going to solve the problem overnight.
The most effective way to stop spam and scam calls is to tackle the root cause of the problem: how these people get hold of your phone number in the first place.
An alarming amount of sensitive data is now available to buy online. Much of this trade is facilitated by data brokers, which are companies that collect and then sell on customer data. These companies hold information on almost every American citizen, including names, addresses, and phone numbers.
Therefore, if you want to stop your number from falling into the hands of scammers, then you need to remove your information from data brokers.
You can do this one of two ways:
Option 1: Do it yourself
All data brokers must remove your personal data from their databases if you request this. We’ve created step-by-step guides on how to do this. The problem though is that there are countless data brokers active in the market, so removing all of your data from these platforms, not to mention your family members’ data, is extremely fiddly and time-consuming.
What’s more, this isn’t a one-time activity. Your personal data is continuously being added to data broker platforms, so you need to be constantly monitoring and removing this.
Option 2: Get us to do it for you
Here at DeleteMe, we’re the experts at removing your personal data from the internet. We’ve completed over 29 million data broker opt-out removals since 2010 on behalf of our customers.
As soon as you sign up with us, our team of privacy experts uses sophisticated AI to identify then scrub your personal data from all data broker platforms and other online sources of PII. And once your data is removed, scammers can no longer buy your personal data to then harass you with nuisance calls. We then monitor and remove any new personal data that’s added to these platforms, ensuring your PII stays off the internet.
Now you know how to report spam calls and how to deal with telephone scams. While this doesn’t solve the problem overnight, it helps your network carrier and government agencies to crack down on illegal activity.
But if you want to stop scammers from getting hold of your phone number in the first place, then the most effective thing you can do is remove your personal identifiable information from data brokers.
Will Simonds runs Senior Marketing Operations at DeleteMe, and is a steadfast privacy advocate who has a resolute dedication to online privacy solutions and helping people regain their privacy.
Since joining DeleteMe in 2015, Will has worked in a number of different roles.
From launching the DeleteMe affiliate program, creating and maintaining hundreds of opt-out guides, fine-tuning DeleteMe’s customer communications and improving website conversion efficiency, Will lives and breathes DeleteMe.
Will earned his BBA from Endicott College.