Every time your phone rings these days, there's a great chance a scammer or spammer is calling. But how do these people get your phone number in the first place? There are many methods scammers and spammers use to obtain our phone numbers. As former CIA agent Jason Hanson explains, every time we sign up for something online or when we buy a product using our phone number we don’t have control on who is sharing this information (Agent of Influence, 2019).
How do scammers and spammers get my phone number?
Did you recently sign up to something on a website with your phone number? This might be the reason for an increase in spam. Unfortunately, some websites pass on this information and target you with spam.
Scammers and spammers can actually purchase phone numbers from third party data providers. (Lauren Chan, 2021) Here’s a list of how these providers may have gotten your number, according to the Better Business Bureau:
You called an 800, 888, and/or 900 number (they use caller I.D. technology and collect phone numbers).
You applied for credit.
You contribute to charities.
You’re a registered voter.
You bought anything, or entered any contest, and gave your phone number in the process.
Your phone number is on your checks.
You call a business, and they have caller I.D. (which, you should assume they do).
How to stop getting spam calls
First, what kind of calls are you getting? Robocallers: Automated, pre recorded phone messages Spammers: Unwanted callers that may be calling indiscriminately to a large number of recipients; sometimes includes callers to whom you’ve given consent to contact you, usually trying to sell you something. Scam/Fraud callers: Someone who is pretending to be someone they’re not with malicious intent (usually trying to steal your information or money). Now for the important part, how to actually stop these annoying calls:
OPTION 1: MANUALLY BLOCK INDIVIDUAL NUMBERS ONE BY ONE
You can always manually block any unknown or suspicious phone numbers that call you. This works to block the number from ever calling you again, but unfortunately this option takes the most time and effort on your part and has to be continued constantly which could be an ongoing problem. In addition, scammers often call you again from a different phone number once you've blocked one of their numbers.
Here’s how to do it: For iPhone users - go to the “phone” app, then navigate to “recents”, click on the blue “i” icon next to the phone number you wish to block which will allow you to see more information, and finally you can select “Block this Caller” For those using Android devices - go to the “phone” app, click on “recents”, then do a long press on the phone number you wish to block and select “Block”. Again, this is the most time consuming process, but it’s definitely a better option than doing nothing at all.
OPTION 2: HAVE YOUR CARRIER TRY TO PROTECT YOU
Most of the major US mobile providers offer some kind of service to block spam and protect you from these kinds of calls as part of your wireless network plan or as a paid value added service. They use network technology to help identify when a call might be legitimate or if the call is suspicious. Unfortunately, many calls are still passed through to you as “spam likely”, which doesn’t indicate if they’re actually good or bad, leaving you with the dilemma.
Here is what the 3 major US Telecom Providers offer:
AT&T Call Protect and Call Protect Plus
For free for all postpaid customers or for $3.99 / month you can have access to the Plus version.
T-Mobile Scam Block and Scam Shield
For free for all postpaid customers or for $4 / month you can have access to Scam Shield Premium.
Verizon Wireless Call Filter
Available free for all postpaid customers
OPTION 3: PROTECT YOURSELF WITH GENIE
How Genie works:
Genie gives you the power to reclaim your phone by filtering out all scammers and harassing spammers.
Incoming calls from known contacts?
Genie doesn’t intervene, letting them straight through to you.
Incoming calls from known scammers or spammers?
Genie blocks them automatically, so you don't get bothered.
Incoming calls from others? (e.g. your local delivery person or doctor)
Genie screens them, notifies you who’s calling and why, and allows you to decide who gets through.