What Can I Do About Robocalls?

man holding smartphone screen displaying unknown callerAre you sick of grabbing your ringing phone five times a day only to find yet another robocaller on the other end?

If robocalls are getting to you, you’re not alone. Those super-annoying automatic calls have recently exploded, and it’s enough to make anyone go bonkers. More than 30 billion robocalls were made in the United States in 2017, and the Federal Trade Commission answered a whopping 375,000 complaints about robocalls each month. Unfortunately, those numbers are only rising.

If you feel like your phone is ringing off the hook from robocalls and you’re just about ready to throw it against the wall, read on. We’ll give you the inside scoop on these dreaded calls and show you what you can do to put a stop to them once and for all.

How do they have my number?
Many people ask how so many businesses and scammers have their number. It’s because robocallers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and the internet is making their job easier. Scammers and telemarketers can scrape almost anyone’s phone number off the web.

They might find it on your Facebook page, another social media platform you frequent, or even drag it off your business’s website. Robocallers also buy phone numbers from popular companies or websites that require visitors to log in by submitting some basic personal information that includes their landline and cellphone numbers.

Or, robocallers may simply be dialing thousands and thousands of numbers at random, with no rhyme or reason at all.

Who’s on the other end of the line?
Robocalls come in many forms. Sometimes they’ll be trying to sell you a product or urge you into signing up for a service. Other times, they’ll try to scam you by appearing to represent a government agency, like the IRS.

You might think no one’s buying the marketed product, or that whoever actually believes the robotic voice telling them they’re about to be arrested is super naïve. Remember, though, that even if just a few people agree to buy the product or are taken in by the scam, the minimal cost of running the calls is more than worth it for the person behind the calls.

Here’s how the robocalls take a stab at appearing authentic:

  • Spoofing. Using software, the robocaller can tweak the way their number shows up on caller ID. They can make it look like the IRS is on the phone, that your electric service company is calling you or like a representative from Apple is seeking you.Recently, scammers have been using neighbor-spoofing, in which their caller ID looks like a local number. This throws victims off and can help robocallers gain their misplaced trust.
  • Disguised identity. Robocallers may also choose to appear mysterious and show up on your caller ID as “private number,” “unavailable” or “unknown.”

Steps you can take
Thankfully, you don’t have to be bombarded by those irksome calls for the rest of your life. Here are several steps you can take to keep most robocalls from reaching your landline or cellphone:

  • Don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers – If you don’t recognize the number on your caller ID, let it go to voicemail. If the ID shows a local number or the name of a recognized company you have no reason to believe is calling you, ignore it as well.
  • Block unwanted numbers – It’s time to get offensive and start intercepting those numbers before they reach your phone. First, if there’s any specific number that calls you persistently, use your phone to block it and you won’t have to hear from them again.Next, check with your phone service provider about possible technologies you can download to block anonymous calls or those from specific area codes. Some systems allow you to create your own blacklist of numbers that will be blocked or sent directly to voicemail. You can also create a “white list” of numbers you allow to go through and stop every other number from reaching you.You may also want to enlist the help of a robocall-blocking app that can offer you a stronger defense against unwanted calls.Here are some apps that provide this service along with their prices:
    Nomorobo: 14-day free trial. $1.99/month or $19.99/year
    RoboKiller: Free 7-day trial. $2.99/month or $24.99/year
    Hiya: Free. Hiya partners with Samsung, AT&T and T-Mobile and also has standalone apps.
    TrueCaller: Free
  • Require caller input – To keep all automatic calls from reaching your phone, you can set up a call-blocking technology, such as the Sentry Active Call Blocker, that greets all callers with a message requiring them to enter a number before the call can proceed. That’s something robots can’t yet do.
  • Don’t share your number – Never share your phone number on your social media profiles or pages. If a business asks for your number, do not give it out unless you absolutely must.
  • Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry – Visit www.donotcall.gov to add your landline and cellphone numbers to the list of registered callers who don’t want to be bothered by telemarketers. Scammers won’t pay much attention to this list, but law-abiding companies that ignore the listed numbers risk being fined and will usually abide by the registry’s rules. This service is free and your number will never be taken off the list.
  • File a complaint – If you’ve signed up for the Do Not Call Registry and, after a month, you are still receiving robocalls from specific companies, file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov. When the agency receives enough complaints about a number, it will take action.If you’re constantly receiving unwanted calls from a known business after signing up for the Do Not Call Registry, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

You don’t have to let those robocalls overtake your life. Take action today and reclaim your peace!

Your Turn:
What’s your best defense against robocalls? Share your favorite tip with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumerreports.org/robocalls/how-to-deal-with-robocalls/

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/7-tips-stop-annoying-robocalls/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/3/6/17071478/spam-calls-how-to-stop-block-robocalls-robots-scam-iphone-android

https://www.robokiller.com/blog/why-do-i-receive-robocalls/

Phone Cloning And Digital Self Defense

person holding a smart phoneMost of us realize a clone is a genetic copy of something else. But, did you know it is possible to clone a phone? Cloning a phone means that the identity of one phone is copied to another phone, making a nearly exact replica of the original. This frightening practice happens more than you might imagine.

Cyber forensic expert Ali Dehghantanha says, “On average, we check our mobile phones about 110 times a day. We use them for just about everything from summoning an Uber car, paying for our latest Amazon purchases, receiving prescriptions and even tracking shares and trading on the stock market.”

Mobile phones, though, are also a major source of security breaches, and your phone number is the only thing a hacker needs to launch a major attack.

Why Clone a Phone?
Hackers clone phones so they can use them or sell them to people who use them to make calls and to get access to data on the phone. When a phone is cloned, the calls made by the hackers are seamlessly billed to your account. But that’s just the beginning.

Think of all of the information on your phone: financial accounts, credit cards, apps of all kinds. Once the hacker has access to the phone, there is no end to the financial damage that can be done.

The hacker or criminal can listen to you from their own phone and even use the camera on your phone to watch you. He can look at your pictures, read your messages, access your passwords and view your contacts.

Additionally, these cloned phones are convenient devices for criminals to use because they are harder to trace. Cloning is particularly prevalent in drug-related crime, since drug dealers must maintain constant contact with their sources and clients. To avoid their calls being traced, the dealer may use a cloned phone for a few days and then throw it away and use another one.

It may even appear to authorities that you are engaged in criminal activity if the phone number is used this way. The police may target you because of a cyberattack where your phone number was used.

There are a number of ways a hacker can clone a phone. Generally, every phone has a unique serial number and phone number. When a cellphone is cloned, it is reprogrammed to transfer these settings from a legitimate phone. The easiest way to clone a phone is to use readily available software. There are hundreds of sites that offer phone hacking software, so this is not a rare occurrence and requires little technical expertise.

How do you know your phone has been cloned?
Often, you will be unaware that your phone has been cloned until you notice some unusual occurrence, such as credit card bills that include charges you didn’t make, financial account withdrawals and unusual items on accounts, such as Uber or Airbnb. You may be contacted by your financial institution about a loan you did not actually apply for.

However, you can sometimes detect hints that the phone has been cloned. You may receive a lot of wrong number calls or hang-ups when you answer the phone. You might have difficulty making outgoing calls or retrieving messages. Your phone bill may contain unknown numbers.

How Can You Protect Yourself?
While cellular companies have many methods in place to identify cloned phones, there are some things you can do.

First, always review your phone bill. If there are numbers you don’t recognize and charges that are much greater than usual, you may suspect trouble. Have your provider run a diagnostic test to check for viruses that may have resulted from cloning.

Another way to possibly detect cloning is to put your phone number into a search engine, such as Google, to see if any links include your number. You can also use someone else’s phone to call your number and see if someone picks up. Contact your financial institution to see if anyone has tried to open credit cards or loans in your name. Make sure your phone is password protected. Create new passwords and PINs for all the accounts that may be available on your phone. Finally, you may have to resort to restoring your phone to its factory settings.

If you determine your phone was cloned, contact your phone provider and the FBI. You can use the FBI website and select “Tips and Public Leads in the Reporting Crime” section. It is important that you do this, so the authorities can follow up on the information you provide.

Your turn:
Has your phone been cloned? How did you find out about it? Did you suffer financial loss? Share your experience and any tips on how to prevent security breaches with us.

SOURCES:
1. The Conversation. How to Stop Your Phone from Being Hacked. Ali Dehghantanha.https://theconversation.com/how-to-stop-your-phone-from-being-hacked-58898

2. Techwalla. How to Check If a Cell Has Been Hacked or Cloned. Lissa J.https://www.techwalla.com/articles/how-to-check-if-a-cell-has-been-hacked-or-cloned

3. Seminar Presentation on Mobile Phone Cloning. Shishupal Nagar.https://www.slideshare.net/sisnagar/mobile-phonecloning

4. Federal Communications Commision. Cell Phone Fraud.https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/cell-phone-fraud

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