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/

The End of the Wallet as we Know It?

Smartphone payment apps allow you to leave your card at home

For years, consumersaofcu_pic_003047337 have had the capabilities to use apps on their smartphones to pay for items in the modern-day marketplace. Recently, this technology has begun catching on, with Internet start-ups and financial institutions scrambling to capitalize on this revolution.

“Every device will become a commerce device,” said Gary Flood, president of global products and solutions for MasterCard, to the Boston Globe. “Technology is opening up the potential to do things in a different way around the world.”

A recent survey found that more than 60 percent of people expect that mobile devices will soon replace cash and credit cards. There are many different smartphone apps that offer the abilities:

Google Wallet
This app allows you to e-mail money via gmail and link your phone to your credit and debit cards and checking account to use anywhere contactless payments are accepted. Positive aspects of Google Wallet are the ease of set-up — it takes about five minutes to create a secure PIN number and enter your personal information, including account info — and the inclusion of Google Offers, which informs you of deals and coupons at nearby places at which you may be shopping. The PIN safeguards your account from breaches, and the software’s cloud connection allows you to shut down your Wallet from a computer if your smartphone is lost or stolen. There is a fee for using credit and debit cards through Google Wallet, but checking account payments are free.

Square Cash
This app only works with debit cards, with no fee involved, and you don’t even need an account with Square to accept money this way. This makes it ideal for splitting a bill with friends, for example, or chipping in for rent. Pay with Square is an app that allows you to pay simply by saying your name. Through the app, you can find Square-enabled businesses nearby, which utilizes your phone’s GPS, and before you head into one of those stores, you hit “Open a Tab.” From there, you go into the store, grab what you want, and tell the cashier your name. The only problem is that you’re often identified by pictures in this case, and online photos can be blurry which can lead to potentially costly confusion.

Venmo
This popular app helps friends to pay each other, but it is a pay-by-text service. Checking and debit options are free with this app, but there is a fee for credit card transactions. Set-up is quick and easy, with a text confirmation for extra security, and you can connect to the service through your Facebook account as well. This will help you find friends that are also signed up for the service. Venmo’s connections with Facebook don’t end there. The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern explained the service’s fun social qualities.

“As soon as you open the app, there is a Facebook-like newsfeed of your friends’ transactions — hotel rooms, Indian food and cab rides are just a few things my friends seem to be paying for with Venmo,” she said. “You can then comment or ‘like’ the update. Fortunately, the amount paid isn’t public and you can disable the sharing features on each transaction.”

To use Venmo, you just enter the amount you want to pay, identify the recipient by name, phone number or e-mail, and click “Pay.” There is a limit, however, on much you can send per week and per month.

LevelUp
This app allows you to link to your debit or credit card, while also linking to various stores’ loyalty cards. The app offers built in discounts and says its users save around $25 a month by using its service. Like many of the above options, set-up is simple by just entering your card number. Scanning your card with your phone’s camera doesn’t always work, said CNN Money’s Laurie Segall, who tried out all of these applications for a 2012 story.

To pay, on participating merchants’ LevelUp-provided devices, you just scan a code displayed on your phone after you hit “Pay.” It all works within seconds.

Paypal
This is probably the most well-known of all of these, allows you to completely scrap your phone altogether and pay with just a phone number and PIN. You must remember to first go into your Paypal account and enter your mobile number. Even if there is already a number on file, the mobile number needs to be specified. Then, at the payment device, all you have to do is enter your number and the PIN. For extra safeguards, Paypal texts you after every transaction to let you know there was a purchase. Paypal is great because it is a commonly used service that most people already have for shopping online or for international transfers. But beware of the fees, they are charged for every service (credit and debit) except for the checking account.

Store loyalty cards are a widely used option among retailers that allows you to prepay money or attach an account to them while also accumulating points or perks. Over a quarter of Starbucks customers either pay with a digital or plastic loyalty card, the company disclosed. That also means that Starbucks has reduced its cost of processing purchases by 25 percent. Typical merchant fees for a regular debit card transaction are around 4 percent, while use through loyalty cards and apps like those above can reduce the fees to 2 percent or even make them disappear altogether.

A similar option to those mentioned previously includes the Tango Card, which allows consumers to securely store gift cards and then generate a barcode for their use at the register. Also, Uber is an app that enables a user to pay for a town car or a taxi through its technology linked to credit or debit accounts. Many parking garages, parking meters and vending machines across the country have gone the “touchless payment” route as well.

Going forward, technology will be making even greater strides. NXT-ID, Inc. is developing a means to replace all the cards in your wallet with no smartphone required. The Wocket™ is its own device; it will work anywhere credit cards are accepted, and only with your biometric consent. See an official presentation about the Wocket here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2zPNB5i9CA.

All of these technological advancements are not without their problems, however. Security really is not a concern, as most of the aforementioned services are more protected than your own actual wallet! The main issue with digitized payments is that the systems are not synchronized. One app doesn’t work everywhere, or with every point-of-sale device. But that, too, may be a problem of the past. Scvngr, the operator of LevelUp, is working on a single POS that will allow merchants to accept any mobile payment app.

“Until you solve that particular problem, you can’t really drive much widespread consumption,” said Will Graylin, founder of ROAM Data, a premier mobile application and payment services company.

As Graylin indicated, it will be a while before there is extensive adoption of the mobile wallet, but be aware of increased spending when this future is upon us. These apps and devices certainly increase convenience, as software can track spending and balances with the push of a button, but they also increase sales, with GPS tracking helping to notify you of sales and discounts near you. Individually, these technologies have their own pros and cons; each is best used in different places and under varying circumstances. Therefore, it’s solely up to your discretion if next time you go shopping, you want to leave your wallet at home.


Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
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