Speaker 1: I have been getting nonstop spam calls and texts lately. I used to get them every once in a while, but now I get around 10 unknown calls a day and I'm not the only one who feels overwhelmed. A bunch of my friends and family have also been getting a ridiculous amount of unknown calls and texts too. It's a pretty widespread problem. In 2022 alone, Americans are expected to get over 52 billion robo calls, which breaks down to around 1 billion calls each week, 52 billion. It got me wondering how [00:00:30] all these scammers get our numbers and why. I've seen such an influx lately of both spam calls and texts. So I talked to Maggie Rearden, who spent nearly two decades covering tech policy and phone companies at cnet.
Speaker 2: So there was a real ebb and flow in terms of spam calls and um, and just like robocalls in general and you know, it's always a game of whackamole where, you know, maybe a new technology or or strategy comes for like kind of knocking them down, but then the folks who make money [00:01:00] off of this get smarter and they find a way to circumvent that. So that's sort of always happening and uh, you know, as the techniques get more sophisticated on how to sort of smack them down, so do the, the bad folks who are trying to do it, particularly the criminals.
Speaker 1: So what can we do to prevent or block spam calls and texts and will things ever get better?
Speaker 1: Spam calls aren't just annoying, but they can be dangerous too. [00:01:30] Scammers can trick you into giving up personal information or sending money to criminals. It's also getting harder to tell what's real and what's not. Some people get calls from spammers claiming to be a bank or a government institution, and if you're not cautious, it can be really easy to fall for those traps. Scammers can get your number in a few different ways. They might collect your personal information you've shared on social media or take data gathered through hacks to list the people they wanna target. They might also buy your number through the black market.
Speaker 2: Some [00:02:00] of the numbers are just out there to be bought, right? I mean, it's not illegal for, uh, people that you've given your phone number to, to then sell it to other people. So, you know, that's something that I think consumers should really be aware of too, is like every time that you're putting down your phone number someplace, um, it's getting added to a list that could potentially be sold to someone else. So there's nothing that really says that people can't do that.
Speaker 1: My phone has also been blowing up with spam texts, which are just as annoying, like [00:02:30] spam calls. A lot of these texts are designed to get more personal information about you, which can then be sold or used against you to get money. The US Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission have been working to tackle the problem. Last year, the FCC required major wireless carriers to start using a technology called Stir shaken. Stir shaken verifies all incoming and outgoing calls routed through wireless carriers networks. It essentially authenticates a phone calls origin and make sure [00:03:00] the caller ID information is accurate. By verifying each call, carriers can reduce the number of fake calls. Verizon, at and t and t-Mobile all have call blocking features. Verizon's call filter app is automatically enabled for Android users on a postpaid plan. It's also available in the app store for iOS users.
Speaker 1: If you want, you can pay $3 a month for a caller id, spam lookup, a personal block list and a spam risk meter call filter has been a game changer for me since it [00:03:30] does a pretty good job of detecting spam calls. There are still some calls that make it through the filter because no technology is perfect and I just use the free version, but it's definitely been a huge help. At and t Active Armor for iOS and Android also blocks spam and fraud calls and it lets you block all unknown callers. You can also pay $4 a month per line to get the advanced tier, which includes caller ID for unknown numbers, reverse number lookup identity monitoring and public wifi protection. Meanwhile, T-Mobile's [00:04:00] scam Shield is free to all customers. It includes caller id, scam reporting and scam blocking before your phone even rings.
Speaker 1: You'll also have the option to mark numbers as favorites, so they still ring your phone. You can dial pound six six two pound from your phone to turn on scam block or download the free Scam Shield app from the app store or Google Play. If you have a different wireless carrier, you can call customer support or visit the company's website to see if it offers a similar service. You can also look [00:04:30] into third party apps to block spam and robo calls. Some of those apps include hya, NoMo, robo Email, and Robo Killer. There are also some habits that you can build to help reduce robo calls. First, don't answer any calls from unknown numbers.
Speaker 2: Don't answer it right, because if you're answering the phone call, then that scammer knows that it's an active number. Um, and you know it, it could tip them off.
Speaker 1: If you do answer listen first and don't say hello. The call could [00:05:00] be recording your voice and scammers could use that to unlock personal information. Similarly, don't respond to any questions that can be answered with a yes. If somebody calls claiming to be from a specific company, hang up and call the company yourself. Use the company's website to find an official number. Also, don't assume an incoming call is really from a local number. Scammers can try to trick you into thinking that because they know you're more likely to pick up, you might be tempted to answer an unknown call to see who it is, or you may [00:05:30] be worried it's actually important, but it's a good idea to let those calls go to voicemail. Then if it's actually important, you'll know you can report spam calls and text to your carrier by texting 7 7 2 6, which is easy to remember because it spells spam.
Speaker 1: If you get a spam text, you can forward or copy and paste the message to your carrier. If it's a call, you can send the caller's number. You can also sign up for the FTCs National Do Not Call Registry. It's a a list of phone numbers of people who have requested telemarketers. [00:06:00] Don't contact them. Companies have to check the Do Not Call Registry before making telemarketing calls and can't call someone on the list without prior consent. Go to do not call.gov to register your home or mobile phone for free. It only takes a couple of minutes. Getting on the list won't stop all telemarketing calls, but it should help some organizations like charities, political groups and phone surveyors can still call you. The registry includes a complaint form to report spammers. There's also a form on the FTCs website to report fraud. [00:06:30] If you feel like you've been a victim of a scam, call the state attorney's general office and find out if they're working on anything related to that scammer or file a new complaint with them. You can also try filing complaints with law enforcement if you feel like you've been a victim and scammed out of money. One of the biggest challenges is tackling spam calls from overseas. That's because the US has to work with foreign law enforcement to curb those calls, so it's not as easy to manage.
Speaker 2: Unfortunately, a lot of the really bad scams are coming from [00:07:00] overseas and those are really hard, uh, for law enforcement to sort of track down and figure out who it is exactly are the perpetrators, and then to be able to go out and get them and and prosecute them.
Speaker 1: Maggie says the FCC is doing a better job of tracking those calls, but still we're just starting to chip away at a huge problem that'll be hard to completely eradicate.
Speaker 2: I think we're always gonna have the problem. Unfortunately, if you think about it, like how long have people been getting spammy emails? But we [00:07:30] have junk folders and you know, the filters sort of filter that into junk folders, so it's always going to be there. What people have to really be aware of is that the scams are, are gonna increasingly get more sophisticated, so you have to be kind of on your guard a bit more.
Speaker 1: In the end, increased awareness is really what will protect you from falling for scams. Law enforcement, regulators and carriers do what they can to identify and block spam calls and texts, but it's really up to individuals to be cautious about [00:08:00] the information you share and how you handle unwanted calls and texts.
Speaker 2: As people become more aware, hopefully fewer people will, will fall for the scams
Speaker 1: And hopefully with the right combination of technology and awareness, the number of obnoxious calls and texts will eventually die down too, because I am tired. Thank you so much for watching. If you found this video to be helpful, don't forget to hit like and subscribe for more content from cnet. Oh, hold on, I'm getting a call, another spam call.