My 74-year-old parent receives a handful of unwanted telemarketing and robocalls and has been cheated out of hundreds of dollars. What tips can you provide to help protect individuals from scam calls?
Scammers are always looking for new ways to trick individuals out of money. In the U.S., phone calls remain the primary way swindlers take advantage of older victims.
The Federal Trade Commission recently found that 24% of adults over age 60 who reported losing money to a scam in 2021 said it started with a phone call – the largest percentage of any method including email, text and mail. To help protect against robocall scams, telemarketing and spam calls, here are some tips and tools you can employ.
If your parent has not already done so, a good first step in limiting at least some unwanted calls is to make sure home and cell phone numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry. While this will not stop fraudulent scam calls, it will stop unwanted calls from legitimate businesses who are trying to sell something. To sign up, call 888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register, or you can do it online at DoNotCall.gov.
Cell Phone Protection
Most wireless providers today offer good tools and apps for stopping scam calls and texts. To find out which apps are available within your network, use your preferred online search engine to research which applications work best for your device and service provider.
For additional tools, download a reputable spam-blocking app onto the phone. The apps may be offered by the wireless service provider and can be found in the Apple and Google App store. These apps are free to use, but most carriers will also offer upgraded services that you can get for a small monthly fee. If, however, your parent uses a regional or small wireless carrier that does not offer scam/robocall protection, you can use a free third-party app.
Built-In Call Blockers
Many smartphones today also offer built-in tools that can block spam calls. Some of the newer smartphones make it possible for your parent to completely silence all unknown callers who are not in their contacts list in the phone "Settings."
Silencing all unknown callers is an extreme solution that will stop all unknown callers, but your parent runs the risk of missing out on a few legitimate calls as well. However, unknown callers do have the option to leave a voice message and their calls will appear in the recent calls list. Your parent can also add any number to their contact list to let them through in the future and can block specific reoccurring spam call numbers manually.
Home Landline Protection
To stop scam calls on your parent's home phone, set up the "anonymous call rejection" option. This is a free feature available by most telephone companies, however some may charge a fee. It allows you to screen out calls from callers who have blocked their caller ID information – a favorite tactic of telemarketers.
Call your parent's telephone service provider to find out if they offer this tool, and if so, what you need to do to enable it. If they do not offer it, find out what other call blocking options they do offer.
Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.