Ugh. Another spam call.
The unrelenting obnoxiousness of some spammers can easily have us wondering how to report spam calls — and how to get them to stop for good. There’s both good and bad news for consumers on this subject: While it’s unlikely that you’ll ever be able to completely stop all spam calls for good, there are steps you can take to avoid and block many of them.
So whether you just get an occasional call that takes you by surprise, or you’re completely fed up with routine spam calls, read on. We have everything consumers need to know about unwanted calls and how to fight back against them.
Spam calls technically encompass all unwanted, unsolicited phone calls.
These can take a few different forms, which has a major impact on how much you can do to stop them.
There are traditional spam calls, which come from legitimate businesses, usually for the purpose of selling something. When you think of telemarketers, you’re thinking of this kind of spam call. The U.S. has laws and regulations that limit how and when these kinds of callers can contact you, and you have a lot of recourse if you want this kind of spammer to stop lighting up your phone.
On the other hand, spam calls can come in the form of outright scams. These are calls from criminal people and entities that are usually trying to get money or personal information from you. Scam calls are always illegal, but since they’re already operating outside of the law, it can make them harder to stop.
We’ll explain some of the tactics and strategies you can use to avoid both types of spam calls below.
When it comes to putting a stop to spam calls, consumers have two main options: Avoiding spam calls in the first place, and reporting them once they start to happen. Here are some tips, tricks, and tactics for both.
The best way to deal with spam calls is to avoid getting them in the first place. These are some ways you can try to avoid spam calls.
Put your number on the National Do Not Call registry.
The first step any consumer should take to avoid spam calls is to put their number on the Federal Trade Commission’s National Do Not Call Registry. The process is quick and simple to do online. Under federal law, once your number is on the registry, telemarketers can no longer contact you via that phone number. If you get any telemarketing calls after your number has been on the registry for 31 days, you can report the caller to the FTC (more information on how to do that below).
Screen calls from unknown numbers.
When you receive a call from a number you don’t recognize, you should let it go to voicemail. The reason for this is that once you answer a call from a spammer, it tells them that your number is “live” and that if they keep calling it, there is a person on the other end of the line. If the call is legitimate, they’ll leave you a message and you can call them back.
Check your phone’s settings.
In some cases, you can use your phone’s settings to help avoid spam calls. Google phones have a button to report spam callers from within the phone app. This feature isn’t available on iPhones, but they let you automatically silence calls from unknown numbers, another way you can avoid spam.
Check your carrier’s options.
If the settings on your phone don’t seem like enough to stop spam calls, check with your mobile carrier. Some of them offer options to block unknown callers to your number for a period of time.
Block individual numbers.
If you’re getting spam calls from the same number repeatedly, you can block that number. Unfortunately, now that spammers are able to spoof their numbers, this tactic isn’t as effective as it once was.
Use a VOIP number for online forms.
A number of online services offer free or affordable VOIP (voice over IP) phone numbers. You can set up a VOIP number to use for signup forms, especially online. That way, you don’t give your real phone number out to potential spam callers.
Change your phone number.
If you’re getting a ton of spam calls and just need relief, you might consider changing your phone number. Most carriers will allow you to do so for free. As long as you’re careful to only give out your new number to friends and family, this should significantly cut down on the spam calls you receive.
Avoiding spam calls isn’t the only way to make them stop. Consumers also have a number of options for reporting spam callers to the right regulatory agencies that can investigate them, and impose fines and other punishments if they’re found to be breaking the law.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) established the National Do Not Call Registry and rules that help consumers limit the number of telemarketing calls they receive. Here’s how to use those rules to report bad actors.
Report robocalls and telemarketing calls to the Do Not Call Registry.
Once your phone number has been on the Do No Call Registry for 31 days, federal law prohibits telemarketers from calling it. If they do, report them to the registry.
Report violations of the Do Not Call registry to the Federal Trade Commission.
The TSR, which established the Do Not Call Registry, is under the purview of the FTC. So if you add your number to the registry and get spam calls anyway, you can report the callers to the FTC, who can investigate them to see if they’re violating the TSR. You can file a report with the FTC online or by phone at 1-877-382-4357.
Report caller ID spoofing to the Federal Communications Commission.
Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, many kinds of caller ID spoofing are illegal. If a spammer contacts you by spoofing a familiar number to get you to answer, you can report them to the FCC either online or by phone at 1-888-225-5322.
Report phone scams to the Federal Trade Commission.
If you’re contacted by someone who seems to be fraudulently trying to obtain money or personal information from you, you can report them as a possible scammer to the FTC. The FTC takes complaints both online and by phone at 1-877-382-4357.
The unfortunate reality is that there’s not really any way to completely protect yourself from all spam calls forever. Even if you take all possible precautions and diligently report spam calls you do receive, you’ll probably still get them from time to time. But by using the tips above, you can minimize how many spam calls you have to deal with.
What do you do if you’ve taken every possible step to avoid and report spam calls, and they just won’t stop?
You might have legal avenues.
In some cases, you might be able to file a lawsuit against a company that aggressively contacts you to try to make a sale. However, lawsuits can be expensive, time consuming, and complex. In the case of spam calls, a lawsuit may just not seem worth the effort.
So what about consumer arbitration? Arbitration is a legal process — similar to small claims court — that allows consumers to settle disputes with big companies. Both sides present their case to an independent arbitrator, who makes a legally binding decision about who’s in the right and what damages they’re entitled to. This could stop spam calls from a company — or get back money that you lost to overly aggressive sales tactics.
If you’re having a spam call problem, we might be able to help.
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