Too Many Seniors Are Being Bilked by Phone Scammers


Too Many Seniors Are Being Bilked by Phone Scammers

Lovely world we live in, chock full of wonderful people who’ll happily steal from your befuddled parent.

Photo by Centre for Ageing Better on Unsplash

Neither I nor my wife is likely to get scammed by a phone call, but those calls are still an annoyance, so we have done what we can do mitigate these calls. You may have an elderly relative who you have reason to worry about; perhaps one or more of these ideas could help.

Unknown caller blocking

There’s an IOS setting for iPhones called “Silence Unknown Callers”. It’s simple and quite effective; if a caller is not in your contacts or isn’t a recent call that you made, the call instantly and quietly goes to voice mail. Few scammers will leave a message. We both use that setting to escape these jerks.

Android phones have the same ability.

Blocking numbers

Sure. Until they call from a different number.

Land lines

Your phone company probably offers a scammer blocking service, but you’ll pay for it and some calls will still get through because scammers constantly get new numbers. If you don’t want that, or want to augment it, there are some free and easy ways to stop land line scammers.

One extreme measure is what we did with my mother when she was in a private room at a nursing home: we had the phone company set the line to outgoing calls only. If we needed to reach her, we called the front desk and asked them to have her call us. That was completely effective for spam and scam and was also less expensive than a full featured phone line.

If that’s too limiting, another is to disable all the phone ringers and call waiting. The calls go to voice mail (assuming you have it on that phone). Again, scammers almost never leave voice mail. In fact, we never had any voice mail from anything that wasn’t obviously prerecorded or inattentive scammers saying “Hello? Hello?”

The final fix, which is what I do now, is to add a switch to the line which kills it. If we need to use the land line, we flip the switch on. I bought this at Amazon (not an affilliate link): Telephone Coupler Switch. All you need is that and a bit of phone wire you probably already have in a drawer somewhere. The interesting thing about this is that since the line has been dead so much of the time, when we’ve accidentally left it turned on for the day, we haven’t had any annoyance calls. Perhaps the scammers removed our number from their database after reaching dead air a number of times?

I didn’t mention the Do Not Call Registry

We’ve signed up for that multiple times and it’s pretty much pointless. It’s just a list that honest companies will not call. Scammers don’t pay any attention to that.

I didn’t mention the FCC

Well, maybe I should.

The FCC has been promising tough action for years and the phone companies are supposed to automatically block known scammers.

And when the scammers realize that they have been blocked, the phone companies cheerfully hand out new numbers, just like they do for drug dealers who think they have had a number too long and are afraid of the police getting wind of it.

When the number is released for reuse, somebody has to update the list of known bad numbers or the poor guy who gets that number wouldn’t be able to call many people.

So no, I don’t think there’s a lot of hope there. Maybe they and the phone companies will eventually be able to fully stop number spoofing, which is where your caller ID says it’s your neighbor, but it’s really somebody in Russia who is going to pretend to be a Nigerian prince needing to smuggle gold out of Switzerland or some such nonsense. But stop scammers? I doubt it.

I hope some of this helps.

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