Spam or Scam?
So, what is the difference between these two? Right now, all you may recognize is that they are annoying, and they are that. However, it is vital to recognize the difference between a spam call and a scam call. First, a spam call is simply your number being loaded into some dialer program to sell you something. Yes, they are annoying, and basically, it is just a high-tech spin on an old method called “cold calling.” If you hang on long enough, you will eventually get transferred to a live person.
A scam call is very different. It is a phone call to try and separate you from your money, your identity, or both. Usually the there will be a message stating something to the effect that you owe the IRS money, and that a warrant for your arrest will be issued if you do not send money now. A very popular one is either an automated message, or a live person stating they are from Microsoft and that a virus has been detected on your machine and you need to clean it now.
In both spam and scam calls, you may see the caller ID display that it’s an 800 number. However, lately the caller ID will appear to show a local area code and phone number calling. That is done deliberately, so that you will answer it. It is vital that you do not. More on that in a moment.
Why is this happening?
There are many reasons why this could be happening. First, you may have filled out a web form on some website in which you entered your phone number. That company likely sold your information to another company and they started calling you. However, most of the relentless calls coming through are scam calls.
As you might suspect, the scammers trying to contact you, are using sophisticated programming to mass call everyone in an area code and prefix. Even if you do not answer, they may call you several times a day, and hence you become annoyed. You may notice that the number on the caller ID keeps rotating. The scammers on the other end are faking where they are calling from. Many of them are not even physically inside the area they claim to be calling from, or the United States for that matter.
It’s time to drop the hammer.
So, you know the difference between the two types of calls, but how to stop the madness? It’s simple, and while the following suggestions cannot 100% eliminate spammers and scammers, it can greatly reduce the number of calls, and bring some sanity back to your smartphone.
First, do not answer calls from numbers you do not recognize. The main reason is, if you do not recognize the number, you likely do not know who it is on the other end. Let it go to voicemail if the caller thinks it is that important. Many times, scammers and spammers will not leave a message, so you just saved yourself some wasted time. Another reason you do not want to answer those calls is if it is a scammer/spammer and you answer it, their programming oftentimes will make note that someone is answering this number, and then start calling you from other faked numbers.
The next best thing you can do is to block the caller from your caller ID on the native phone app. While this initially can be effective, scammers will find a way around this. Therefore, I highly recommend using a third party phone app for this. The following suggestions, I in no way, get any sort of endorsements from.
Hiya – This smartphone app is an amazing tool to help stop the annoying and incessant scam calls. How it works is that other users mark phone calls as different categories like spam, scam, fake number, and the like. This builds up a database, so that those with the app installed, if they get a call from a previously reported number, the caller ID will warn of what type of call it happens to be. In many cases, it will block it altogether.
Mr. Number – This was the first app that I tested to stop the madness, and it works very well. Mr. Number does pretty much the same thing that Hiya does but just looks a little different on the interface. One of the things you will notice about Mr. Number is the already exhaustive database of scam phone numbers that have been recorded. This is where Hiya is a little bit thin on, and that is mostly due to Mr. Number being older than the other.
Both apps come with the ability to either warn, or block suspected spam, telemarketing, or scam phone calls. I highly recommend that if you are already at the point of receiving as many as 5 to 10 calls a day, turn these features on. They allow anything in your contacts to pass through, so you do not have to worry about missing a legitimate call from someone you know. Both Hiya and Mr. Number are available on iOS and Android.
Take back your life.
You now know what scam and spam phone calls are and you now are equipped with the tools to combat them. However, as I stated at the beginning, there is no app out there that will 100% guarantee stoppage of all types of these annoying calls. However, using the tips suggested here in this article will greatly reduce the number of phone calls you are receiving, and likely save you from having to file on your phone insurance due to an “accident.”
Hunter is an Information Technologist with nearly 20 years experience working with computers.