One of the latest tricks, facilitated by modern technology, is the ability to make a phone call appear to be coming from some other number than the one the caller is actually using. It’s called “spoofing.” For phones with caller ID available, you may see the number, or you may see something else, like “unavailable,” “none,” “anonymous,” or just the city and state of origin. For these calls, you can block them from even coming through, saving you from having to hit “call block” on your phone each time. Simply pick up your phone as if you were going to make a call. When you hear the dial tone, enter: *77. (Star seven seven.) This will not allow any unidentified calls to come through. Callers will hear a recording telling them that the phone number they are trying to reach does not accept unidentified calls, and to hang up, remove the ID blocking from their number, and try calling again. If it’s a junk call or scammer, they won’t bother.

How Do You Spot Fraud?

It’s very difficult for the average consumer to detect which of these calls might be fraud, and which are just ordinary spam calls trying to sell something or solicit support for some cause. One of the scammers’ newest tricks that seem to be on the rise, is to spoof the caller ID somehow so the call appears to originate from the recipient’s own phone number! Report such calls to the security department at your telephone service provider. It is best if you can also give the date and time the calls came in. Most phones today will show a call history; even most landlines.

What Will Happen Next?

The provider will probably open a case, and give you a case number for reference, should more calls come in. This happened to me three times in one day! For these calls appearing to be from my own number, I reported the matter to my phone carrier, and they said they are opening a case, they did give me a case number, and they will investigate. Hopefully, they will be able to trace the culprits and make them stop. Unfortunately, a good many of these sorts of calls originate from overseas, and out of reach of the USA jurisdiction. However, if the callers are based here in the States, they will likely be tracked down and made to cease and desist. This practice is illegal, and perpetrators can face fines up to $10,000.00 for each violation. It’s best, according to the FTC, to ignore and not answer such calls. However, if you did answer, do NOT give out any information the callers may request. Just hang up on them.

What Can You Do?

You can register your phone number(s) with the FTC’s “Do Not Call” list. You are allowed to register both landlines and mobile phones, but not fax machine numbers. You can also file a complaint with the FCC. If you think you have fallen victim to a scam, you can also get help from AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) whether or not you’re a member. Remember: legitimate agencies, such as Social Security, the IRS, your healthcare provider, insurance carrier, etc. will not call you and ask for personally-identifying information. Never, ever give out phone number, passwords, address, account numbers, your social security number, and so forth. If a caller asks for those things, hang up at once.

Do not give out this information to anyone calling you. Only provide these details if you, yourself made the call to a known entity. Stay alert and don’t fall for these tricks! This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional. © 2020 Liz Elias


Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 19, 2020: Hello Kalpana, I’m sorry to hear you are experiencing such “innovative” scams. That “money from the government” trick is not particularly new, unfortunately. You are smart to ignore these and hang up on them. I wish there was a workaround for you. Kalpana Iyer from India on October 19, 2020: I wish there was a number like *77 where I am staying. In India, the scammers have increased and the calls are getting innovative. I recently got a call saying I have some unclaimed money from the government and to claim that I have to give personal details. Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 17, 2020: Hi Liz… Yes, so annoying. I get calls telling me my car warranty is expired, when I never had one to begin with; my truck was bought used in 2008, and at this point, it’s old enough to vote! ;-) I also get calls about “My Apple account.” Don’t have one; never did–no Apple products in this house! You’re right about the calls sounding like they are coming from overseas…accents and all. Liz Westwood from UK on October 17, 2020: We need to be always on our guard. I have received several calls recently that look like they are from within the UK, but sound like they are from abroad. The caller (foreign accent and noisy background) tells me that my washing machine warranty has expired. I know it has not, as I see the payment go every month. I always hang up, but clearly they are looking for vulnerable people to pass on their bank details. Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 16, 2020: Thank YOU, Doris, for your wonderful comment. “Robokiller” sounds like an awesome add-on! I know what you mean…about paying for spammers! And on that topic…cable TV! It seems we are paying a premium to have umpteen channels of nothing worth watching, and a ton of commercials piped into our homes! When cable TV first came out, it was commercial-free! You were paying for the content…now, everyone has gotten greedy. Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on October 16, 2020: Thank you, thank you, for the *77 information. There is an app we can download to our cell phones called “Robokiller” that I plan to try on my cell phone, but I’ve been stumped about our landline and was considering having it removed. It seems that we are paying about $45 a month on our bundle just for spammer’s to use. Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 16, 2020: Not sure what happened there, Shauna…I fixed it; it was showing on my end, but for some dumb reason, I had to click “not spam.” Weird! Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 16, 2020: Liz, my comment seems to have disappeared. :-( Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on October 16, 2020: @ Pamela: Yes, they are annoying in the extreme, but any way to reduce them, I’m in favor. It seems to me the technology exists for these to be blocked from even connecting, by the phone carriers themselves! @ Shauna: I agree, the “Do Not Call” list is far from perfect. It has cut down on the frequency and quantity of such calls I used to get, however. That said, you can imagine the size of that list. Small companies or sole proprietorships have neither the financial resouces, bandwidth, or personnel to scour through these lists comparing phone numbers. True, the computer can do that for you, but that comes down again to bandwidth, and probably a specific program. Annoyingly, we will still continue to get political calls and calls from charities: those were made exempt!!! (Maddening, as they are sometimes the worst offenders!) And yes, the *77 works for cell phones as well, my carrier told me. @ Bill: I agree, to a point, but of late, I’ve had to answer unrecognized numbers, because of the lockdown, many healthcare providers are calling from their home phones, and it doesn’t identify as the medical office as it normally would. I’ve missed a couple of such calls because I hit “call block” instead of answering. :-(

Thank you all for your wonderful comments and added information. Much appreciated! Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 16, 2020: They are out in force for sure, my friend. My simple approach is to not answer the phone unless I recognize the number, and that has worked so far. I sometimes won’t even do that. If it’s important, the person can leave a message. :) Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 16, 2020: Liz, I’ve had several calls from “my phone number”. I didn’t know to call security for my carrier. I’ll do that next time. As far as the Do Not Call List, that doesn’t work. I’ve registered several times and still get random calls. I even get texts from political parties. And the latest recurring scam I’ve been receiving on my cell phone are texts telling me my package is ready for delivery and please click the following link. Most times I’m not expecting a delivery. I always ignore and delete the texts. Clicking on the link will more than likely end up in ransomware, where my phone will be held hostage until a ransom is paid. I didn’t know about *77. Does that work for cell phones? I often get calls from The United States. Yeah, like I’m really going to answer, right? Great article, Liz. So many scams going on today. Sadly, many elderly people fall into them and end up paying dearly. Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 16, 2020: You have put a lot of good advice into this article. Those scam phone calls drive me crazy, so I appreciate any way to cut down on them. Thanks, Liz.

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