Recently my wife and I noticed that we were getting scam phone calls from numbers that were only a digit or two away from our own numbers.
The first seven digits of our mobiles would be exactly the same as the first seven digits of suspicious incoming calls.
The numbers wouldn't be the same twice, despite the common start, and they'd never leave messages or respond to texts requesting clarification.
These calls also come in at the normal scam witching hour...although now they are calling at the start of the day too <sigh>.
It's not a particularly new technique. In fact I would guess it has been around as nearly as long as phone numbers themselves.
The technique is called "Neighbour or Reflection spoofing" and uses the familiarity of the number to pique your curiosity i.e. because the number looks familiar, maybe you DO know them, maybe it is legit. It isn't.
So it seems that pretty much every other day there's a new way to be scammed and a new thing you have to look out for.
So I decided it is time to share my method for dealing with all these scam and otherwise problematic phone calls.
How to deal with all the scam calls from now on
For a long time now I have NOT answered any phone call that is an unknown number, has no caller ID or is otherwise obscured from me. You shouldn't either.
This is critical.
You don't want to engage with these people OR prove that you been hooked in any way.
Set up your phone to divert all unanswered, cancelled and busy signals to your voicemail.
Also, if your phone has it, set it to "Silence Unknown Callers".
I am yet to have an actual scammer leave a voicemail. I have, however, had robot calls in various languages leave messages.
Either way, this makes it very easy to identify who really wants to talk to you and who doesn't and, more importantly who is afraid of giving away their game in an ill considered voicemail.
Your voicemail answering message, maybe a bit like the one below in red in step 4, should clearly state that unknown callers MUST leave a message or they won't be called back...
...and then DON'T call any numbers that don't leave a message.
If they do leave a message, ONLY call back numbers that have proven legitimate.
If you have some reason to think that maybe the number is a call you have been expecting, then send them a text message that says something like...
Your phone number has come up as unknown.
Apologies if I should know you but I can't tell from the number alone.
Sadly, due to the proliferation of scams and calls from hidden numbers, unidentified callers will not be returned.
You MUST leave a message to get a return call.
Or text me you name, address and details so I know who I am calling.
Your details will be recorded so that in future I know who is calling and can answer.
If I don’t get your details future calls will be blocked on the assumption the number is a scam source".
Don't ring them. Just text them.
If you can't text, wait for them to call back and leave a message.
This may seem like a lot of words but it is easy to copy and past this from a note on your phone to unknown mobile numbers as you need.
This does 2 things.
It lets the scammers know you are onto them and it lets legitimate callers know what to do if they really want to talk to you.
It's not that hard....but scammers won't play your game :-)
If you don't get an answer from the above message within a reasonable time, then BLOCK that number from calling you in the future.
Because, no matter how you look at it, that person doesn't want to do anything other than waste your time.
If the person does call back, leaving a message, or reply to your text then add them to your phone's contact list.
That way, in future, their calls can get through to you and you can answer them (without them going to voicemail...if you want).
This may sound ruthless, and it is, but it is the best way I have come up with so far to continue having a phone AND filter out the bad guys.
One of the built in advantages of handling all phone calls like this is that it gives you THINKING TIME.
And if we are talking about helping elderly relatives and at risk people, thinking time is something that they don't always get when handling these calls normally i.e. by answering them.
The time has gone where we can be courteous by default and answer anyone who calls us.
Send all unknowns to voicemail.
Deal with them on your terms.
Call them back if you want to.
It is that simple.
But remember, much like with spam emails, these is no permanent solution.
This is an ongoing and evolving battle. One day the scammers will get confident with leaving messages and better mask the things that give them away.
But for now this strategy works well.
P.S. Familiarize yourself with my other articles and information about scams: https://www.ihatemypc.com.au/blog/categories/scams