IT Insight: Spam and your phone

·4 min read

We commonly think of Spam as it relates to an email, those pesky unwanted emails that spread virus’ to your computer or request your credit card information by scammers. But what about spam as it relates to a cell phone call? Typically, the caller is posing as a representative of the IRS, a debt collector, Microsoft, or a service provider you don’t even remember hiring! They are looking for your identifying information such as your social security number, birth date, address or any other identifier that will enable them access to your financial information.

Once they find a way to capture that information, they can easily infiltrate your accounts. They might call pretending to be Microsoft noticing a problem with your computer. They will try to gain access to your computer and often ask you to download some software as a paid service to remedy your problem, and just like that, they have your credit card information, and they are in! With that information, they are often able to gain access to your Venmo account, PayPal, and others too. They will try using a money transfer application and even offer you a “refund” that you deserve. If you are not tech savvy, you may fall prey easily.

Although some calls are immediately identified as “Spam” on your phone, often we will answer a call that appears to be coming from our home town or elsewhere where we commonly call. Spoofing technology enables scammers to trick caller ID into displaying false information. They have realized that many people no longer answer calls from phone numbers with unfamiliar area codes, that display no caller ID information, or “unknown,” on their caller ID. By spoofing local phone numbers or information into caller ID devices, scammer bet their calls will appear familiar enough for you to answer. Some might spoof “Call from N.H.” or a telephone number that is only a few digits away from your own phone number. Scam artists who use spoofing technology use a wide range of scams designed to steal money or personal information that is constantly evolving. It is important to be cautious of unsolicited calls from unknown callers—even if their caller ID information appears local.

So, what can you do about Spam calls?

The “do not call” list is really for legitimate telemarketers and is quite effective against those. Regarding Spam/Scam calls, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have their own versions. You should also activate your service providers free protection that is available. These offer free services that monitor network activity and crowdsourced reports to block suspected fraudulent calls.

There are also some applications that you can download for your Android or your iPhone. One is called Hiya. Hiya is a spam call alert, blocker, fraud detection and phone number lookup in one. This application will install to your phone. You decide what you want it to do. There are certain options you can select. You can choose a very secure option that enable the application to block any phone call coming into your phone unless the calling number is within your contacts list. The caller will receive a voicemail type of greeting saying, "You've been blocked. Please leave your name and information." That in turn gets passed on to you as the cell phone owner. Then you determine if you want to allow the call to come in, or if you just want it to go to your voicemail. It allows the receiver more control and comfort with answering their phone. Other similar versions are RoboKiller, Truecaller and YouMail, with different variations. YouMail replaces your phone’s existing mail service when a scam call comes in and tries to trick known robocallers into taking you off their lists by playing them the beep-beep sound of a dead line.

We know now that the telephone is no longer a trustworthy pipeline. Even with new FCC regulations, robocalls will remain a huge problem and criminals will always find a new way to Scam. It’s just another layer of security we all need. Now is the time to plan how you will react and block the next time your phone rings!

JoAnn Hodgdon
JoAnn Hodgdon

JoAnn Hodgdon is vice president and co-founder of Portsmouth Computer Group (PCGiT) with her husband David. PCG provides comprehensive managed IT services, business continuity, security, cloud computing and Virtual CIO services to their clients. You may reach her at joann@pcgit.com or at www.pcgit.com.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: IT Insight: Spam and your phone