What are spam calls, robocalls and fraud calls?
Ok, so besides being annoying and infuriatingly distracting, what’s the difference between spam, robocalls, and fraud calls?
- Robocalls: Robocalls are when you answer the phone and you hear a pre-recorded, automated message.
- Spams: Unwanted calls from retailers, and charities for instance, who often contact a large number of people with the same generic opening lines. You may have even given consent for them to contact you without fully realizing. (See tip 1 in the final section).
- Fraud calls: A call from someone malicious pretending to be who they’re not – like your bank, university, or doctor.
You might think it's easy to spot a fraudster, but when you’re distracted and get a call from an illegitimate third party who nevertheless has all the right information, you could easily be swindled. For example:
- Robocallers are now able to mask their number with local, genuine-looking phone numbers. That makes it a lot easier to catch you off guard.
- Sometimes, the caller will already know your name and address, making them seem like the real deal.
- In whaling and phishing attacks, a spammer will impersonate your boss, colleague, or even the CEO of the company you work for. Austrian plane company FACC lost 56 million dollars to whalers in January 2016. And in the same year, Seagate’s HR department leaked the details of 10,000 employees to a scammer impersonating the company’s CEO.
Why are fraud and robocalls dangerous?
Fraud and robocalls won’t likely do direct damage, but scammers can cause financial loss or steal your data if you succumb to their persuasions. Moreover, callers can be persistent and annoying and intrude on your personal space by calling you multiple times. Sometimes they can even access your voicemail.
How to detect fraud calls
Here are a few common characteristics of fraud calls:
- Fraudsters usually use strong persuasive techniques and are forceful and aggressive, especially if a person shows no interest.
- Fraud calls usually have a sense of urgency — you typically need to act immediately in order not to miss an opportunity.
- Their offers are often too good to be true.
- They usually claim to be either from a big corporation (e.g., Amazon or Apple) that very rarely calls its customers or from a governmental institution. Fake charity fundraisers become active during the holiday season or after disasters.
- Fraudsters will likely ask you to transfer money or visit a website to claim their offer. You usually need to take certain steps they give for you to follow.
What to do if you receive fraud calls
If your receive fraud calls, you should:
- Hang up immediately. By no means engage in conversation with a fraudster or follow any steps prompted by a robot caller.
- Block the number.
- Report the number to a police department dealing with this type of issue to prevent further cases of scamming.
How to block spam calls and robocalls on iPhone and Android
It’s fairly easy to block spam numbers one by one from your phone' settings. To find out how to block spam text messages on iPhone, scroll to the end of the list. For long-term protection against spam calls, you might want to try our tips in the final section.
How to block spam calls on iPhone
- Go to the Phone app.
- Tap on “Recents.”
- Find the number you want to block and tap on the blue information icon to the right of the number.
- Select “Block this Caller.”
Want to know more? Click here to find out how to stop spam text messages on iPhone.
How to block spam calls on Android
- Go to the Phone app.
- Tap on “Recents.”
- Tap on the number you wish to block and then choose the info icon.
- Tap the “Block” button.
How to avoid spam and robocalls
- Trust your network provider to protect you. Some mobile network providers offer some level of spam blocking as part of their plans offered to customers. Improvements to the network and technologies like SHAKEN/STIR make it possible to verify legitimate calls and detect spoofed numbers from your local area code.
- Use an app for spam protection. Apps like Truecaller, YouMail, Hiya, UnknownPhone, and Calls Blacklist identify spam and robo-messages, block malicious phone numbers, and even let you form a personal blacklist. Most of these apps require a monthly or annual subscription, relying on a constantly updated list of robocallers, spammers, and fraudsters to stop nuisance calls.
- Add yourself to the Do Not Call Registry. Sales agents are supposed to honor the National Do Not Call Registry in the US. You can add yourself to the list by visiting www.donotcall.gov. The Do Not Call Registry only stops sales calls. Charities, political groups, debt collectors, or those collecting responses for surveys will still be able to call you. Robocallers and fraudsters won’t respect the Do Not Call Registry, so you’ll need extra protection to block them.
- Use a throwaway email account.Create a spare email address and use that to sign up for online shopping accounts, forums, and video platforms. That way, if these companies suffer a data breach, your main email address won’t get leaked.
- Think twice before you click on links.
In a phishing email, the links can be malicious. If you click on links within suspicious emails, they can direct you to spoofed websites designed to steal your details.
Let’s say a scammer spoofs FedEx’s email address and sends you a message asking you to reschedule your delivery and pay a small fee. You click on the link to reschedule and enter your name, address, and bank details onto the scammer’s spoofed website. Now the scammer has all of your details, and there’s little you can do to track them down.
NordVPN's Threat Protection feature can help you here as it blocks access to spoofed sites and identify malware-ridden files. It reduces the possibility of cyber threats damaging your device. You can also download our VPN for Android and VPN for iPhone that has the Threat Protection Lite feature.
- Learn how to detect spam.Scammers aren't the brightest bunch, so look out for simple errors like spelling mistakes, warped logos on websites, and weird language. Take this common trick where a scammer swaps the “l” in PayPal, for a capital ‘i’ instead. https://www.paypal.com/us/home instead of https://www.paypaI.com/us/home. This lets the scammer create a fake PayPal website to steal your details, so beware!
- Avoid answering calls from unknown numbers.Avoid answering calls with unknown caller IDs or from foreign numbers if you don’t expect such calls. Sometimes scammers use even legit-looking local numbers. If you answer such calls, hang up immediately and by no means follow any autoreply instructions. Moreover, don’t engage with calls you suspect to be scammy.
- Don’t publicly disclose your personal data.Don’t reveal your personal data (e.g., phone numbers, addresses) on social media or other publicly accessible places online . Don’t give out this type of data to people you don’t completely trust, either.
- Tweak your social media settings.Tweak your social media settings so that you have no personal data exposed.
- Set a password for your voicemail account.Make sure to set a strong password for your voicemail account. Some voicemail accounts can be accessed by dialing your home number. If scammers manage to spoof your number, they can access your voicemail if you don’t set a password for it.
- Use the “Do not disturb” function.You can set your OS to “Do not disturb” mode and only allow calls by people in your contact list. You can usually find this feature in the “Settings” sections of Android and iOS devices. However, it is an extreme option because no one else will be able to reach you.
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