Watch out for robocalls – scam calls

Have you ever been called by a number you do not recognize and when you answer there is no one on the other side? Did the call have a different country code or did the call happen maybe in the middle of the night? Then you have probably been exposed to a so-called scam call. The phenomenon is also usually called robocalls as it is usually performed by a robot.

But what exactly is a robocall? What is the purpose of them? And, most importantly, what to do when getting a scam? That is something we will try to answer below.

Waves of scam calls

Every now and then a wave of scam calls comes to Sweden. For example, in 2017, tens of thousands of subscribers were called by a + 252 number, for many of the recipients the calls also came in the middle of the night. The calls came,  that particular time, from Somalia and were probably so-called robocalls. Robocalls are a type of scam that often intends to steal money from the recipients. In 2017, warnings were issued that consumers should not respond to calls with that country code. Shortly thereafter, calls from Tanzania and Ivory Coast began to come to Sweden instead.

No new phenomenon

However, what happened in 2017 was not a new phenomenon. That kind of scam calls comes and goes at regular intervals. 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2013 had similar waves of scam calls in Sweden. But long before that, as early as 2000, many Japanese people were affected by the same type of conversations.

Robocalls are a problem worldwide

And it is definitely not only Sweden and Japan that are exposed to these robocalls. In the United States, the problem has become so widespread that many measures are being taken to put an end to the scams. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted in favor of a proposal that would allow operators to be much more aggressive when it comes to identifying and blocking robocalls. Many of the major US carriers offer services that can protect their users. There have also been some apps that offer automatic call blocking and spam alerts.

What is a scam call?

These scam calls are usually made by a robot, hence the nickname robocall. It is a phone call that uses a computerized autodialer. It is very rarely a physical agent sitting and dialing in these calls.

There are two common scenarios when it comes to this type of call.

No one answers

A common scenario is that when the recipient answers, but no one is on the other side of the line. The idea is that the recipient should hang up and then call back, either out of concern or out of sheer curiosity. Then you end up on a pay line, just like 071 numbers used to work in Sweden in the past. Many times background music is heard or someone answers in bad English, this so that the conversation should go on as long as possible. The calls can cost anywhere from SEK 8 to SEK 60 per minute. As you understand, the cost can easily go away and the calls become very expensive.

Pre-recorded robocalls

Another common scenario when it comes to robocalls is that a pre-recorded voice message is played after the call is answered. For example, the voice may pretend to be a politician who wants to ask questions before a campaign or pretend to be your bank and claims to want to advertise a new service. The voice then prompts you to make different button selections. In the US, robocalls have also claimed to be the tax authority and in that way try  access sensitive information about accounts and tax forms.

Robocalls to companies

Of course, we who work with telephony for companies keep an extra eye on scam calls and their progress. Are you an entrepreneur and received scam calls or robocalls? Unfortunately, hackers can send a large number of robocalls to a company to, for example, cause their PBX to crash. A bit like when hackers send lots of traffic to a website to make it crash.

Robocalls are not just evil

Robocalls have got a bad reputation because they are often scams. But not all robocalls are of an evil nature. They can be used for emergency communication and for public service. For example, in the event of a major fire or accident, messages can reach a large number of people at the same time.

How should you act when getting a scam call?

The advice from the police is easy to follow. If you are not waiting for a call from the other side of the world, you can simply ignore the call by not answering. And be sure not to call back unless you know who the recipient of the call is.

  • Do not respond to unexpected calls from other countries.
  • Do not call back on phone numbers you do not recognize.
  • Make no button selections if you are called by a robot.
  • Do not share credit card numbers, passwords or codes over the phone.

Make no button selections

Sometimes the pre-recorded voice can say that you have to make a button selection to get to a representative. For example, “Click 1, then hash, to talk to one of our agents”. What happens when you make a button selection and then interact with the voice prompt is that you confirm to the robot that your number is in use and that someone is answering. What can happen then is that the callers then resell your number or that robocalls come to you more often to you.

If you get a call where someone pretends to be your bank or some similar service, it is safest to hang up. If you want to make sure it was not a genuine call, you can always look up the company’s phone number on their website and call there. But avoid calling back the same number that called you.

New features in Apple’s iOS 13 help you avoid robocalls

When Apple released iOS 13, many new features came along. One of them was that you could choose to send ALL unknown calls directly to the voicemail. Siri will forward calls from contacts that can be found in the contact list, during messages and in the mail. So the remaining calls go directly to your voicemail. If the sender of the call is legitimate, he or she should logically leave a voicemail.

 

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