How to Block Robocalls

Preventing robocalls

Companies use automatic dialers to save time and money. Calls made with automatic dialing systems, known as “robocalls” can be annoying. People find it hard to stop them. Tech companies, phone carriers and the Federal Communications Commission are trying to find a solution to the growing problem. One expert referred to robocalls as a “whack a mole” problem.

A Growing Problem

A report published by First Orion shows there has been an explosion in robocalls over the last year. According to the report, the calls skyrocketed from “3.7 percent of total calls in 2017 to 29.2 percent in 2018.” Experts predict the use of automatic dialing systems will jump to 44.6 percent in 2019. In 2018, robocallers placed 26.3 billion calls. The FCC gives big fines to companies violating the law but the companies don’t seem to be as affected as the government would like.

Making it Stop

First, you should register with the National Do Not Call Registry. The system was created for people to opt out of calls from telemarketers. It won’t help with scam robocalls or companies that ignore the law. Still, signing up may prevent some calls and can provide proof against companies that violate the law. The rise in the use of VoIP numbers also makes it harder to get the calls to stop.

Caller ID Apps

The second thing that will help is a caller id app for iPhone. The app will help you to identify and trace numbers that call. There are apps that will also help you to block robocalls. You can block all calls except those from people on your contacts list. Most phones have settings that will allow you to block unknown or unwanted calls and blacklist the numbers. For example, smartphones from Samsung offer a native feature called Smart Call. It automatically screens incoming calls, and flags suspicious numbers.

Google uses a similar feature with its Android smartphones like Pixel and Android One. The app warns the user if an incoming call is a suspected spam or robocall.

Blocking Individual Phone Numbers

It might not be effective to block every phone call, but it can help with the persistent ones. Here’s how:

iPhone – Open your Phone app, go to the Recents tab, and then select the information icon by the number you want to block. Follow the prompts.

Android – Open your Phone app, go to the Recents tab, use a long press on the number and then choose “Block/report spam.” (The process may be different depending on the type of phone you have.)

Do Not Disturb

Most people are connected to their phones throughout the day. If the calls are too troublesome, use the Do Not Disturb feature. It will stop the calls, yet callers can still leave a voicemail or send a text.

Conclusion

Until phone carriers find a way to stop automatic calls, which is unlikely, the tech industry will continue to make apps to fight against them. Do your research and then choose the app that is right for you.

Spotting Romance Scams

Online romance scams

Romance scams have been around since the dawn of time. A woman meets a man and seduces him for his money. A man meets a woman and steals her retirement. Men and women use each other to get revenge on an ex-lover. People use romance scams today, but they tend to be online. Scammers choose a target and begin to weave a tale of woe or claim to believe in love at first sight. The targets give in and the scammer walks away with money in hand. The FTC reports that people lost $143 million last year due to scams. The median loss for romance scams last year was $2,600 per person.

What is a Romance Scam?

A romance scam involves meeting a person who will lavish you with gifts, compliments, and dreams of a life together…just before asking for money. Scammers tell the same stories over and over. He has a medical emergency. She is late paying her rent. He has lost his family and needs someone to help him heal. She is stranded in another country. She’ll come to you but needs money for travel. However, there is no medical emergency; no one is stranded; and the only place the scammer is going is to the bank.

The Target

Profiles include a middle-aged woman who is somewhat dowdy and lonely or an older man who is looking for a trophy wife. Scammers target people who are older and are more isolated than the younger population, but they are not the only ones. Targets include professionals who are too busy to date, people tired of the dating scene, those who are disabled or are unable to get out into public, shy people. Many of the people being scammed are intelligent and ones that would not be duped easily otherwise. The scammers are just that good.

Spotting the Scam

Online daters should be on the lookout for the following signs:

Shady Profile Signs

Scammers’ profiles may include:

Professional or glamor profile pictures. Some won’t post any picture.

Profiles provide little or no information.

They claim to be in the military and stationed overseas.

They are looking for dates in the area although they live in another country.

They Send You to Another Site

Recent scams include sending their targets to another site. Some contain malware or ask for personal information. Most will want to talk through an app or by text. Use a free reverse phone lookup app to ensure the number belongs to the user.

Something Always Comes Up

The scammer wants to meet you, but something always comes up. There is an emergency, he got called into work, she has to take care of her sick mother. The truth is that the scammers are lying and will never meet you. Yet, it’s a good opportunity for them to ask for money for rent, bills, or travel.

They Ask for Money

The scammer will always ask for financial support – money, a new phone, travel expenses, or untraceable gift cards. They will refuse physical gifts, claiming that they want the money. Once the target says no, the scammer will try harder, often becoming combative. Eventually, the scammer will disappear and move onto the next person.

Reporting a Scam

If you are a victim of a romance scam, delete the person from your phone/computer. This includes phone contact. Report to the scam to the FTC.

Looking Up a Cell Phone Number

Cell Phone

People need access to phone numbers every day. Many use cell phones. You may lose your cell phone contact list or need to find the number of a new person, which is not an easy task. You may have a phone number with no name attached, which is equally frustrating. Online services offer information, but it is rarely free; or they say there is a free search, but you must pay for the results.

Reasons to Search for a Number

There are many reasons you might need to search for a person’s cell phone number. The person may have given you the phone number but you wrote it down wrong; you may have lost the number; you may find a phone number with no name attached; your phone contacts were deleted or your phone was stolen or hacked; you may want to locate an old friend or family member whose number has changed.

Retrieving Phone Numbers

You’ve lost your contact list on your phone and need to get the numbers back. Users can check their carrier accounts for backups, go through text messages or phone calls, and publish on social media. You may have to search out cell phone numbers by the person’s name or simply wait for the person to call you.

Find a Reliable Service

You can access a reliable online service to get a person’s cell phone number. Services that offer free lookups include Callersmart, Zaba Search, and Kiwi Searches. Apps help people to search for phone numbers by name or through a reverse phone search. You can search for company reviews online before making a commitment to buy information. Some companies offer free trials or discounted searches before requiring a membership.

Search by Name

You can search for a phone number by the person’s name. Searchers should add the city and state for the most accurate results. Some results show many people with the same name. You can choose the right person by address, age, workplace or family members and associates.

Reverse Phone Search

You find a piece of paper with a phone number written on it, but no name. You don’t call the number. The person who answers may be a potential boss or date and you don’t want to embarrass yourself. Use the same search app or program that you use to search for a person by name. Type in the phone number you wish to search and wait for the results. The results may show a list of similar numbers.  The company might charge you to get the specific number, unless it belongs to a business.

Lots of Information

We live in the information age. People want to know more about us than just our phone numbers. Many search engines and phone lookups give out a lot of information including work history, educational history, criminal and arrest records, social media profiles, bankruptcy and court information.

Sensitive Information

People can access sensitive information about us online, however, many services require you to sign a form saying you won’t use the information against a person, especially when it involved business affairs such as bank loans or employment. We must be careful about our information and protect it as much as possible. It never hurts to run the occasional search on your own phone number or name to see what info pops up.

 

Catfishing On the Internet: What Is It?

Catfishing

You’ve probably heard of “catfishing,” especially if you use social media or dating websites. Catfishing is when a person pretends to be someone else to trick another person. People who catfish do so for many reasons, including trying to prove a partner is cheating, using it to scam someone, or using it to cyberstalk or cyberbully someone.

How It Works

Catfishers use social media sites to trick others. They often use dating sites, although other social media websites like Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram are used to make people think they’re someone else. Here’s an example from a dating website.

Joan signs up on a dating website. She fills out her information and posts her picture. Joan receives messages almost immediately. Joan has high hopes for meeting new people. She looks at pictures and answers messages. It’s not long before Joan notices strange behavior from some of the men. Here are some things noticed by Joan:

Bad English

Many scammers are not native English speakers. It’s obvious when you talk to a person who doesn’t know what words to use. Joan notices that they use the wrong words, can’t make full sentences, use the wrong tense, or confuse words like there, they’re, and their. Non-English speakers usually don’t use contractions.

Profile Pictures

Joan gets messages from people that don’t have a profile picture. Sometimes there is a real reason for not posting a picture, such as his job, but it usually means that the person is married or not who he claims to be.

Some men look like movie stars. If a picture looks professional or familiar, chances are it’s fake. Do a reverse image search to find out if the person is real. You can upload the picture into an app or website and search.

The Catfishing Story

Scammers use the same stories over and over. Stories include the person losing his family in an accident, being stranded, or having lost his wife and being left with a young child. If a story sounds familiar, copy and paste some of it into a search engine.

Moving Too Fast

Scammers want money…fast. When catfishing, people will say anything to gain your trust and steal from you as soon as possible. Poetry, gifts and words of love are some ways in which a scammer will try to win you over. If you respond to the gestures, the scammer will try harder to win you over.

The Scam

Once a catfisher has gained your trust, he will ask you for something. It starts with something small, such as a gift card. If you give what he is asking for, the next gift will be something bigger and grow larger with each request.

Protecting Yourself

Fortunately, Joan reads a lot of articles about online dating  and catfishing and has prepared herself. She immediately refuses all requests for money or gifts, blocks unknown callers from her phone, and insists on meeting in public.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, proceed with care and trust your intuition.

Reverse Searches for Cell Phone Numbers

Reverse Phone Lookup

Have you ever received a call from an unknown number? How do you know if it’s a call you should answer or ignore? One of the easiest ways to identify an unknown number is to use a reverse phone search. The search will identify the name and location of the owner, whether it is an individual or business. The searches are easy, and usually free. However, if the caller is using a cell phone, the search is a little more difficult.

Search Engines

If you want to search for a phone number, you can do it in one of two ways. The first way is to go online and type the information into a search engine like Google. You can also choose to use a website devoted to searches, such as WhitePages.com.

You must type the phone number in with the area code and select “search.” The results will show you the name of the caller. Users prefer websites that are free, however, that’s not always possible. The hosts must pay to get information and keep it up to date. This is especially true when it comes to cell phones.

Why It Isn’t Free

Websites collect data from various sources and then use it to do the searches. The sources include other websites, phone directories, social media, reverse phone directories, and more. While there are free services, the information is often outdated. There isn’t a single source that records and maintains data for cell phones.

Cell Phone Numbers

People can’t get cell phone numbers easily because cell phone companies issue the numbers. Therefore, there isn’t a single directory for cell phone numbers. Traditional phone companies have to interface with other companies which is why it’s possible to have a phone directory of landlines. Companies would have difficulty in maintaining a directory because people change phone numbers frequently. Internet phone numbers make the task more difficult. Intelius, Inc. tried to make a cell phone directory in 2008, but people complained about an invasion of privacy, plus a wireless company threatened to sue.

Cell Phone Look Up

Users can do a search on cell phone numbers, but it is rarely free. First, type “reverse cell phone lookup” into a search engine. You’ll get a list of sites that have the information. Second, pick a site and type in the phone number. You’ll be asked to pay a fee for the search, or you can subscribe to the service. Some sites don’t charge for searches if they are unable to get the information.

Fake Numbers

Some telemarketers and scammers use fake numbers to trick you into answering the phone. To keep from getting repeat calls, you can use an app or the settings on your phone to block the number. If you get repeat calls from someone claiming to be from a government agency, report the activity to the agency and to the Federal Communications Commission.

 

 

 

What is Caller ID Spoofing?

Scammers call using fake numbers

Caller ID spoofing is when a caller gives false information that will show up on your caller ID. The tactic is to hide their identity. Although it’s not illegal to use alternate information as a Caller ID, most people use it deceptively, trying to make you believe that the number belongs to someone else. They may also want to make the number untraceable. Scammers frequently use this tactic.

Legal Spoofing

Business professionals have used spoofing for many years, but with good reason. A company may use spoofing so that calls from anyone inside the company reflect the business’ main phone number. Doctors often use spoofing to conceal their personal numbers and replace them with the main office number. The call is recognized by the patient and also maintains the privacy of the doctor. Law enforcement agencies can also use caller ID spoofing.

Illegal Spoofing

Illegal spoofing is using a false number to trick a target into answering the phone. Consumers are savvy these days, so fooling them isn’t easy. However, if a scammer wants you to think he is calling from a well-known company like Microsoft, he can spoof the company’s main number. The target will answer the call and may be fooled if the caller claims to be from Microsoft’s tech support or billing department.

The Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 bans anyone from using false or misleading caller ID information “with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.” Anyone caught illegally spoofing can get a fine of up to $10,000 for each offense. The fines do not stop most scammers as they are usually untraceable.

Neighbor Spoofing

Scammers use fake numbers in the region. They target people who may think the call is from a neighbor. They use a local exchange and may mirror a number close to your own. For example, if your number is 910-553-8762, the scammer might use 910-553-0371 or 910-553-8754. Phone numbers that appear to be local are more likely to be answered by the target. Most people don’t answer unknown numbers, but if the number appears local, the target may think it’s a call from their child’s school, the local pharmacy, or a call from a neighbor in need. If you see a number you don’t recognize but could be important, you can use a white pages iPhone app to investigate before taking the call. You can return legitimate calls right away. The Federal Communications Commission has a plan to stop neighbor spoofing, urging the phone industry to use a strong caller ID authentication system.

Avoiding Spoofing Scams

You can use several techniques to avoid spoofing scams. Don’t answer calls from unknown phone numbers. If you answer the call, do not respond to any questions, especially if they are “yes” or “no” answers. If an automated system asks you to press a button to opt out of calls, do not press the button – simply hang up. You should also hang up the phone if the caller asks for any personal information.

New Veterans’ Benefits Scam

Scammers target veterans

Veterans are the target of a new benefits scam. Scammers call veterans to talk about their medical care and the Veterans Choice Program. The VCP is a part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program allows eligible vets to access approved health care providers who operate outside the VA network.

Fraudsters try to trick veterans into answering important questions such as social security number, date of birth, and bank account information. In addition to health care scams, the callers approach veterans about updating their information, credit cards or financial services including home loans.

Spoofing

The scam involves using a phone number designed to fool people into believing the call is from the VA. Con artists may use lingo that is related to VA benefits. They may sound like legitimate representatives. They set up phony 1-800 numbers to lure the veteran or family member into thinking that they have reached the VCP. It may contain a message stating that the veteran is eligible for a rebate or other services if the caller supplies a credit card number. The VA will never request financial information over the phone, nor will any other government agency. The real number for the Veterans Choice Program is 866-606-8198.

Callers may also leave a voice message to get you to return the call. A common message: “Your VA profile was flagged for two potential benefits to the changes in the VA program. These are time sensitive entitlements. Please call us back at your earliest convenience.”

If you call the number and it seems suspicious, hang up and verify the number. You can also use a phone app to do a reverse phone search to ensure the number is legitimate. If the call is not legitimate, report it to the VA’s identity theft prevention program, More Than a Number.

Email Scams

Scammers may also use email to get information. They often use official looking logos, seals or letterhead to resemble the real organization they claim to represent. The con artists will try to get you to send money or supply financial information. They will also “phish” for your information. If you receive such an email, you should take down the information, delete the email, and report it to the legitimate organization and to the Federal Trade Commission.

Black Market

Thieves who steal a person’s information may use it for a wide variety of purposes. They may make withdrawals from bank accounts or open credit cards. At worst, they will sell the information on the black market or Dark Web, which means an untold number of people will have access to your information. You should always safeguard that information, but if that happens, there is little that can be done aside from shutting down accounts and opening new ones. Security companies, banks and credit card companies may offer identity theft protection, which is another way to protect yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cyberstalking is a Real Threat

Protect yourself from cyberstalking

Cyberstalking is the use of technology to harass or pursue a victim. Stalkers may use social media, phone calls, email and text messages to threaten, intimidate or steal a victim’s information. Cyberstalkers are driven by anger, jealousy, hatred, revenge, infatuation, and obsession. Some suffer from mental illness while others have no clear motive. A cyberstalker can be a stranger but is most likely an ex, schoolmate, co-worker, someone with whom you’ve had an argument, a fan or possible love interest.

Cyberstalkers may cause trouble for their victims. Cyberstalking can include cyberbullying, which often happens between adolescents. Cyberstalking can include actions of a sexual nature.

Stalking Facts

The National Center for Victims of Crime has published a list of stalking facts.

  • Cyberstalkers victimize 7.5 million people in the U.S. each year.
  • 15% of women and 6% of men have been stalked.
  • Most stalkers are known to the victim: 61% of female victims and 44% of male victims are stalked by current or former intimate partners; 25% of female victims and 32% of male victims are stalked by an acquaintance.
  • 50% of victims indicate they were stalked before the age of 25.
  • 1 in 8 stalking victims lose time from work as a result of stalking.
  • 1 in 7 stalking victims move as a result of stalking.
  • 2/3 of stalkers track their victims at least once per week.
  • 78% of stalkers use more than one method of approach.
  • Almost 1/3 of stalkers have stalked before.

Protect Yourself

  • You can take simple precautions to protect yourself from cyberstalking.
  • You should restrict access to your phone, computer, and other devices. Use strong passwords and change them often.
  • Run a search on your name to see what information is available online.
  • Ask friends and family not to post personal information on their social media accounts.
  • Don’t announce travel plans or share where you will be at a certain date and time.
  • Use screen names that are gender neutral.
  • Use anti-virus, spyware and anti-tracking software on all devices.
  • Never open attachments from unknown sources.
  • Don’t give out personal information.
  • Don’t get involved in online arguments.
  • Set up separate email addresses for dating sites and social media accounts.

After the Fact

If you think you have been cyberstalked, act immediately. Call the local authorities.

  • Change email accounts.
  • Take all suspicions and threats seriously.
  • Change your account passwords.
  • Report any illegal activity.
  • End contact with suspected cyberstalkers.
  • Record and block phone numbers or emails used to contact you.
  • Limit information on social media profiles.
  • Reset privacy settings on internet browsers and programs.
  • Delete online accounts if necessary.
  • Inform family and friends of your suspicions.
  • Be aware of any real-life stalking activity, including hang ups and missed calls or strange noises around your home.

Why Use A Reverse Phone Number Lookup?

Looking up phone numbers online

Cell phone users can find many reasons to use an iPhone reverse cell phone lookup app. Unknown numbers top the list. People want to know if the person calling is a neighbor, friend, their child’s school, or a telemarketer. Using a reverse lookup app can tell you the person’s name and address, allowing you to decide whether to answer the phone, let it go to voicemail or block it when the call arrives.

These are a few reasons to use a reverse phone number lookup app:

  • You notice a missed call from Fred Jones at 813-555-1234. Who is Fred Jones and where is the 813 area code?
  • You find a piece of paper or Post-it Note with a phone number written on it and no other information. It’s obviously an important number but you can’t remember why you wrote it down. You can call the number to find out who it belongs to, or much less embarrassing, do a reverse phone number search.
  • You receive a phone call from an unknown number. Should you call back?
  • Your doctor refers you to a specialist and only have his phone number. Use a reverse number search to find the doctor’s location.
  • There are calls on your phone bill that you don’t recognize.

Landlines vs. Cell Phones

Although there are many online services that allow you to lookup landline and business phone numbers, mobile phone numbers can be trickier and are almost never free. Why? Most cell phone users choose not to have their numbers published. Many are private and want to stay that way. Individual phone companies issue phone numbers rather than interlocking phone systems which issue landline numbers, so tracing them becomes more difficult.

Cell Phone Directory

Statistics show that there were more than 225 million cell phones in use in the U.S. in 2018. Compiling a directory for all those numbers – many of which change frequently – would be nearly impossible or outdated as soon as it was published. Additionally, the use of VoIP phone numbers has exploded over the past couple of years.

Google allows you to enter cell phone numbers, but you will be routed to another service that requires a fee or membership in their service. The fees can be a one-time fee or a monthly or yearly membership. Some websites will offer free results.

Invasion of Privacy

Cell phone directories have been a hot topic over the past decade. In 2008, Intelius announced the publication of a cell phone directory containing 90 million phone numbers. The response was not positive. Intelius faced consumer complaints claiming an invasion of privacy in addition to the threat of a lawsuit by a wireless phone company. As a result, Intelius discontinued the service. Therefore, a true cell phone directory with all cell phone listings won’t be created anytime soon, if ever.

Applying for Online Loans

 Online Loans

Everyone needs extra cash from time to time. There are even times when things feel desperate. Applying for online loans might seem like a good idea – a quick fix – but they are often a source of trouble. Loans are offered by everyone from legitimate banks to credit cards to cash advance services. Due diligence and giving out the right information may save you from theft, fraud, or worse.

Red Flags

Red flags can be obvious, but may not be recognized by uneducated consumers. Before applying for a loan, check out the company thoroughly to make sure it’s legitimate. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start. Research reviews from former and current customers. Check scam websites.

Seven Signs:

  1. The lender doesn’t request credit history. The first thing a reliable lender should ask for is your credit history. Real lenders want to know they are making a calculated risk. Before applying, you should have your credit history in front of you. Credit history is issued through three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. If you aren’t required to give your credit history, it’s a scam. They are interested in collecting high fees from late payments.
  2. The lender isn’t registered. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires registration for all lenders and loan brokers in the state(s) they conduct business. Verify the lender is legally permitted to process your loan.
  3. The lender requires a prepaid debit card. Some sites will require a prepaid card as collateral or insurance. Prepaid cards are untraceable and nonrefundable, so the scammers keep the money free and clear.
  4. The lender approaches you. Legitimate lenders advertise, but you should be suspicious of one that calls or shows up at your door. If you receive such a call do a free phone trace on iPhone to verify the number of the caller.
  5. Their website isn’t secure. If your antivirus or firewall software doesn’t catch it, you can tell a website is secure if it features a padlock symbol next to the URL. Also, a secure site will have an address with https://www… Instead of the typical http://www.
  6. The lender has no address. All banks and loan brokers have a physical address. Use Google Maps to pinpoint their location.
  7. The lender wants immediate action. Don’t give in to limited time offers, even if the lender promises to send the money the next day.

Reporting a Fraud

If you suspect you have been the victim of a fraud or identity theft due to an online loan offer, contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center.