My mother gets dozens of spam calls a day. How do we stop them?


Q: My mom is 90 and she receives 10–40 spam calls a day. She has a landline. Is there anything that can be done to eliminate these calls? It is extremely annoying. She has an answering machine and she only picks up if she recognizes the number. I have a landline at home through the same provider and I do not get very many spam calls.

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Answer: As we’ve written before, spam calls are the biggest complaint that the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission get each year. The provider doesn’t really matter. Everyone gets spam calls.

The first option is to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. You can get to it on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, FTC.gov, but because many of the scammers are offshore, it won’t stop them. For that, you might want to consider call-blocking technology. The FTC explains that the type of phone you have—traditional landline, mobile, or a home phone using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)—will determine the type of technology you’ll need.

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You indicated that you and your mother are using VoIP phones.

The FTC said: “Many cellphones come with menu options that let you block calls from specific numbers, though there might be a limit to how many numbers you can block. Mobile phones also typically have features like Do Not Disturb, where you can set hours during which calls will go straight to voicemail.”

You can also download an app to block calls. The major service providers have spam/call blocking services provided in every plan.

For a few dollars per month per line, you can get an upgraded package.

Check with your provider for details.

For traditional landlines, the FTC recommends a call-blocking device. “If your home phone is a traditional landline that doesn’t use the internet (VoIP), you can buy and install a call-blocking device. Call-blocking devices are typically small boxes you attach to your phone.

Some devices use databases of known scam numbers but let you add numbers you want blocked. Other devices rely on you to create and update your own of numbers to block.”

Check with your provider for their recommendations.

For people using VoIP, built-in call-blocking features are probably in the settings for the device. Again, check with your provider for specific questions.

You can file a complaint online with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC.gov) or the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.gov).

Or you can call the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357) or the FCC at 888-CALL-FCC (877-225-5322).

You can forward spam text messages to 7726 (or SPAM). This free text exchange with your wireless provider will report the SPAM number.

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Industry sources have explained that each cellphone provider has lists of numbers that they have determined to be potential spam. That’s how a call is identified as spam risk or potential spam.

One last way to deal with unwanted/unknown callers, regardless of the device you have, is to not answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number.

If they leave a message, you can decide if it’s a legitimate call and return it; if they don’t leave a message, figure it’s a robo or spam call.



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