You know what we’re talking about. You get a phone call from some unrecognized number. For all you know, it’s a doctor’s office, your bank, a new business contact, a friend whose number somehow slipped through the cracks. So you answer it, and what do you get? A foghorn blaring into your ear followed by the over-jolly rhetoric of a ship’s captain telling you that you just won a free cruise.
You’re not alone. You might think that your phone number is somehow particularly compromised, that you’ve managed to land yourself on a slew of call lists and telemarketer sheets, but the truth is that just about everyone is dealing with this exact same frustration. In fact, the Android app DU Caller has just released a report saying that around 15% of all calls placed in the US are spam.
That’s right. 1 in 6 calls are a total waste of your time
DU Caller, a new app from the Chinese company Baidu, has determined that a startling number of calls flying through US airwaves are bots, telemarketers, and other cold-callers trying to sell their wares.
Many of these callers masquerade as other entities to draw listeners into their hooks. Fake IRS calls, for instance, are absolutely rampant. As an example, back in October, several news outlets reported on a three-year investigation by the US government that shut down a back-tax scam that had scammed at least 15,000 people out of more than $300 million. While that’s one less scam out there, plenty similar scams like this remain.
Another pretty common scam is from callers that claim to b e technicians from companies like Microsoft. This is such a big issue that Microsoft itself has an entire page dedicated to the topic of calling and email scams like these at its Safety & Security online portal.
And of course, who hasn’t gotten a fake credit card offer. This kind of scam typically works by telling you your current cards are fine but that you are eligible for an increase — all you have to do is give them sensitive information so they can “look it up”.
Let’s not forget the previously referenced vacation sweepstakes bots. It can be frustrating. Everyone knows the irritation of answering a call that initially seems important only to discover that, if this were an email instead of a phone call, it would have been hastily relegated to their spam folder. But precious minutes of your day aren’t the only valuable commodity you stand to lose.
Scams can waste more than your time
DU Caller also noted that an alarming number of these calls go beyond the realm of mere marketing. Many of them are outright scams. These calls, whether they’re made by bots or sleaze-ball telemarketers, go beyond the realm of scummy advertising and venture into the territory of outright fraud.
Phishing doesn’t just happen online. You might be surprised how well some of these scammers can pose as legitimate businesses in order to coax credit card numbers or other personal bits of information out of call recipients.
The Federal Trade Commission reports:
Every year, thousands of people lose money to telephone scams — from a few dollars to their life savings. Scammers will say anything to cheat people out of money. Some seem very friendly — calling you by your first name, making small talk, and asking about your family. They may claim to work for a company you trust, or they may send mail or place ads to convince you to call them.
It doesn’t have to be this way
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can protect yourself from scammers. If someone is calling you regarding anything you haven’t requested, from travel packages to credit cards to loans to high stakes foreign lotteries, you are certainly speaking with a charlatan. “Free” trial offers are particular offenders, as are extended car warranties and entities claiming to be charitable causes.
The best practice for these kinds of calls? Again we’ll turn to the FTC:
If you get a call from someone you don’t know who is trying to sell you something you hadn’t planned to buy, say “No thanks.” And, if they pressure you about giving up personal information — like your credit card or Social Security number — it’s likely a scam. Hang up and report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
In fact, there’s actually a pretty simple list of common phrases that scammers use on a regular basis. If you start hearing anything like the following on an incoming call, you’re better off just hanging up and moving along.
- You’ve been specially selected (for this offer).
- You’ll get a free bonus if you buy our product.
- You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.
- You’ve won big money in a foreign lottery.
- This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.
- You have to make up your mind right away.
- You trust me, right?
- You don’t need to check our company with anyone.
- We’ll just put the shipping and handling charges on your credit card.
However, this doesn’t actually prevent these bots and telemarketers from wasting your time. You still have to answer the phone and determine whether or not the call is legitimate. The good news is that other options exist.
Third party applications like DU Caller, whose developers performed this study, use databases containing millions of known spam numbers to filter out calls originating from them. They might try to call you, but your phone won’t ring, and you’ll never know that you just dodged wasted time and potentially wasted cash.
By drawing from such databases, DU Caller is also able to give you more advanced caller ID, enabling you to identify even non-spam callers prior to answering. Block unwanted calls, record questionable-sounding calls (on select Samsung devices), and search an online trove of over 1 billion numbers to massively enlarge your contact list. The DU Caller team also seems pretty committed to the cause, and have gone as far as to hold an awareness campaign about phone security, called “Make the Right Choice”. A recent announcement from the team mentions that the campaign will be held between November 30th to December 12th, and the team has informed me that you can find out more on YouTube by searching for “DU Caller”.
There are several similar apps available, but DU Caller is currently rocking a 4.4-star rating in the Google Play Store with largely positive reviews. If you’d like to give it a whirl for yourself, download it for free from the Google Play Store by clicking the button below!