Reporting scam phone calls

February 4, 2020 at 11:25:44
Specs: several
Do you want to cover more subjects than
just computers? It seems to me that scam phone calls
are a technical problem with technical solutions that would
be appropriate to discuss here. Should there be a new
subforum for the subject?

In the last few days I got three phone calls from three
different area codes with the same or very similar message,
warning me that I need to call them back if I want to prevent
my bank account or credit card from being automatically
charged. The two identical messages specified an amount
of $399. I think all three calls claimed to be for a computer
maintenance service, but my phone didn't record the start
of their message since the two machines were playing their
messages simultaneously.

I have long wondered three things:

1) What can I do to effectively counter-attack them?

2) Why haven't the phone companies already done so?

3) Why haven't government agencies already forced the
phone companies to do so?

I would think this would have been fixed a decade ago.
Or two.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

See More: Reporting scam phone calls

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February 4, 2020 at 12:09:27
When you dial a number that's been disconnected you get the 3 tones and then the message saying 'you've reached a number that's been disconnected or is no longer in use.' Those three tones are supposed to tell robo callers the number is no good and should be deleted from their list. But if you send those three tones on a working phone you should get the same results--they'll write off your number.

There are stand-alone units you plug into your landline jack that are supposed to mimic those tones. The idea would be you'd plug that in for a few days or maybe just whenever you tend to get those calls and hopefully they'll think it's a bad number and won't bother you again. The units I believe are called 'telezappers'. Also you can download those tones as a wav file from here:

and put them as a message on your cell phone or answering machine.

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February 4, 2020 at 12:25:50
"put them as a message on your cell phone or answering machine"

I like that idea. I get several calls a day on my landline, sometimes well into the evening. A lot of the calls use a spoofed number which displays the same area code & exchange from my area. I guess that's supposed to make you more willing to pick up. Apparently my number was being used as a spoof because I got a voice message from an irate individual telling me to stop calling.

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February 4, 2020 at 12:35:13
That's interesting and kinda fun, but it isn't nearly enough.
It only works for those who use it. The hardware version is
too expensive. And it is awful for legitimate calls. Plus, the
scammers probably don't bother to remove non-working
numbers from their lists. Maybe telemarketers do, but I'm
not concerned about telemarketers, just scammers. I've
been on the Do-Not-Call list for many years, and I can't
remember getting a real telemarketing call in almost all
that time. Lots of scam calls, though. Just a couple of
surveys, and I actually like legitimate surveys, but they
seem to be very, very rare.

About five years ago I happened to be at my mother's
home when a scammer called. I answered it. I went
along with what the scammer told me to do. I told them
my computer was booting, and yes, I saw the list of error
messages they told me to look at, and I was downloading
the remote access program they instructed me to get.
But eventually it became impossible to guess what they
expected me to see on the screen, and I admitted that I
didn't have a computer in front of me at all. I kept the
scammer on the phone for more than 40 minutes.

I don't expect anyone else to do that sort of thing, and I
don't want to do it much, myself. It is fun, but as the
scammer said to me, it isn't going to stop millions upon
millions of scam calls from many thousands of scammers
around the world.

It needs a much more systematic fix, and as Arthur Clarke
said, every problem has a technical solution.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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Related Solutions

February 4, 2020 at 21:19:17
There's probably no perfect solution as there are always ways to get around the rules. Anymore I rarely answer my phone. It seemed like most of the calls I'd get were people wanting something or hangups. I have the ringers turned off on my landline phones and keep the cell phone off most of the time. It frustrates people with legitimate reasons to talk to me but the silence is great.

I think my number was being spoofed too. Occasionally I'd get a call (back when I was answering the phone) from someone saying they saw my number on their caller ID and wondered what I wanted. I just said 'nope, not me'. When I finally realized what was going on I explained to them my number was being spoofed and they were welcome to block my number.

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February 5, 2020 at 04:28:29
I used to get those calls. I'm not picking up any calls from unfamiliar numbers now. All of them are coming from scammers. Almost everyday I read people are reporting about them at social media and consumer boards like I personally choose to just ignore them, not counter-attacking them. It's a waste of time, I think. I also report some of them to the authority, but I don't think it will help.

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February 5, 2020 at 07:27:11
Is there any technical reason the phone companies can't stop scam calls?

Is there any reason they shouldn't be compelled to do so by governments?

Is there any reason it wasn't done ten or twenty years ago?

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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February 5, 2020 at 09:41:13
It's too hard to distinguish spam from genuine calls.

It's too hard to distinguish spam from genuine calls.

It's too hard to distinguish spam from genuine calls.

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February 5, 2020 at 10:15:42
Simple solution....don't recognize the number? Don't answer the phone....

"Channeling the spirit of jboy..."

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February 5, 2020 at 12:36:28
A phone call is just a phone call to the phone company but it seems like they could do something about spoofed phone calls. That technology is too lax and it would seem to be the phone company's fault.

Anyway, there's another new law that just took effect:

And there's always the 'do not call' registry:

But I don't think any of that will stop the real pests.

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February 5, 2020 at 14:02:00
When I came home from work today, I had 5 messages (all the same) about my social security number. I just changed my voice greeting to the 3 tones from the link posted by DAVEINCAPS in response #1. I'll let you know if it works.

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February 5, 2020 at 18:31:42
Sorry, but I don't have time to join this discussion. I have too much work to do.

As soon as I stop my social security number from being disabled, I need find my credit card so I can download a program to fix my computer. Then I need to buy some bitcoin because they video'd me while I was watching porn, followed by wiring some cash to my grandson to cover the fender bender. (Please don't tell his mom!)

At least killerking247 was nice enough to give me a few extra days to send him the check to stop him from carrying out the hit that he was hired to perform - on me!

On the flip side, I won the Spanish lottery, so life will be getting better soon. I just need to send them my SS# and checking account info so they can deposit the funds.

So busy...gotta go.

message edited by DerbyDad03

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February 6, 2020 at 12:00:55
I hadn't heard about that new law. It was probably all over the
news, but I missed seeing/hearing it. Wonder if it will make any

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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February 6, 2020 at 12:34:04
I'd have a few questions about the law if I got the chance to sit down over a cup of coffee with the authors.

"Another key takeaway from the new legislation is that it allows the FCC four years to intervene and collect fines after an illegal robocall takes place instead of only one, as with previous legislation. The additional time may prove helpful. According to the Wall Street Journal, the FCC collected only 0.003 percent of the fines it imposed between 2015 and early 2019."

My first question would be: Was "time" the reason why only 0.003% of the fines were collected or was it lack of FCC staffing, the inability to track down the perpetrators, the inability to force payment even if they know who did it, etc? The implication is that time was the issue since that stat was included in the same paragraph, but we really don't know.

I have other questions, but no need to list them here. There are a few things in that article that I'd like have clarified.

message edited by DerbyDad03

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February 6, 2020 at 17:30:36
Yesterday I got a fourth call with essentially the same message,
this time informing me that only $299 would be automatically
deducted from my bank account, down from the $399 of the
first two calls.

The caller ID and the area codes given in the messages were
from widely different parts of the USA. As far as I know the calls
actually all came from Mumbai.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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February 15, 2020 at 11:43:48
My advice would mimic the others here. Even if you can provide detailed information to the police, chances are they won't even try to intervene. I recently had a live caller inform me that my son was injured and in jail and he was the lawyer my son hired. I of course first verified this was BS. Then I got phone numbers that were real from these scam artists. I then called the local sheriff and reported was was going on while the scammers were waiting for me to transfer cash. The end result was no one got busted. I just wasted my time.

I simply hang up if I happen to answer one of there calls. I have t-mobile as my cell carrier. They identify these calls somehow and I see a "scam likely" message on my screen BEFORE I answer. Too bad the land time providers can't do the same.

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February 15, 2020 at 17:32:08

I wonder if it might be a good idea for the scammers to be
paid a monthly income provided by another tax on phones.
If every phone (maybe 5 billion, worldwide) is taxed $1 each
month, that would be $5 billion per month that could be paid
to scammers to stop them from scamming. That would be
a lot easier for the scammers, a lot easier for the police, a
lot easier for the people who are scammed, and a lot easier
for phone owners. It would also cost less.

Just 5 billion dollars per month. That isn't much!

Are "the police" the appropriate agency to contact? I would
think it would be the state attorney general or (in previous
administrations) a federal agency, or something comparable
in other nations.

Before I got caller ID I had a fair number of discussions with
scammers. I sometimes asked where they were calling from.
A few clearly lied, others told me locations in Pakistan and
India. They may be beyond the reach of the police, but they
aren't beyond the reach of The Phone Company.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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February 16, 2020 at 11:24:55
So, you think rewarding them to NOT break the law would be a good idea. How about instead, we catch them an punish them.

The do not call list is something that I assume is supported somehow by us and has proven, IMO to be next to useless.

The phone companies are probably the entities that could curtail spammers. That said, I don't think they have an incentive to do anything.

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February 16, 2020 at 11:53:22

re: "scam likely" warning from T-mobile.

Verizon does the same thing, but sometimes - unfortunately - takes it one step too far.

I called my CC company the other night. "Rather than waiting on hold, we can call you back in 8 - 10 minutes" I opted for that choice.

20 minutes later, with my phone (that hadn't rung) sitting on the desk right next to me, I decide to call back. I opened my phone app to find that Verizon had blocked 3 call backs from my CC company, labeling them as spam.

My phone never showed an incoming call or anything so I had no way to accept the call. I ended up calling them back and staying on hold to be sure that I got my issues addressed.

message edited by DerbyDad03

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February 16, 2020 at 14:33:40
OtheHill replied to Jeff:

> So, you think rewarding them to NOT break the law would
> be a good idea.

Not really. That was sarcasm intended to elicit a useful response.
It seems to have worked.

> How about instead, we catch them an punish them.


> The do not call list is something that I assume is supported
> somehow by us and has proven, IMO to be next to useless.

Oh I don't agree with that. Once I put my phone number in the
Do Not Call List, telemarketing calls stopped quickly and almost
completely. It wasn't intended to stop scammers, and of course
it can't, and doesn't.

> The phone companies are probably the entities that could curtail
> spammers.

Yes. I don't know any of the details of how they can / should / will
do it, but I'm quite sure that is right.

> That said, I don't think they have an incentive to do anything.

So that's where we are needed. This recent law thing may help.
There is probably much more that needs to be done.

But I am astonished -- if it is possible to be astonished by something
NOT happening -- that this problem wasn't addressed by the phone
companies years or decades ago. They must get thousands of
complaints from customers every day. Why hasn't that been
incentive enough?


The devil is in the details.

-- Jeff, in Minneapolis

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February 16, 2020 at 21:49:57

T-Mobile doesn't block those calls. They just place a message on my screen stating "scam likely". There usually isn't any incoming number showing when that happens. I have options to decline and/or block the incoming number in the future.

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February 19, 2020 at 11:10:46

re: "I have options to decline and/or block the incoming number in the future."

I believe that you also have the option to let T-Mobile block the number as soon as they detect (actually assume) it to be a scam call.

See the chart at the bottom of this page on how to activate the SCAM ID/BLOCK feature:

message edited by DerbyDad03

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