Have You Stopped Answering The Phone?

Should you be wary of answering the phone? Short answer, Yes. It’s probably a robocall spammer.

I cannot believe the number of scams and robocalls we are enduring these days. It’s gotten to the stage where my wife and I no longer answer the phone unless we recognize the caller. Our landline phone is connected to an answering machine and, if the number is not recognized, we let it go to the answering machine. If it happens that the call is genuine, as soon as he/she starts to leave a message, we will answer. However, 99 times out of 100 the caller hangs up without leaving any message.

Same on our cellphones, if the caller ID doesn’t appear, we don’t answer. We have been driven mad by one particular robocall with a recorded female voice saying… “Hi, this is Nicole from NBN, your internet is about to be disconnected, blah, blah, blah“. (NBN is the National Broadband Network here in Australia). Nicole rings multiple times per day, often into double figures. It got to the stage where we were seriously considering changing our phone number but, in the end, decided to simply let any unidentified calls go unanswered. According to a survey conducted by research firm Censuswide, 94% of people surveyed have adopted that same policy of not answering unidentified calls.

According to YouMail, a company specializing in anti-robocall services, during the month of February there were almost 2000 robocalls made per second in the U.S. alone. That equates to a little over 165 million robocalls per day. Frightening numbers:

(Image credit: YouMail)

Apart from the obvious, the pandemic, one of the main reasons the number of robocalls has increased so dramatically is due to the unlimited call plans on offer these days from service providers, making robocall scams as easy and inexpensive as spam email. With virtually zero costs involved, scammers can afford to make millions of calls and, if even only a fairly small percentage are successful, they are raking in excellent returns. On average, a victim will lose $182 with some losing as much as $500. As the classic Dire Straits song says… money for nothing.

I have no idea what can be done to curb this upward trend of scam robocalls. According to Australia’s national Do Not Call Register, there is absolutely nothing they can do to prevent these types of calls. Modern technology is a wonderful thing but there always seems to be that devious element intent on exploiting it for their own evil gains.

Take a quick look at some of these other scam-related articles:

So, the question is… have you stopped answering your phone?

24 thoughts on “Have You Stopped Answering The Phone?”

  1. Dump your phone and get one with AT&T Smart call blocker. Since I got one in May, 2018, it’s been the first time in almost 20 years with my 30 year old land line number that there’s been peace and quiet in my phone. I get 75-120 fake calls a month (some to MY OWN phone number) and every time my phone does ring, it’s a legit call.

    The base has built in firmware, basically a highly programmable answering machine. Read up on that here:
    https://cdn-media-att.vtp-media.com/products/CLP/CLP99XX7/CLP99XX7_SCB_i4.0_20200518.pdf

    Model numbers are listed on that pdf. I have the CPL99387. Cheers.

    1. Hey Dallas,

      Here in Australia we don’t have AT&T. The ‘smart call blocker’ feature sounds great, I’ll have to check around with the Aussie service providers to see if something similar is available here.

      Thanks for the suggestion, appreciated.

      1. The call blocker is in the PHONE’s firmware; it’s just a really really fancy answering machine, which decides on what rolls over to ring/record or gets blocked depending on user configuration. (That AT&T is also a phone company is coincidence.) VTech also makes Smart block phones, but it looks like they don’t sell ’em in Australia per their web site. I wonder why. Otherwise, I hope this comment thread might benefit your USA subscribers and visitors.

        1. Hey Dallas,

          Yes, following your comment I did some checking and discovered that the call blocking is a feature of the phone and not the service provider. I came across this model from Uniden:

          https://www.harveynorman.com.au/uniden-xdect8355-2-digital-cordless-phone-system.html

          which, apparently, includes a “Call Block Pro” feature. Going to purchase this set immediately after Easter.

          Thanks for your comment, it headed me in the right direction. Have a safe and happy Easter.

          Cheers… Jim

      2. From the manual, “With the Call Block PRO feature, you can register individual contact numbers or even certain digits, to block calls from those numbers. For example, if you register 02 9597 9 then all calls from contact numbers beginning with 02 9597 9 will be blocked. If you register 02 9597 9xxx then all calls from that particular contact number will be blocked.”

        That would explain why Smart Call Blocker wouldn’t work: the 0x xxxx xxxx digit plan. It seems AT&T and vTech aren’t interested in rewriting the firmware. You might petition your Communications Media Authority to switch over to the xxx xxx xxxx plan. 🙂

        Call Block PRO could provide relief upon building a wild card block list over time.

        1. Thanks for the additional info Dallas, appreciated. I’ll still purchase that phone system though, it’s probably as good as we can get here and certainly much better than my current setup.

  2. Jim

    I get 2-3 calls a day that my “vehicle warranty” has expired (they never mention the specific vehicle) and 3-4 times per week from the “credit card department” (again generic, never Citibank Visa, etc). And, they are not the same caller–just the same general message. Most of the time I don’t answer, but then they leave a message on my vm that I have to waste time deleting. I NEVER answer my phone if the caller ID is in the same area code/region as my phone, since these are always a spoofed ID. Very annoying.

    The phone apps have a “spam” calling feature that is suppose to block these, so I wonder how many I would get if I turned that feature off.

    JD

  3. Yes Jim, we also do not answer if there is NO Caller ID especially if we do not know the caller and allow the answering machine to take a message. Not all hangup calls are spam, as some are just wrong numbers (made using a cell). Find that Robocalls leave messages since the fact the line was answered, triggers the automated system. Many of the one time Robocalls use the same persons voice.

    There is a fantastic program called Phone Tray (phonetray.com) which can block known numbers or companies automatically. Currently, it only works with landlines. Those curious are urged to check out the site and view the snapshots, Mindblower!

    1. As an FYI: PhoneTray’s program is Windows only, requires a voice/data/fax USB modem with Caller ID support and a PC running 24/7. After the initial year, the anti-spam database subscription is an affordable $9.99/year.

  4. got one caller who used part of my real name ( first initial and then surname ) – had me for a minute, then the scamming started – hung up – i am also on the do not call register here in OZ – not that it matters to them – also found out DO NOT do any genuine surveys / feedback – did one local Govt. feedback survey and got bombarded with others for the next 3 weeks – didn’t touch them

  5. Hi Jim,
    An interesting article and graph, thanks.
    We off-loaded our land line late last year, yes NBN Nicola, plus other similar calls became a pain in the ‘asterisk’.
    All our rellies and friends only use mobile ‘phones now so the $10.00 per month land-line fee was an un-necessary cost, our Aldi $15.00 per month mobile Unlimited Plan is a bargain.
    Regards,
    Jonno

  6. Hi Jim, I am in the UK and I am now doing exactly what you are doing. Don’t pick up an unrecognised landline call but let the answerphone do it. No message (95% of the time) so no response from me. My answer-message gives the option of calling my smart (cell) phone but robo callers can’t respond to that. The repeating robocalls I keep getting here are reputedly from Amazon, same woman’s American accent everytime but I have never heard the full spam message because I immediatey ring off. Same again when there was no immediate response to my lifting the handset and/or I hear call-centre chat in the background.

  7. I stopped answering my cell phone if the incoming no’s not in my address book YEARS ago. If it’s a legit call they’ll leave a message, like the florist who recently called to check on a purchase I’d made online. Probably 99% of unrecognised numbers are spam.

  8. Same here in the US, we never answer unknown numbers either at home or on our cells. I have a block feature on my cell, which I use regularly. Unfortunately, somehow they occasionally must use a different number to make the call but an already blocked phone number shows on my phone. This prevents me from blocking the new number. Thankfully doesn’t happen often. Wish we could do the same with our landline. I guess the phone companies are making too much money from the spammers to take care of their more ethically responsible customers. Going to look into the Uniden or Vtech with the Smart Call blocker feature. Thanks for the info, Dave & Dallas E.

    1. FYI: Uniden no longer markets phones in the U.S. Sellers still have stock, so don’t buy one. As well, the Smart Block is in VTech and AT&T phones, never in Uniden. The AT&T (and VTech) phones will work with any phone company and your plan provides Caller ID. Trust me, with Smart Block, you will have peace.

      1. I have since purchased the Uniden XDECT8355 system. The system is comparatively expensive but the feature set is great and the call block feature is fantastic. One button press to permanently block any caller or choose to block any caller that is not included in your caller ID list. Works a treat.

  9. If I do not know the # then I will not answer, unless I know the voice if they decide
    to leave a message.

  10. on your cell # just get the App “Hiya”.
    You can then keep or block #’s that are spoof/spam.
    When they try and ring again – nothing comes thru to you.
    Give a go….

  11. I received a call that used my number and name to the phone that had that number. I also got calls with my neighbors name and number if I blocked them my neighbors would not be able to call me.

  12. Edward Burchmore

    I am a Canadian and have had a landline number for 30+ years. Our service provider is TELUS Communications and they have provided a feature called “Call Control”. It is a free service that requires the caller to enter a single random digit in order to complete the call. Robocalling systems are “talking” when the instruction is offered and because they can not respond to the prompt the call is blocked. You can enter 25 family/friends or important numbers (Doctor, Lawyer etc.) too. These number will never receive the challenge. You can also block 25 numbers of companies who use persons to place the call. You should ask your service provider if TELUS will share their programming. We have had this service for 2 years and not one single robocall has made it through.

  13. We are somewhat luckier here in Germany. Making unsolicited phone calls is illegal so the phone only rings when it is a real person calling me about something legit. Sometimes it goes wrong and about once every ten weeks or so I get some clown with an indian accent telling me that he is from Microsoft Security department and that he will be happy to help me erase trojans from my PC.

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