We’ve all been there. The cellphone or landline phone rings, and we pick up the phone, but the voice on the other end isn’t familiar. It’s someone claiming to be an authority figure, or maybe an old friend or distant family member. Or maybe it’s a robotic voice advertising something, or a person trying to sell us something. Maybe there’s no voice at all. When we don’t pick up, we get weird, broken-sounding voicemails. And the calls keep coming and coming.
Getting strange phone calls is annoying, and these sorts of calls can even be dangerous. But can we do anything about it? Here’s what you need to know about weird phone calls and protecting yourself.
Those weird phone calls could be dangerous
These weird calls that you are getting aren’t just annoying. They could also be dangerous. A lot of phone scammers are out there working to trick you into revealing personal information or transferring money somewhere that you shouldn’t. And some phone scams don’t even require the person on the other end to say anything — just by picking up and saying hello, you could be getting yourself in trouble.
You should also be wary of shady telemarketers, whom you may be able to block. And some weird phone calls can be more dangerous still — they could be coming from stalkers and others.
This is all pretty scary, but you can do things to protect yourself.
Hang up and call back
Be smart, and do what you can to avoid fraud. Don’t give away any personal information over the phone, and do not transfer money to anyone who calls. Hang up and call back institutions like banks and credit unions, using the number on their website or on your ATM card — you may find that they weren’t really the ones calling you!
Of course, some scams don’t even require a conversation to work — which brings us to our next tip.
When in doubt, don’t answer your phone. Remember, scammers can spoof area codes and entire phone numbers, so just because a number is local does not mean that you are safe picking up your phone.
Add your number to the do not call list
Crooks won’t necessarily respect it, but you can at least strike a blow against telemarketers by adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. With your number listed there, you technically should not receive any telemarketing calls — though, again, some callers are too shady to respect the law. Alternatively, you can stay on the line long enough to insist to a telemarketer that you do not want to be called again. That will give you a better shot at not getting a call back later.
Find out who is calling you
Performing a phone number lookup through a trusted service can be a good way to figure out who, exactly, is calling you. The number in question could be a known fake used by scammers, or you might find out that some creepy individual is the one behind the calls. Having more information about the person you’re dealing with is especially important in cases of harassment and stalking.
Report scams or call the police
If you believe that you’ve been targeted by a scam, you should report it to the authorities. If you’ve fallen victim to the scam, or if you believe you are being stalked or harassed, then you should call the police right away.