Article contains affiliate links
By Jim Miller
(SAVVY SENIOR) Scammers are always looking for new ways to dupe people out of money, and in the United States, spam phone calls remain the primary way swindlers hook older victims.
The Federal Trade Commission recently found 24 percent of adults over age 60 who reported losing money to a scam in 2021 said it started with a phone call—the largest percentage of any method, including email, text, and mail.
Here are some tips and tools to help protect an elderly loved one from the onslaught of robocall scams, telemarketing, and spam calls.
National Do Not Call Registry
If your loved one hasn’t already done so, a good first step in limiting at least some unwanted calls is to make sure their home and cell phone numbers are registered with the National Do Not Call Registry. While this won’t stop fraudulent scam calls, it will stop unwanted calls from legitimate businesses who are trying to sell something. To sign up, call 888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register, or you can do it online at DoNotCall.gov.
Cell Phone Protection
Most wireless providers today offer good tools for stopping scam calls and texts. For example, AT&T has the ActiveArmor Mobile Security app, Verizon provides the Call Filter app, and T-Mobile offers the Scam Shield app.
To activate these tools, download the spam-blocking app from your loved one’s carrier on their phone, which you can do at the Apple and Google App store. These apps are free to use, but most carriers will also offer upgraded services that you can get for a small monthly fee.
If, however, your loved one uses a regional or small wireless carrier that doesn’t offer scam/robocall protection, you can use a free, third-party app. Truecaller (Truecaller.com), Call Control (CallControl.com), Hiya (Hiya.com) and YouMail (YouMail.com) are all good options to consider.
Built-In Call Blockers
Many smartphones today also offer built-in tools that can block spam calls. If your loved one uses a newer iPhone (iOS 13 or later), they can completely silence all unknown callers who aren’t in their contacts list in the phone “Settings.”
Silencing all unknown callers is an extreme solution that will definitely stop all unwanted calls, but your loved one will also miss some legitimate calls, too. Unknown callers, however, do have the option to leave a voice message, and their calls will appear in the recent calls list. And they can add any number to their contact list to let them through in the future.
If your loved one owns a new Android phone, they can also block spam calls in the phone “Settings.” Or, if they own a Samsung Galaxy phone, they can use “Smart Call,” which flags suspected spam calls and allows them to block and report those callers.
You can also manually block specific reoccurring spam call numbers on iPhones and Android.
Home Landline Protection
To stop scam calls on a land line, set up the “anonymous call rejection” option. This is a free feature available from most telephone companies; however, some may charge a fee. It lets you screen out calls from callers who have blocked their caller ID information—a favorite tactic of telemarketers. To set it up, you usually have to dial *77 from the landline, though different phone services may have different procedures.
Call your loved one’s telephone service provider to find out if they offer this tool, and, if so, what you need to do to enable it. If they don’t offer that particular feature, find out what other call-blocking options they offer. MSN
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.