Sadie Says… Signs and steps to take against robocalls

Frequently asked questions about older adult issues

Q: Last week I received a live phone call purporting to be from an adult grandchild saying “Hello, Grandma.” I do not have relatives who fit that description. Then came repeated phone calls from “the Microsoft Refund Department,” not to mention numerous robocalls telling anyone who answered about having won a vacation prize. What can I do about these annoying fraudulent calls?

A: It’s a well-known fact that scammers defraud consumers more frequently by telephone than by other means. More than 50% of all phone calls are now automated robocalls, and more than 44% of mobile calls are fraudulent.

So, how can a person avoid this brewing epidemic of phone scams about which the Federal Trade Commission received nearly one million fraud complaints in 2017?

Recognize warning signs

• Unsolicited calls from agents claiming to work for a government agency, utility company or technology firm are likely to be hoaxes because legitimate institutions will first communicate by other means.

• Unsolicited calls from charity fundraisers, especially following disasters.

• Calls advertising products or services that sound “too good to be true.”

•Automated sales calls from a company that you did not authorize to phone you.

Take positive steps

• Refuse to answer calls from unknown numbers.

• Reject anonymous calls automatically (some phone providers have Anonymous Call Rejection, which you can use by dialing *77 and hanging up, after which any call hiding its number will be rejected).

• Use a computer to place your phone number(s) on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry (https://www.donotcall.gov/).

• Consider using caller ID or a call-blocking mobile app to screen calls, many of which require a small monthly fee; however, T-Mobile has free Scam ID and free Scam Block, and Verizon will also begin free blocking of identified spam and scam numbers that began in March.

• Hang up on illegal robocalls trying to sell you something.

• Ask questions of telemarketers because legitimate businesses, charities and political organizations will provide information and not pressure you to purchase items or make donations; it’s your right to take time to consider making any payment.

• Hang up and independently research travel deals and charitable or business opportunities you might learn about through unsolicited phone calls.

• Don’t return one-ring calls from unknown area code numbers — many of these are really from out-of-country, and they entail expensive connection charges.

— Sadie Says is provided by the Lycoming County health Improvement Coalition.

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