A few months ago, some team members at The Seniors Center attended a workshop inviting seniors to speak directly to Congressmen and representatives from several agencies specializing in seniors issues.
Although the workshop generally focused on federal economic policy, when opened for question-and-answer time, a large percentage of attendees’ questions had little to do with economic legislation.
Instead, they were about robocalls—specifically, what is the government planning on doing to stop the constant spam and scam calls seniors receive each day?
While Americans of all ages can attest to the frustrating increase of spam calling in the past few years, it is clear after listening to seniors themselves this is a major concern for older Americans in particular. This is unsurprising given phone scammers often target vulnerable seniors, using tried-and-true techniques specifically designed to part retirees from their cash. Seniors are often disproportionately affected by phone scams.
What attendees wanted to know is why the problem seems to be getting worse rather than better. And why isn’t the federal government able (or willing) to do anything about a problem affecting every single American with a cell phone.
Data from First Union confirms the problem is indeed worsening. They project by the end of this year, nearly half of all calls made to U.S. cell phones will be spam calls.
What we learned that day from the experts themselves is stopping the onslaught of bogus calls is much more complicated than it may seem. Call “spoofing” combined with the fact that most of these calls originate internationally makes regulating these calls almost impossible.
While cell providers are doing what they can to identify and intercept these calls where they can, it seems for now, it’s up to cell users themselves to protect themselves.
The best thing seniors can do to defend themselves from scam callers is not give scammers the opportunity in the first place: never pick up or answer unknown calls—even if they come from a local area code.
Just picking up and answering one of these calls—even if you don’t give away any of your information—is enough to confirm to a scammer or robocaller that your number is valid and a human will pick up the phone. This can result in a huge uptick in spam calls.
Allow unknown callers to go to voicemail. Friends, family, and legitimate business callers will have no problem leaving a message should they really need to get in touch.
And under no circumstances give any unknown caller any of your personal information. If you are unsure if a caller is legitimate or not, hang up and try to locate their place of business online. If you can locate a contact number for the caller’s business online, call back using that number and ask if a representative there has called or needs to get in touch with you.