Smartphones are among life’s greatest modern conveniences. Today, we can communicate with friends and loved ones from virtually anywhere. We can browse the internet, use apps, do work, and have fun on our devices whether we’re at home, on the train, or in a faraway place. All of this is wonderful — but it’s not the whole story. While smartphones have brought us great convenience, they’ve also made it easier for other people to reach us. That’s not always a good thing.
Having our phones with us all of the time means even more unwanted phone calls. Landlines can get unwanted calls, too, of course — and it’s annoying to come home to find your landline voicemail filled up with useless robocalls, or to be interrupted at dinner by the landline only to find that it’s a telemarketer. On both landlines and mobile numbers, we’re vulnerable to stalking and harassing, telemarketing, and scam phone calls.
Maybe you’re experiencing this problem right now. If so, what can you do about it?
Who is calling you?
A lot of people and organizations are capable of calling you when you don’t want to hear from them. Your reaction and your options for shutting down the problem will vary significantly depending on who is calling.
Your first step, therefore, should be to figure out who is on the other end of the line. Sometimes, it’s obvious. Other times, a reverse lookup will be the answer. Some reliable services out there will help you find the name of a person or organization using their phone number — sort of like a phonebook in reverse. You don’t necessarily have to pay for this, either, because some reputable services offer a free phone number lookup.
Of course, you should be aware that some organizations will have multiple phone numbers, and that some scammers, harassers, and disreputable telemarketers will use burner phones and throwaway numbers or will “spoof” numbers to hide the origin of their calls. Still, a reverse phone number lookup is a smart first step if you’re dealing with unwanted phone calls.
Harassment and the police
Sometimes, you know exactly who is calling you. Harassment and stalking can lead to unwanted phone calls, but these sorts of calls are different from the calls you get from telemarketers and scammers. In this case, you need to act fast. Stalking is illegal. Talk to the police and keep detailed records of the harassment. Use reverse phone number lookups to prove who is calling you, and get an attorney to help you with a restraining order. Stalking and harassment can lead to even more frightening and dangerous actions, so don’t ignore the problem hoping that it will go away. You have a right to be left alone, and you need to protect yourself.
The no-call list
In many cases, unwanted calls are coming from perfectly legitimate — albeit annoying — businesses. Telemarketers find publicly listed numbers and purchase lists of contact information for use in their cold-calling sales strategy. That’s not illegal, but it’s no fun for most recipients.
The good news is that you can ban telemarketers from calling you. Just visit the Federal Communication Commission’s website and put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. This should keep telemarketers off your back — if they’re following the law, anyway.
Of course, not all telemarketers follow the law. Some operations use overseas call centers and flagrantly ignore the Do Not Call registry. And you’ll also encounter scammers who don’t follow the law.
In these cases, your best bet may be to block numbers. You can block individual numbers with the help of your phone service provider, and you can also purchase devices that will screen calls to your landline. Some devices like this use a pre-made list of known scam and telemarketing numbers to shield your home.
Unwanted phone calls are an annoyance and sometimes can get dangerous. Do what you can to block telemarketers and dodge scammers, and remember that you should reach out the police right away if you are being stalked or harassed.