Robin Stover

Robin Stover

Recently, two friends mentioned they were at their wits end over unwanted calls to their cellphones.

One received a spoof call from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service office. The caller ID showed up as “IRS.”

A spoof caller masquerades as a legitimate entity by falsifying the number and ID that appear on your cell phone.

In this day and age, advice is simple: never, ever give Social Security or account information over the phone. If you don’t recognize a number, do not call back.

Another friend gets sales calls all week long — travel deals, home security systems, health insurance, extended car warranties, etc.

I get very few of these calls.

Why?

In 2008, I registered my number with the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry. It’s easy and free. Go to donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register.

The registry stops sales calls from business telemarketers. But what about illegal scammers and robocallers? They don’t care if you are on the registry. Your best defense is call blocking technology.

For cellphones, I recommend visiting ctia.org, a website for the U.S. cellphone industry. You can learn about the services that AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and U.S. Celluar provide to block or flag calls; some services are free, others cost a few dollars per month.

Also, investigate the top call blocking apps from your cellphone app store. My research shows that the Hiya app is free on both Apple and Android and is simple to use. It blocks calls, and blacklists phone numbers and text messages; and is powered by a database of hundreds of millions of recognized spam phone numbers.

Another app is Nomorobo. This app lets the phone ring once, while it identifies the number. If the number is on the robocaller list, the number is automatically blocked. Nomorobo is free for 30 days and then $1.99 per month.

Scam robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint lodged with the FTC. They are a nuisance, but it’s much worse and next to impossible to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the telephone.

Robin Stover is a managing attorney at Gulfcoast Legal Services, Inc., a nonprofit legal aid organization. To contact Gulfcoast, call 941-746-6151.

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