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Spam, Scam, Spoof Phone Calls: What They Are and How to Block Them

Updated on November 4, 2017
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Out of personal experience, Chris writes articles about how to make items and accomplish tasks which are practical, helpful, and proven.

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Spam, Scam and Spoof Calls

Americans are receiving an increasing number of unsolicited phone calls according to an article published on Moneyish.com in May, 2017. Between February and April, the number of these calls went up by 13.6%. The average person received 7.7 calls per day. All of us combined get more than 2.5 billion calls per month.

Who are the people making these calls? What do they want? Because it is a complicated subject, most of us tend to lump these callers together. In reality, those who contact us are legitimate telemarketers, illegal phishing callers, creditors, private investigators, and law enforcement. Most, if not all, of these calls are unwanted, but not all of them are illegal.

Let’s look at three kinds of phone calls which represent most of the unsolicited calls we receive.

Monty Python Flying Circus Sketch, 1970, Spam

Spam Calls

Spam is a type of nuisance call that is unsolicited but legal. The name originated from a Monty Python Flying Circus skit aired in 1970. The word Spam was used repeatedly by people in the skit so that all other dialogue was unheard. The Spam being referred to in the sketch was the canned meat product by that name.

Spam calls are a legitimate and legal form of advertising for companies with real products and services. The idea behind spamming is to disseminate as much product information as possible to as many people as possible believing that the number of positive responses will justify the effort. This is the shotgun approach to marketing.

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Scam Calls

A scam is a confidence trick whereby the con (confidence) man gains the confidence of his audience prior to defrauding them.

Scam phone calls are confidence tricks or con games. They are fraudulent or deceptive calls from entities seeking to steal money or personal, financial information, a tactic known as phishing.

Scam callers offer products at special prices or free if associated with a contest. Some ask for money to cover unpaid taxes or credit card bills even if the person who receives the call is not in any way delinquent. These swindlers want either money or personal information such as a credit card number or Social Security number.

Spam and Scam are spelled similarly, but that is the end of any likeness. Spam calls are legal marketing calls. Scam calls are illegal and are made by people who want to steal your money or personal, financial information.

Joker Card From a Spoof Card Game

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Spoof Calls

A spoofed call means the person calling uses technology that feeds caller ID a false location for the origin of the call. It might be a random location or one in the same area code as the person being called. It depends on what serves the purpose of the caller.

The word, spoof, was created as part of a card game produced by Milton-Bradley in 1918. The player who is less attentive or slower than the others is given the name, spoof, and is required to perform ridiculous tasks for the other players. On a spoof phone call, the caller is able to get the upper hand by masking their location and pulling the wool over the eyes of the person being called. It seems to be a tenuous connection between the card game and the phone call, but this is assumed to be the origin of the word spoof.

Anyone who wants to hide their real location could use this technology to fool caller ID. Private detectives, law enforcement, and debt collectors use spoof calls to hide their true locations. Often, these calls will begin with the same area code and prefix as the person being called. This is used to bait the person into answering the call. CraigsList scammers use it to appear not to be in the same region as the person selling an item. Spammers and scammers use spoof calls to appear to be a call from a local retailer.

What You Can Do to Take Control

Spammers are usually legitimate marketers making unsolicited phone calls. Scammers are criminals seeking money or personal, financial information. Spoofers can be either legitimate callers or people with illegal interests.

What can we do about these calls? The federal Do Not Call Registry can be reached at 1-888-382-1222, but it has not been very successful. Unscrupulous marketers simply ignore the list.

Here are a few ways you can use available technology to control the calls that come to your cell phone, landline or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone.

Nomorobo

Nomorobo is a free service. Calls are intercepted after the first ring and blocked using the FTC-assisted blacklist. Legitimate calls go through for a second ring. Illegal robocalls are intercepted and disconnected. This service works only with internet-based VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) systems. (Phones that come bundled with Internet).

iPhone

iPhones- You can use Do Not Disturb to silence all calls except those you choose from your call list. For iOS 7 or above, find Recents under the keypad. To the far right of each number is an information sign (i in a circle). Tap this to bring up instructions for blocking the number.

Android Phone

Android Phones allow you to set the phone to Privacy Mode to get only preapproved calls and those you choose from your contact list. With Call Rejection you can send calls directly to voicemail. Call Control Call Blocker by the Kedlin Co, DroidBlock and Call Filter are other apps you can use on your Android device.

Call Blocking Through Cell Phone Service Providers

Cell Service Providers-Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and others have their own call blocking services, usually for a fee. Call your provider for details.

Take Control of Your Phone

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Take Control

You are not helpless when it comes to unsolicited, nuisance calls. You know who they are and why they are calling. You have the information to block some of these calls. Find the method that is best for you and take control of the people who have access to your personal life.

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    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 weeks ago from london

      Yes, Bro.

      I have had some scams myself. It is a great nuisance. They even call you at work and weekends.

      Informative Hub and some knowledge of the terms and how to deal with scammers plus. Peace.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Suhail, I think you will be able to make a dent in the remainder of the calls, but they keep changing with the ways we avoid them. Good luck. Glad to hear your government has been actively working on this issue. My feeling is that phones and email are private and should be covered by privacy laws. Television, internet and radio are fair game.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 weeks ago from Mississauga, ON

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks to Canada Radio and Telecommunication Corporation's interference, junk marketing calls have reduced, but we still do get them because the con-artists call from their call centres from abroad.

      I will look into your suggested methods to see if I can get rid of the remainder.

      Regards,

      Suhail and my dog K2

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Peg, it is capitalism gone haywire as far as I am concerned. I say let our televisions and radios be open for advertisers, but our emails and phones should be our uninvaded, private places.

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 2 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

      You're so right as to the increase in these nuisance calls, no matter what they're called. I get several robo calls a day and often get "Microsoft" assistance calls with so called support people trying to access my computer. Beyond the surveys, trip award calls, spam and the rest my phone rings all the time. Thanks for the tips in blocking and preventing these calls.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Melody, If you need that second line other than cell phones, you might the VoIP phones that cable companies sell. They have a lot of success controlling nuisance calls.

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      Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Shyron, that is called spoofing. they have to have some special equipment, but they can totally change their location to anywhere they want it to be. The Do Not Call list only works if the marketers obey the law, which many don't.

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      Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Becky, when I have talked with people online about credit cards, It was so unsettling to know that I was speaking with a criminal. I knew and he knew it. How hardcore is that? He just kept lying.

    • MelRootsNWrites profile image

      Melody Lassalle 2 weeks ago from California

      We still have a landline and most of our nuisance calls come this way. Our best method is to let all calls go to the machine. They hang up before it gets that far.

    • Shyron E Shenko profile image

      Shyron E Shenko 2 weeks ago from Texas

      Chris, yes I get these calls all the time and I am on the National DO-NOT-CALL list. But these evil people have a way around this. They use someone's phone number that is in the U.S. and use it as a spring board to you phone or anyone else and you cannot trace it.

      I will have to come back to read this.

      Blessings my friend

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 2 weeks ago from Hereford, AZ

      Glad you have the do not call registry number. I lost it and need it again. I keep getting calls alerting me to a problem with my credit card. One major problem with that is, I do not have a credit card. I refuse to have one and do not need one. The other one I keep getting is a boat horn blasting. I hate that one, because it is at a pitch that hurts my ears. I have sensitive hearing and my kids always complained they could not get away with anything. My husband complained that he could not plan a surprise for me while I was in the house. I would hear them.

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      Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Bill, I cannot imagine these companies make a dime on the spam. But I suppose with a country of 350 million, there are people who will talk to them. It is a mystery to me.

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      Chris Mills 2 weeks ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Eric, I'm with Bill on this one. I don't answer the phone unless I know who it is. I can monitor the voicemail. More credit cards....hang up on 'em.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      We simply do not answer the phone unless we recognize the number. . . and there are a ton of calls we don't answer. Scammers seem to be everywhere working around the clock.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I like this. For some reason I only get calls to switch to a credit card.