Last Updated on February 12, 2019 by Dave Farquhar
My computer security buddies have been posting a lot lately on social media about computer scammers, giving advice on how to spot them. But what if I told you that you could block them entirely? Here’s how to block computer scammer calls.
Generally speaking, you can block most computer scams by signing up for a simultaneous ring service, installing a call blocking app on your cell phone, and changing the DNS settings on your computer or router.
I encourage you to actively block these calls, and also to show your less computer literate friends and relatives how to block computer scammer calls, or help them do it.
What does DNS have to do with computer scams?
The first thing I want you to do is change the DNS settings on your computer and/or router to 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124. These are Cleanbrowsing.org’s DNS servers. Cleanbrowsing does a great job of filtering malicious sites. This will block a lot of fake antivirus and fake ransomware messages, which urge you to call a phone number. This leads you to a tech support scammer.
You can ignore the messages but it’s better to let Cleanbrowsing block them.
I’ve covered Cleanbrowsing.org in depth before. They’re great for blocking scams, but that’s not all they can do for you. By using a different DNS server, you can tweak what they do for you. They have both free and for-pay tiers, but the servers I listed above, as well as a set of servers that blocks content inappropriate for young kids, are free to use.
How to block computer scammer calls on a landline
You can block computer scammers by ditching your landline, but that doesn’t help if you actually use your landline. And yes, some people do.
Some, but not all, landline providers support a service called Nomorobo. On landlines, Nomorobo is a free service. Nomorobo works by picking up the phone and hanging up on robocalls, including computer scams, before your landline even has a chance to ring for the first time.
If your landline doesn’t support Nomorobo, you can get a caller ID box with call blocking capability called a V5000. It connects to your phone like an answering machine or a caller ID box. When someone on its built-in blocking list or your custom list calls, it picks up and hangs up on them. Building your custom block list is easy. There’s a big red block button on the device. In my first four months of owning one, I pushed the button 14 times.
Think about that. That’s less than one unwanted call a week. And the majority of those calls happened in the first two months. One reason that number is so low is because I use both Nomorobo and a V5000. But once you build up a block list, the V5000 is very effective at cutting down unwanted interruptions, scams and otherwise.
Here’s more information on my experience with both Nomorobo and the V5000 and how I use them effectively.
How to block computer scammer calls on an iPhone or other cell phone
You can block computer scammers manually on a cell phone, but that’s time consuming. Some cell providers will flag their calls, but they don’t block them. The easiest thing you can do is load an app called Hiya, which works on both iPhone and Android phones. It can do a little more on an Android than on an iPhone due to manufacturer restrictions, but even the declawed iPhone version is very effective.
I’ve had a few calls get through Hiya’s defenses, but they were health insurance spam calls, not computer scammers. It’s very effective at blocking computer scammers on its own. If an unwanted call does get through, pull the number up in the app and you can block it.
This is essential, because you don’t need to be getting these calls at work. It’s funny the first time it happens, but it’s an unnecessary distraction.
Why not waste the scammers’ time?
I used to fall into the camp of wasting scammers’ time. After all, if they’re talking to me, they aren’t talking to someone else who might fall for the scam. But I don’t do that anymore. The reason is because I found it wasn’t effective.
Common sense would tell you that if you waste a scammer’s time, they’ll take you off their calling list so they don’t call you again. But in practice, I don’t find that to be the case. I started recognizing repeat callers from the scammers when I was doing this. Sure, sometimes it would take weeks before the same guy would call me again, but eventually he did, sometimes even using the same fake western name. His schtick might evolve slightly, but it was clear I was talking to the same guy. If anything, my engaging them was exposing weaknesses in their pitch and they were making themselves more convincing.
So by engaging these guys, I was training them. I’m not supposed to be training bad guys. So I turned my focus to blocking their calls and helping other people block their calls too.
And besides that, I found talking to these guys was stressful. These scammers aren’t competent IT people, but they aren’t stupid. A lot of them seem to be able to tell when someone isn’t going to fall for their scam and they’re willing to stay on the line for a few minutes to push your buttons. Why give them the pleasure?
Other tactics that don’t work
Telling the scammers that their call is illegal doesn’t help. They don’t care, and they even told me so. Putting my kids on the phone and letting them talk to them doesn’t help either.
Perhaps the most common advice is not answering the phone, or picking up the phone and setting it down and walking away. Doing these two things doesn’t get you taken off their calling list either. They’ll just call back later. So you get five short interruptions to your evening instead of one longer one. You can do better than that.
Why don’t phone companies just block scam phone calls?
Traditionally, phone companies treated calls like the postal service treats the mail. They made an effort to deliver all of it as reliably as possible. If you wanted to know how to block computer scammer calls and do it yourself, they didn’t stop you, but they also didn’t help.
There is pressure on them to change so they are slowly starting to adapt, but it’s likely the regulations will leave loopholes so they won’t be 100% effective. That’s why I do my own defense and encourage others do the same. I’d like to see regulation to tighten this up, but I always assume there will be some gap I’ll have to fill and help others fill.