We’ve all received more than our fair share of them: Phone calls from financial scams, tech support scams, and other dodgy phone calls trying to rip us off. There are actually several things you can do about them. Here’s how to report scam phone calls, so you and others will get fewer of them.
Common types include fake tech support and financial calls. Tech support calls may solicit payment for questionable computer services via credit card or wire transfer. Some scam phone calls may be more interested in getting personal information from you for the purposes of identity theft than money. But it’s important to stop fraud regardless of the motivation, to protect both ourselves and our neighbors.
Why it doesn’t pay to argue with them
I used to troll tech support scammers and write about it. But I can’t say I recommend that anymore. I know tons of IT professionals engage these people and waste their time because some of these scammers came right out and told me that. But it’s a losing battle because we’re outnumbered. Tech support scammers make $3 an hour.
There aren’t enough IT professionals in the United States to keep these guys tied up all night. Besides, even if there were, there are other types of scams the scammers could switch to.
And besides that, engaging scammers gets stressful. I didn’t realize the stress it was causing me until some of my friends pointed it out. As entertaining as it might be to mess with these crooks and then write about it, or have my kids mess with them and think about writing about it, ultimately I found it wasn’t worth it.
Why the government doesn’t stop them
For a while there were some good efforts by both political parties in the United States to cut down on these calls. Nobody argues that consumer protection is a bad thing by nature. But in recent years, legal efforts to stop them have been inconsistent.
I think the biggest reason for this is that scammers can get around local laws by finding a country that has English speakers that’s willing to look the other way when it comes to laws about phone calls. There are multiple countries with a significant population that speaks English where $3 an hour is good money. Until that changes, diplomacy won’t solve this problem and neither will simple economics.
That doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do. It does mean we have to do more than one thing to solve the problem.
How to report scam phone calls to the government
Federal agencies like the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission may not have many options when it comes to stopping calls that originate from overseas, but it doesn’t hurt to have them investigate. Assuming you’ve signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry, you can visit their page and report a scam call right there.
Your local state may have a government agency that operates a do not call registry. If yours does, you can probably report the call there as well. Do a quick web search on your state to find out if your local state operates a do not call registry and has some sort of online complaint assistant you can use to report illegal scam calls to them.
In other countries, this responsibility falls to someone else, perhaps the treasury inspector general for tax administration. Do a search online for your local country’s do not call list and how to report it.
How to report scam phone calls to non-government entities
For whatever reason, not phone companies have been as eager to stop scam phone calls as the government. While it would make sense that you could report these calls to your phone company, your phone company probably doesn’t have any means to report it.
But you can report calls to other entities who will at least share the information or use it to block calls to their subscribers, cutting down on these callers’ effectiveness. The economic solution to this problem, if there is one, is to cut down on the scammers’ audience.
How to report scam phone calls to Nomorobo
Nomorobo is a company that intercepts and hangs up on scam and other unwanted phone calls for you. When you receive an unwanted call, report it to Nomorobo, then Nomorobo’s subscribers won’t receive calls from that number anymore.
If your phone service supports simultaneous ring, you can sign up for Nomorobo yourself and not get these calls either. It’s free for landlines that support it. On cell phones, Nomorobo costs $1.99 a month and requires loading an app, which may be worth it for your sanity.
How to report scam phone calls to Hiya
Hiya is an app that blocks unwanted calls and text messages on cell phones. It has both free and subscription plans. To report a number in Hiya, load the Hiya app and tap Identify in the lower left to look up the number, then tap Report spam. You can also leave a comment in regards to the nature of the call.
How to report scam phone calls to 800notes.com
800notes.com is a database of phone numbers that includes notes from people who received them. Reporting numbers here doesn’t do anything to block them, but it allows people who don’t have caller ID but no other options to block calls to at least look up information about suspicious numbers and decide not to answer the second time they call.
How to block scam phone calls
It’s good of you to report scam phone calls, because it helps protect everyone. When it’s no longer profitable to run phone scams, people will eventually stop. You have some options to block scam phone calls, even on landlines. I recommend taking steps to block scam and robocalls, then report the handful of calls that still come through. Life gets much more peaceful when someone trying to rip you off isn’t calling you every 10 minutes.