What are scam likely calls?

What are scam likely calls? It’s a partial solution to the problem of unsolicited phone calls. It’s probably not the ideal solution and it’s probably not the final solution. But it’s a way for your phone company to warn you that it’s suspicious of the call that’s coming through.

Flagging a suspicious phone call as “scam likely” is T-Mobile’s way of alerting its customers that it has reason to believe the phone call you are receiving isn’t legitimate. If your caller ID says “scam likely,” use caution if you decide to answer the call.

Why do scam likely calls exist?

what are scam likely calls
Since laws are ineffective at keeping people from calling cell phones unsolicited, T-Mobile flags certain calls as “scam likely” to protect its subscribers.

Before I took measures to actively block them, I received more unsolicited phone calls than legitimate calls. And it wasn’t even close. While I don’t have concrete numerical data, the reaction to my blog posts about how to block unsolicited phone calls tells me I wasn’t the only one, by a long shot.

Phone companies recognize the problem. They see themselves like the post office, in that they have a duty to deliver phone calls rather than block them, just like the post office has a duty to deliver mail, come what may.

So while the phone companies sort out whether they ought to be in the business of blocking certain calls, T-Mobile will flash the words “scam likely” over your caller ID if they have reason to believe the person ringing your phone isn’t completely on the up and up.

How they determine what’s likely to be a scam is a trade secret. They are probably using a database of suspect phone numbers but it may also be based on certain characteristics of the call.

Should I answer scam likely calls?

I don’t normally answer scam likely calls myself. Whether you answer them is up to you. At the very least, have your guard up. And you might choose not to answer the phone as professionally as you would if it’s your boss calling. Some people answer suspected unsolicited calls by saying, “Hello, you’re on the air!” or something else likely to scare off a would-be scammer.

The thing is, answering calls that way is more effective for getting laughs on social media than it is for actually getting fewer calls. Trolling the callers or not answering the phone, while common advice, isn’t effective. Nor is telling people to take you off their calling list.

I prefer to take measures to block as many unknown calls as possible. I still get a call every couple of weeks that gets through despite my best efforts, usually by spoofing a local number, often a legitimate local number. So I let these types of calls go to voicemail instead of answering them. If it’s actually something important, they’ll leave a message. One or two calls a month is much better than several calls per day.

What’s the ultimate solution?

Ultimately, the solution to unsolicited phone calls is to make phone companies authenticate every call. That means not taking caller ID’s word for it. If I claim to be calling from 555-555-1541, trace the call to make sure the number is actually coming from there, or another number that’s owned by the same person at the very least. If I spoof Joe Smith’s number at 555-555-1541, and I’m actually Bob Jones calling from 555-555-0064, there’s no legitimate reason to let my call through.


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