How to Mess With Robocalls—Scamming a Scammer
The robocall problem is getting serious. Up to 65 billion robocalls were made in 2019, and some reports estimate that more than $10 billion were lost in various phone scams that include robocalls.
Even if you believe you are smart enough not to get scammed, the fact remains that robocalls are annoying. They don’t choose the time of day or night, and they can reach you on both your cell phone and your landline.
It’s safe to say that robocalls turned into downright telephone harassment. While there are ways to reduce robocalls, the question is, can we get some well-deserved revenge for all the nuisance? The answer is yes, so let’s dig into the matter and check out how to scam the scammers.
What Are Robocalls?
Robocalls are not classic telemarketing calls because they are not actual telephone conversations. Robocallers use automatic dialers to call your number and play a recorded message that is supposed to convey information to you.
You can make hundreds, even thousands, of robocalls a day, which makes them quite convenient and efficient. Since they are pre-recorded, and there are no real people involved in the conversation on the other end of the line, they are cost-effective as well.
Various charities, government agencies, and other legitimate institutions started using robocalls to save money on call centers, but with availability and ease of access they provide, robocalls soon became a favorite tool for fraudsters.
Are Robocalls Illegal?
Robocalls are not illegal, but robocall scams are. The problem is that it is becoming hard to tell the difference. With the number of robocalls made in the U.S. every day, even legitimate automated calls are frowned upon.
Here are some examples of legitimate robocalls:
- Calls from pharmacies informing you that your prescription is available for pickup
- Calls from political campaigns explaining the program and calling you to vote
- Calls from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminding you about deadlines or policy alterations
- Calls from schools or other educational institutions announcing closures or changes in opening hours
- Calls from charities asking for a donation and explaining how to make one
As you can see, legal robocalls are designed to pass urgent or important messages that people may miss online or in the traditional media. They are never the only communication tool that the organization passing the message uses, so you can expect to get emails or snail mail regarding the same issue.
Telemarketing robocalls can also be legal, but you have to agree to be on the company’s calling list. The company is obliged to let you know that you may receive robocalls as a part of its marketing campaign, and you are allowed to remove yourself from the calling list any time you like.
Recognizing a Fraudulent Call—First Step to Messing With Robocalls
All scammers wish to sound legitimate because it’s the best way to earn your trust. Robocall scams are getting quite elaborate, and unfortunately, they are beginning to sound convincing.
One of the primary goals of a robocall is to trick you into believing that it’s a real call. Although you will eventually figure out that you are talking to a machine, scammers aim to maintain the illusion as long as they can.
The purpose of this is to keep you on the line and obtain whatever information they are after. In most cases, fraudsters are interested in your financial details, but they might also be after your data, or they simply want to verify that your number is active.
Here are some common tricks that robocalls use:
- Spoofed phone numbers
- Recorded messages with real voices
- Hiding behind well-known businesses and institutions
- Presenting the matter as urgent
Spoofing is the number one trick in the robocall industry. Scammers hide the actual numbers that they are calling from and mask them with local or official telephone numbers to get you to answer the phone.
With all the available technology, spoofing is not too demanding. Internet-based phones allow fraudsters to temper with numbers easily, so most robocalls use familiar numbers. That’s the main reason why so many robocalls get answered.
Using Real Voices
Most robocalls don’t use bot voices anymore, so you can expect a charming and pleasant-sounding Allison or Elizabeth to be your robocaller. Some of these calls sound almost genuine, and you should be careful even if everything seems natural in the beginning.
Even if they use human voices, robocallers will always stick to the script too rigidly, and that’s the easiest way to recognize them. The caller will not be able to answer your questions, so you can expect a lot of “Sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat, please?” whenever you ask something.
Another indicator can be the fact that the caller does not change their tone of voice according to your responses. If you become agitated or rude, they will remain unnaturally polite or cheerful, repeating the same lines over again.
Posing as Well-Established Businesses
Phone scammers tend to impersonate real businesses or institutions to trick you into giving away your details. They may hide behind a local company, your utility provider, or even the IRS. You should not be surprised if they know a lot about you, including the names of your family members or where you work.
Knowing stuff about you makes the call more convincing, and you are more inclined to put your guard down and continue providing them with data. The point is that it’s not too difficult to obtain basic information about someone, especially in social media times.
It’s crucial to remember that you are not obliged to share personal details or sensitive information over the phone with anyone. Legitimate callers would not ask you to anyway, so if someone insists on it, they are undoubtedly aiming to scam you.
Calling for Urgent Actions
The longer you think of robocall frauds, the more you realize how naive a person must be to fall for them. That’s why scammers try to close their dodgy deals as fast as possible. The idea is to give you no time to think and to take advantage of a desire to save or get money quickly.
Robocalls will always present an offer that requires your immediate attention and response because it will expire by the end of the call. Fraudsters often demand that you make a decision instantly, so you are not given any time to reconsider or check the information they provide.
Sometimes they can take a different approach like in the famous (and unfortunately, ongoing) IRS scam and demand you provide your financial details to cover back taxes. The caller states that if you decide not to, the police will be sent to your home immediately.
You should know that any legitimate institution will allow you enough time to double-check everything and report any irregularities or discrepancies. They will also send all the information in written form for a better overview and clarity.
How to Mess Up a Robocall?
Joining the fight against robocalls could help the ongoing war that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Federal Communications Commissions (FCC), and various telephone service providers in the States have declared to the fraudsters.
Although it’s not going to be easy to defeat such a persistent enemy, it is vital to use all resources to put an end to this pest. It’s becoming evident that robocalls require a joint effort to be defeated, so we should contribute to the fight in every way we can.
Apart from recognizing robocalls and scam calls, you should also know how to:
- Stop robocalls on your cell phone and your landline
- Handle calls that you do answer
- Report robocalls
Messing with robocalls should not be about pranking the callers and wasting their time, though it is a fun part of the process. It should be about specific actions you take to bring the fraudsters to justice. The best way to mess up a robocall is to block it.
How to Screw Up a Robocall on Your Cell Phone?
What robocall scammers hope for is that they will reach your number and that you will pick up. The best way to screw up their plans is not to pick up the phone at all. With spoofing, this is easier said than done. So, how to stop robocalls on your mobile device? You can do it with the help of your carrier or a third-party app.
In the FCC guide to robocalls, all telephone service providers are instructed to add robocall blockers to every account automatically. Although this becomes mandatory in 2021, most carriers have enabled spam-blocking tools already.
Call screeners quite successfully filter thousands of calls each day, so if you are receiving a lot of robocalls on your cell, check with the provider whether the service has been activated on your number.
The features of call-blocking tools differ from one carrier to another, but all of them will handle spam calls by:
- Blocking the calls completely
- Diverting the calls to voicemail
- Letting them ring silently, flagged with spam alert
- Sending the calls directly to a missed calls list
Although it is impossible to stop every single robocall, you should expect a significant decrease in the number of calls that come your way. Each provider has a premium version of the spam-blocking service, which you can activate for additional protection.
Check out what major carriers offer in the table below.
|Spam Blocker||Cost of a Premium Version|
$3.99 per month
|Scam Block||$4.00 per month|
$2.99 per month
For additional protection against robocalls, you can install one of the third-party apps designed to block spam. Most of them screen the incoming numbers to figure out if they were used to make many calls in short intervals during that day. If so, such numbers are potentially robocalls, and the app prevents them from coming down to you.
Both Android and Apple have their robocall-blocking services, but there are other apps that you can check out as well. The table below should give you a clear overview of the most popular apps on the market.
Mess Up Robocalls by Blocking Them on Your Home Phone
Home phone protection against robocalls is not as efficient as mobile phone protection, but there are things that you can do to reduce the number of spam calls coming your way. The first thing to check is what kind of line you are using. You can have a:
- Traditional copper-wire landline
- Digital home phone
Finding out how your home phone works is easy—all you need to do is ask your carrier. Many users switched to digital home phones, so if you have the same provider for your cable, internet, and phone, you are probably using a digital line.
Robocall Protection on Traditional Landlines
Traditional landlines are susceptible to spam calls because there are no tools and apps available for protection. You will have to rely on call-blocking devices to help you reduce the number of spam calls you receive.
Call blockers are external devices that you attach to your phone. They can block up to 100 numbers, but the bad news is that you will have to add those numbers yourself. Since robocalls keep changing their numbers all the time, keeping track and updating your blacklist may be impossible.
You can make a whitelist of numbers that can reach you, but you would not be able to get calls from an unknown number. If you are willing to heavily restrict the number of people that would be able to get through to you, consider this option. A whitelist could stop spam calls altogether.
Blocking Robocalls on Digital Home Phones
Home phones that use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) offer a more extensive range of possibilities for stopping robocalls. Most carriers developed tools that can be used on digital home phones that block spam calls pretty successfully.
There are even third-party apps that work on VoIP lines. With technological advancements in the telecommunications industry, we hope additional services will become available for home phones shortly.
Messing With Robocalls That You Answer
There’s no fun in pranking a machine, so robocalls will not be amusing to mess with, mainly because it’s better to get off the call as fast as you can. If you do pick up, follow these simple rules as it will prevent the scammers from getting what they want—your details and money.
- Try not to talk—The less you talk, the better because some calls are made only to confirm that your number is active, which allows the callers to make additional calls or sell your number to other fraudulent businesses
- Don’t say yes—Some callers aim to record your voice, so saying yes can enable them to use your voice for unwanted authorizations
- Don’t give away personal information—No matter how plausible the call seems, don’t disclose your financial or personal details because sensitive data should not be provided over the phone
- Avoid pressing keys or calling back numbers provided on the call—If the caller asks you to press a number to speak to an agent or get yourself off the calling list, they are probably just trying to confirm that the number is valid and eligible for additional calls (the same applies to calling back a telephone number the caller provides during a robocall)
In case you think that a robocall may be legitimate, you can hang up and check the information for yourself. Use the company website and customer support department to check whether the call was real or not.
How to Screw Up Robocalls by Reporting Them?
You should not hesitate to report robocalls or any spam calls that you get because it is the best way to help the officials and carriers win the war against fraudsters. The first thing to do is register on the National Do Not Call List, which was created as an initial step in protecting people from robocalls. For a better understanding of how the list works, check out the following articles:
- How to Check if a Number Is on the Do Not Call List
- Do Not Call List Exceptions
- Do Not Call List Expiration
It is evident that scammers don’t respect the law or the List, but registering will prove that all robocalls you receive are fraudulent and illegal. It will also keep legitimate yet annoying telemarketers off your back.
The next step you should take is to report specific robocalls as soon as you get them. It will help to detect and track scammers. If you receive a spam call, you can contact:
- FTC through FTC Complaint Assistant
- FCC through FCC Consumer Complaint Center
- Your telephone service provider
Can DoNotPay Help to Screw Up Robocalls?
DoNotPay is a free app that can help you screw up robocalls in the best way possible—by messing with their money. RoboRevenge from DoNotPay can get you up to $3,000, and the best part is that the whole thing is safe, legal, and simple.
The app takes advantage of two facts. First, it is illegal for anyone to make sales calls to your number if you are on the Do Not Call List. Second, according to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, telemarketers are not allowed to sell you anything over the phone unless they have your written consent to put your number on their calling lists.
Here’s how RoboRevenge works:
- When you receive a robocall, log on DoNotPay through your web browser or iOS app
- Choose RoboRevenge
- Generate a free virtual credit card
- Give the card details to the caller
- Wait for them to attempt a transaction, which will allow DoNotPay to get a hold of their data
- Follow the instruction from the DoNotPay virtual legal team to make a robocall lawsuit and get up to $3,000
You should know that the virtual credit card is not linked to your bank account or your real card. It’s a virtual card number that appears to the caller like a valid card, but it won’t allow them to make any charges.
What Else Can DoNotPay Help With?
DoNotPay uses AI to help people who cannot afford pricey lawyers to get legal assistance. Most of us are struggling with unfair fines, high bills, or getting a proper refund from an airline, and DoNotPay aims to jump in and help with that.
If you want to get rid of an annoying subscription that you don’t use or lower your bills, log on DoNotPay via your web browser or iOS app, and check out all the fantastic features. The world’s first robot lawyer is exceptional at:
- Helping you get revenge on other robocalls
- Helping you sue people and companies in small claims court
- Scheduling a DMV appointment fast and easy
- Dealing with issues with credit cards
- Canceling subscriptions or memberships
- Disputing traffic tickets
- Jumping the phone queue when getting in touch with customer service reps
- Fighting speeding tickets
- Getting refunds for delayed or canceled flights
- Contesting parking tickets
- Dealing with bills you are unable to pay for