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  • Last modified 254 days ago (April 5, 2018)

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Easiest tip for phone safety: don’t participate

Ignoring unknown numbers offers safety

Staff writer

If Alexander Graham Bell and rival Elisha Gray had known how much of a terror their 1876 creation would become, perhaps the telephone wouldn’t have been invented.

What once was the safest and best way for communication has rapidly become an enemy with unknown callers posing danger.

Technology has granted cybercrooks the ability to mask numbers or spoof caller IDs, and they’re doing so with evil intentions.

Knowing how to recognize potential villains and handle them can help make life less stressful and your number less targeted. Cyberpests are harmless if they lack a potential victim.

Account and identifying numbers and email addresses are as good as gold to phone scammers and quickly can turn a profit by being resold to criminal third parties.

Scammers may pretend to be from the IRS, tech support, charities, or bogus grant and reward programs.

Although the elderly are a favorite target, anyone with a working phone number is susceptible to attacks.

At this time of year, bogus IRS calls are more frequent. Overseas crooks often spoof the 202 area code in hope of conning those answering the calls into believing they are coming from the government.

The real IRS will never initiate contact by phone unless you have previously given permission. A legitimate question from the IRS will come by mail only.

Paying close attention to numbers and names appearing on caller IDs can help a little, although scammers can make virtually any name or number, including your own, show up.

Suspicious numbers beginning with 0 or 1 as the first digit of the area code or exchange are good indicators of a spoofed number or a call coming from overseas.

But some scammers do enough homework to use local names and numbers, bettering their chances of getting a live voice.

A live voice usually is needed to get what they’re after, but answering devices merely delay them by signaling a working number and possibly a name to go along with it.

To combat worthless calls, phone customers can place their numbers placed on the government’s do-not-call list.

The list prevents unwanted calls from honest telemarketers but not for swindlers, fundraisers, political campaigners, survey questions, and debt collectors.

Simply not answering calls from unknown callers appears to be the best answer. With time, patience, and the ability to let phones ring, numbers can actually find their way on abusive callers’ own no-call lists enough to go from being flooded to barely ringing.

Ignoring unknown numbers isn’t feasible for everyone, however. For them, call blockers or apps are recommended.

Last modified April 5, 2018

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