Spam Calls: How They Work and How to Stop Them

The buzzing of your cell phone used to mean something. It was cause for excitement and expectation. In the seconds before picking up, your brain went a number of places. Was it your friend on the other end, inviting you out for an after-week drink, your significant other calling to gripe about work, or your mom calling to say she made too much lasagne and needs you to take some home? The possibilities were endless.

Then spam calling proliferated, as it had years ago with landline phones. Suddenly, an unknown number would appear – perhaps a number that looked familiar enough that it could be an acquaintance. You picked up out of an abundance of caution. After all, what if it was your doctor calling or a friend with a new phone?

Then the telltale second of silence, followed by a fuzzy, stilted voice warning you of an impending police investigation or congratulating you for winning a cruise. Spam calls are among the worst kinds of interruptions, but how do they work? And is there anything you can do about them?

How Spam Calls Work:

How Spam Calls Work

Before, spam callers were restricted to using an actual phone with a fixed number, making it easy to identify and block them. Now, spam callers use Voice-over IP (VoIP) to ‘spoof’ a phone number.

Spoofing is when scammers imitate phone numbers using VoIP, changing the number with each new call. This makes it incredibly difficult for receivers to identify and block spam numbers. Spoofing scammers will also make their number appear similar to yours, so you’re more inclined to pick up.

For many, this is an inconvenience. But, for some – like older adults who may not realize that the message they’re hearing is fake – it’s a pernicious, harmful, and predatory practice that takes advantage of those most vulnerable.

Here’s how to stop it. If you want to receive fewer spam calls, or perhaps help a loved one susceptible to these scams, here are three options for action.

The Complete Option: Antimalware for iOS

The best way to avoid these calls is to download the iOS security from Malwarebytes app. The Call Protection in their iOS security includes an advanced call blocker that identifies calls from a list of known scammers and also catches spoofing calls. As a bonus, you also get protection against malware, ad trackers, and sites containing ransomware, phishing scams, and other predatory threats.

The Manual Option: Block All Incoming Spam Numbers

You can block all incoming spam numbers, but this option is both tedious and – often – futile. It won’t deter all the spoofing calls, since scammers change numbers often, but it can make inroads against conventional scammers.

The Extreme Option: ‘Do Not Disturb’

Then there’s the extreme option: switching on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode on your iPhone. In your Settings, you’ll find a ‘Do Not Disturb’ section where you can silence calls and notifications. You’ll also find the option to ‘Allow Calls From’ where you can select either ‘Favorites’ or ‘All Contacts.’ Enabling either of these options will deter spam calls, including spoof calls, but it will also block calls from anyone not in your contacts. If your doctor calls with important results, you’re out of luck.

The MO of scammers has always been to attack vulnerabilities and work around existing evasion techniques. It was only a matter of time before they learned how to exploit cell phone users. If you want to rid your device of annoying spam calls or help a vulnerable loved one stay safe, follow the tips above.

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