We’ve all experienced Robocalls or spam phone calls. Unfortunately, despite stringent legislation, these calls seem to be more common now than ever. With more people working from home or in hybrid settings and often using their cell phones for work, is it even possible to stop these annoying and unwanted calls? If so, how can you do it? Do you need special tools? Will it require professional help? At Ohio.net, our goal is to help you learn as much as possible about suspicious calls, spoofing, and more in violation of FCC regulations. Here’s what you need to know.
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What are Robocalls?
Oddly enough, robocalls are part of someone’s marketing plan. Robocalls dial-up random numbers with a message designed to elicit specific responses. The messages vary from one robocall to the next and may include various messages, including those listed below.
- “Congratulations! You’ve just won a free cruise!”
- “Your account has been hacked and you need to call this number for assistance.”
- “Your car warranty is about to expire, here’s what you need to do.”
- “I’m calling from your credit card company and there is a problem with your payment.”
These are computer programs, hence the “robo” of the robocall moniker, that have specific goals. One goal is to simply get someone to answer the phone so they can identify it as an active phone number. The other goal is to get you to perform an action, such as pressing a button or calling a number to respond. This is what is known as “phishing.” If the person responds, they have a “fish” on the line.
Because these are random dialers, often simply going through all the number sequences on a list, they call random home phone numbers, business phone numbers, and even medical centers. “These dialers do not know or care who picks up on the other end, only that there is a response to the call,” says Alex Desberg of Ohio.net. Businesses that have remote or hybrid employees using mobile devices for business needs are extra vulnerable to these types of calls. The sad truth is that they can happen to any business and often result in a colossal waste of time for your team and can put you on thousands of lists for spam, spoofing, and countless other suspicious calls.
What are Spoof Calls?
Spoof calls are different from robocalls. Some believe they are slightly more sinister as they spoof the numbers of legitimate people or businesses. This increases the likelihood that you’ll answer, especially if it’s a business or name you may be familiar with. Either way, both types of calls are illegal and problematic for businesses.
What are the Risks of Robocalls?
The first, and most obvious risk, from a business perspective, is wasted time. When members of your team are inundated with robocalls, they’re not focused on the tasks at hand. And it’s through no fault of their own. There’s also the need to determine whether the calls are legitimate or not, which wastes even more time.
The big risk for businesses, though, is that by complying with what the program requests, members of your team could be placing customer information or business finances at risk, exposing the business to potential extortion, or more. Education is one way for businesses to avoid this specific problem. You want to educate your team about which calls to avoid answering when to be suspicious, and what information, if any, is acceptable to give out.
For individuals, the risks are similar. Once you’ve shown that you’ll answer robocalls, your phone number is distributed to even more lists and the risks grow that you’ll eventually comply with actions that could expose your private or financial information, steal money from your accounts, or affect you negatively in other ways.
How Can I Prevent or Block Unwanted Robo or Spoof Calls?
There are several steps businesses can take to reduce the number of unwanted robocalls or spoof calls you receive. One of the first things is to place your business phone numbers on the national Do Not Call list. While this will not eliminate the illegal robocalls, it can reduce the number of calls.
Additionally, you can contact your phone carrier to address numbers that call you consistently and blocking those specific numbers so the calls do not go through.
If you or your employees are using mobile phones, you can encourage the use of apps to block suspected SPAM calls, robocalls, spoofing, etc. While no one method is perfect, the more layers of protection you have in place around your business, the better protection you ultimately have.
Some phone carriers offer specific tricks you can use to address robocalls and spam. For instance, Some Carriers allow you to dial *codes after receiving a spam call to block calls from that number from getting through again. While it will not eliminate the first call from that number, it will eliminate future calls.
At Ohio.net, we’ve addressed the problem by allowing businesses the option of playing a “preamble”. This is a brief message you can play notifying callers that you would love to speak with them and asking that they press a button to speak to a person. This helps to eliminate the number of robocalls getting through, as these systems aren’t listening to the message and responding.
Many of the apps available to help address robocalls and spam are free to use. However, their effectiveness isn’t exactly worth writing home about. Some phone carriers charge a fee for the service, while others provide essential services like those free of charge. Work with your carrier to explore your options.
Of course, the big question is this: can phone companies stop robocalls? If only it were that simple. There is legislation in place that has placed 100 percent of the burden on phone companies to address the problem. One method that is gaining traction is referred to as shaken and stirred, or the STIR/SHAKEN mandate. It is a system of protocols that provides a sort of caller authentication system indicating that the caller is who the caller ID reports it to be. This helps to reduce the number of spoofed calls but does little to address standard robocalls. The FCC required the STIR/SHAKEN protocols to be implemented by June 30, 2021.
Still not sure what the right move is for you to address the proliferation of robocalls, and other unwanted phone calls on your business phone lines? Contact your phone service provider or Ohio.net today to learn ways we can help.