How to Avoid Scam Calls on Android and iOS

Use Should I answer to Avoid Scam CallsIt’s out of control.  We all get a few scam calls daily.  How do these guys get away with it?

No.  I don’t want a free cruise to the Bahamas.  No.  I don’t need to consolidate my credit cards.  No.  I don’t own a timeshare.  No.  My family member doesn’t need monetary assistance.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to work in one of these call centers where these calls originate.  I’m picturing a dimly lit room with flies buzzing around a slow-moving ceiling fan.  These guys are hung up on, cursed at and degraded hundreds of times each day.

A new one that’s worth a mention is known as the Area Code Scam.  This one involves a call coming in from an unfamiliar area code.  There’s nobody on the other end of the call.  Out of curiosity, you call the number back.  It’s a premium number residing in the Caribbean and you’re getting charged for it.

Here in New Jersey, everyone used to have a 201 or 609 area code.  Now there are seven area codes.  Can’t remember them all and the ones from the Caribbean look similar.  If the number isn’t familiar, don’t call it back.  They will leave a message if it’s important.  And for the record, the Caribbean area codes as of this writing are 242 (Bahamas), 441 (Bermuda), 784 (St. Vincent and Grenadines), 246 (Barbados), 473 (Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique), 809, 829, and 849 (Dominican Republic).  Keep this list on hand to stay alerted to the Area Code Scam.

Fortunately, there are applications available to help avoid scam calls.  Android has the most robust apps versus iOS.  That’s because of the more open nature of the operating system.  Unlike iOS, Android allows third-party applications to replace basic functionality on their phones.  This is where replacement dialers help.  After being granted the necessary permissions, these applications intercept and block unwanted calls.  A constantly updated database of phone numbers associated with scam calls is checked and if there’s a match, the application intercepts the call and you never hear the ring.

I checked a few of these applications out and decided on an application called Should I Answer?  This app only works on an Android phone.  An internal database is updated by their users and you rate the calls as they come in.  Once enough negative reviews have been posted for a phone number, it’s marked as spam and can be rejected.  If you receive a call from a number that isn’t marked as spam yet, you can rate it within the app so others can benefit.  You can have the app do a quick a pickup and immediate hang up to avoid them getting to voicemail or can simply let it keep ringing in which case they could get to your voicemail.

Now the app isn’t perfect.  I recently received  a call from DHL to request import information.  The phone number was listed as spam within the app and it was rejected.  When I called DHL a few days later to ask what the delay was, they said that my phone marked their number as spam so they couldn’t call me and the package was sitting somewhere waiting for my call.

A screen shot of a blocked call from the Should I Answer app accompanies this article.  The phone number is blocked out but you can see there are 14 negative reviews of this phone number.  This is what is seen when everything comes together to avoid a scam call.

So how about an app if using an Apple iPhone?  Apple has a tighter lock on their iOS operating system versus Android so no alternative dialer is available.  However with iOS 10, Apple recognized the need for this type of function, so apps such as Hiya have emerged and provide somewhat similar functionality to the previously discussed app.  Install one of these apps, turn your iPhone settings to activate Call Blocking and identification, and you are on your way to better identification of scam calls.