If you live in an area with a sizable Chinese immigrant population, you might have gotten a robocall or two in Mandarin Chinese. Non-Chinese speakers may quickly hang up when they hear these calls, as they don’t understand a word that’s being said, but some of the receivers of these calls have been less fortunate. In March 2019, the FBI revealed that they have received over 350 complaints about Chinese robocalls, in which fraudsters pretend they are calling from the Chinese embassy. These robocalls have scammed people out of over $40 million.
According to the FBI, the average loss per victim has been $164,000. While the Chinese embassy has reported these scam calls to the Chinese police, the calls are difficult to track down because they could be made from anywhere in the world.
The use of call spoofing has made it even easier to fall for these scams because the caller ID displays a different number than the one that the call is actually being made from.
Even non Chinese businesses throughout the US and Canada have been receiving Chinese robocalls. RenewAlliance, a luxury skin care online retailer based in the greater Seattle area, reported receiving these calls several times a day this year, in addition to getting robocalls claiming to be from Marriott Hotels.
If your business or someone you know has been a victim of any type of robocalls there are several steps you can take to prevent them.
Here are three recommended solutions
1. Put your phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry
Signing up for the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry takes your phone number off of for-profit business call lists. It is illegal for telemarketers to call you if your number is on the list. That being said, scammers clearly don’t care about following the rule of law, so you might still get robocalls here and there, even if you’re on the list. It’s still good to get your name on the list, though, for additional protection from scam calls. To sign up, call 1-888-382-1222 from any phone you want on the list or go to the website donotcall.gov.
Note that businesses that you have purchased something from or made a payment to in the last 18 months are still allowed to call you, even if your number is in the registry. Charities, political organizations, and survey companies are allowed to call you as well.
2. Reject Anonymous Calls
Anonymous phone calls are those that come up as “Anonymous” on your caller ID. You may be able to block anonymous calls on your phone. Check with your phone company to see if they offer anonymous call rejection. You could also try entering *77 on your landline. Hang up once you hear three beeps and any anonymous calls will be rejected moving forward.
The four major carriers, Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, have services that identify, block, and filter suspected robocalls. They typically charge an additional fee for these services. Check with your carrier for details.
3. Use an App to Block Robocalls
If you use a smartphone, you can download an app that blocks robocalls. These apps identify callers and block calls coming from numbers that are on a crowd-sourced robocaller list. Some of the top call-blocking apps include Nomorobo and Truecaller.
What About Landlines?
Robocalls can be a major nuisance on landlines as well. The best way to combat them on landlines is to use a service like Nomorobo, which is the same as the service offered on smartphones. Nomorobo doesn’t work on old copper wire landlines but it works with VoIP phones. Today, most Americans have VoIP landlines. 11% of US homes still use copper wire landlines.
When a call is made to your phone, Nomorobo picks it up first and tries to determine if it is a robocaller. If it is, the phone doesn’t ring after the first time. Legitimate phone calls will go through as normal. You just have to remember not to pick up calls till after the first ring. Nomorobo is free to use.
You could also prevent robocalls from affecting your business line by using an interactive voice response (IVR) system. Also known as a phone tree, an IVR tree blocks robocalls because the robocalls cannot decipher the greeting or follow the instructions. This blocks 100% of robocalls coming through. The drawbacks are that IVR systems can be costly and complicated to set up.
Even after taking the above precautions, the occasional robocall might come through. If you happen to pick up the phone and hear a robocall, just hang up. Don’t follow any of the prompts, even if they say to press a number to stop the robocalls because this signals to scammers that your number is active and could increase the number of robocalls you get. It might go without saying, but the FTC advises people not to give out any personal information or wire funds to anyone who contacts you out of nowhere.