PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Your phone could be ringing right now with a number you don’t know. Or a number that maybe looks a little familiar.
But when you answer the phone, it’s someone wanting to sell you something — or claiming you owe money, or demanding a fee you’re not familiar with.
More of them will be calling during the holiday season, when giving and stress are abundant and time is not.
The key, the Better Business Bureau’s Paula Fleming said, is to ignore those annoying calls.
The robocalls — dialed by computers, possibly at random, until a human being answers — are easier and cheaper than ever through internet-powered phone systems and harder than ever for consumers to spot because of “spoofing.”
“It looks like it’s a local number, so you’re more apt to pick up. In fact, they are just ‘spoofing’ a lookalike number,” Fleming said. “They know where you reside, so it might be a 508, a 401, when it is not, in fact, local.”
The crooks blast and blast and blast and blast, their computers going down the list, and when they hook a person, they’ll try to get your personal information.
Bogus companies may claim to lower your utility bills, offer you discount vacation packages or pretend to be IRS agents or law enforcement personnel.
“They use threatening tactics — downright rude — They’ll say if you don’t provide the information, someone is going to come and arrest you,” Fleming said.
Pretending to be from the IRS is a frequent ploy, Fleming added.
“Using [the government’s] name to instill fear in the person on the other end. You have to be extra cautious because there is an increase in these around the holiday season,” she said.
What can you do if you get one of these calls?
Again, your best bet is ignoring the call. When you don’t recognize the number, let it go to voicemail. Don’t try to bait the person on the other end, Fleming said.
If you do pick up, ignore any recorded prompts that direct you to press any keys to be taken off their calling list. If you do press a key, it tells crooks you have an active number, which they can keep calling, or sell to others.
Fleming said it’s best to just hang up.
Then, Fleming said to make sure your telephone number is registered with the federal Do Not Call registry. While crooks aren’t going to follow the do-not-call law, it will help for you to be on the list.
You can call (888) 382-1222 to get on the government’s official Do Not Call list, or register online at donotcall.gov.