Friday, October 12, 2018

Combating Spam Calls

Home in Holiday / Tarpon Springs area, FL

Spam Calls

The FCC’s website says, “Unwanted calls – including illegal and spoofed robocalls - are the FCC's top consumer complaint and our top consumer protection priority.”  I have  been following the “Robocall Task Force” for a few years now, and the FCC has instituted the following to help stop these calls:

  • Issuing hundreds of millions of dollars in enforcement actions against illegal robocallers {spam callers}.
  • Allowing phone companies to block certain types of calls that are likely to be unlawful before they even reach consumers.
  • Empowering consumers to use call blocking or labeling services for calls to their telephone number.
  • Working to develop ways that phone companies can authenticate Caller ID to reduce illegal spoofing.
  • Making our complaint data available to enable better call blocking and labeling solutions.

However, the number of spam calls, as I call them, are up this year over last…and last year 30.5 billion spam calls were made in 2017, up from the previous record of 29.3 billion in 2016.  The number one way to stop these calls is by not answering calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately…but your number will certainly be fed into a “good phone number” database that these type of calls are searching for.

Some phones, like the Apple Phone, have a way to block bad calls immediately after they call you…that must be nice.  Verizon, our carrier, will allow you to block up to three, yes only 3, phone numbers for up to 3 months…and you can re-enter the numbers over and over and over…but that is not very good as far as stop spam calls, although I have used it to stop a few very persistent spam callers.  And Smart Phones can use phone apps which will also block calls…some of the better ones will block calls that many other people using the same app are blocking…these are called black lists.  But, if you have a dumb phone, as we choose to use, you are pretty much out of luck…but there is one way you can survive…

Zspam              Zspam

What Marcia and I do is we add all spam calls to our contact list.  We name the contact as “Zspam#”, with the number getting larger and larger.  We start with the letter “Z” so that they will always show up at the end of our contact list, which we can easily get to by going backwards instead of forwards when we browse through our contacts.  Each contact can hold 5 phone numbers.  And this is the important part…we set each of these spams as a “NO RING”…so WHEN they call a second time, and most of the time they will, the phone will just let out one short yet low pitched “beep” after the call is not answered.  When that happens, we don’t feel pressed to have to answer or not answer the phone…we already know it is spam.  However, sometimes they will leave a message…and that does make a noise…but most of the time they don’t.


Then on Monday ALL HELL broke loose.  At 9:18 am my phone goes off.  I don’t know them, I don’t answer, but they leave a message.  “Hi Pam, this is Jason from Quicken Loans needing to talk to you about the loan application you filled out, please call me at….”.  Of course, I add this to my spam list.  By noon I had 15 of these type of calls.  By the end of Thursday, I had 90…yes 90 of these spam calls.  Today, I had to do something about it.

Google Phone Number Search

I had started putting the numbers into Google, and never did the number give the company name, even when the company left a message.  Messages revealed that the companies were Ameritrade, Quicken Loans, Reality Debt Solutions, Secure Rights, LoanDepot, etc.  So this morning I called Quicken Loans from the toll free number they advertise in google.  I tell the person my situation, give her the phone number they called from, and the toll free number they told me to call back on, but she did not recognize either phone number…and told me it may be a fraud.  So I called the toll free number they left in the message, and got transferred to Kim.  She said, “If you give me your phone number I will look it up.”  I was calling on our Skruffy Phone, the pay by the minute phone that we put on Skruffy’s back when I leave the Condo so if Marcia falls down, Skruffy will run over to her, and she has instant access to a phone.  I also dialed *67 before I put in the phone number, so they won’t have access to Skruffy’s Phone number.  I kept telling Kim that unless I knew for sure that I was talking to Quicken Loans, I was not going to give out any of my information.  I finally got her direct line, which she said the last five digits is her extension number.  I then called the Quicken number found in Google, put in her extension, and sure enough, it was her.  I gave her my phone number…and five hours later, no more spam calls.  I also did the same for Ameritrade Mortgage, Reality Debt Solutions, etc. 

Spam Database

Now to get all this done, I first made a database of the various phone numbers that I was called from, then I sorted it.  Next I entered the numbers from each of the 90 phone calls that came in the past four days, and then I sorted that list.  Those numbers which called back repeatedly, I called on the Skruffy Phone with *67 at the start, and either the number was not recognized as a good number, they did not answer, or most of the time, I got the name of the company that called.  I then tried to find a good number in Google for that company, and proceeded to do the same thing I did with Quicken.  Twice the only way I could communicate was through a online submission from their website…and of course, they demand a name, phone number and email address.  Well, I used Pam’s name, I used the phone number they called me from, and used as the required email address.  In the comments area I explained the situation, told them to stop calling (gave my real phone number) and informed them that if I get another call from them, the FCC would be notified (there is a online way to tell the FCC that I have used before).

The interesting this is that many of the calls came from the 727 prefix, which is our prefix.  I asked the lady at Quicken how this is done, and she said that they have phones numbers all over the country that they can use.  People are more likely to answer a call from their own prefix than from a 800 number, or a prefix from some major city far away.  She said all their phone representatives are there in Michigan where she was.  One thing I had read about a year ago is that the spam callers, those who are calling without you initiating the phone request (or in my case, where someone gave the wrong number) … that these spam callers are also using local prefixes.  I have been collecting these Zspam numbers for a couple of years now, with over 400 phone numbers now.  In the first 50, only 5 had the 727 prefix.  In the last 50, 35 had the 727 prefix.  Talking to our neighbor a few weeks ago she said that she only answers the local calls…I think I have her convinced to not answer anything she does not know…if it is someone she needs to talk to, they will leave a message.


What to do now?   Time to go find PAM …


  1. I have quit answering any call I don’t recognize even those with Utah prefixes. I feel that if it’s someone I want to talk to, they will leave a message.

    1. Exactly...only way to stop spam until they stop it through technology is to not give them an audience by answering.

  2. I get calls every day from MY area code, even using the first three numbers of MY phone. I can block them, but the numbers are actually local people's phone numbers. I've called them back and "Joe" answers, who says he never called me. Almost all of them are for repayment of college loans ... robot calls. I have no clue how to stop it.

    1. By next year, I hope, the technology will be there where when someone makes a phone call, before it goes through, the phone company will send a feeler to the number that the call originates from (like Joe in your example above) and if Joe's phone does not say "yes, I am calling Nancy's phone" then the call won't go through. THAT will stop the spoofing of numbers. Heard Apple took out a patent last week for doing that with their phones....

  3. Nope I don't answer phone numbers I don't know & don't play messages left. I delete them.

    1. BTW I just read news indicating the Republican party is selling their data base list of phone numbers and addresses to anyone interested. So get ready for more calls if you're on that voting list.

    2. I register as a Independent, which HERE in Florida does not allow me to vote in the Primary unless there is an Independent candidate. However, we are gone during primary season, and if it was that important, I would change my registration. However, I don't recall giving anyone my phone number when I registered...but we are being FLOODED with mail both at the condo and the PO Box. Not so much on TV because we tend to watch MeTV and GRIT (except for Blue Bloods and Last Man Standing). In fact, I contacted our Congressman, Gus Bilarakis, but I gave him the Skruffy Phone number and my alternate email address. :)


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