Can you believe that the Do-Not-Call registry is 14 years old? That's the service that lets you block unwanted phone calls from solicitors who have a nasty way of calling when you're eating supper.
You know how it works. You register your phone numbers with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to block unwanted calls.
The good news is that many people have registered their phone numbers. In fact, 216 million phone numbers were on the registry in 2016 - an all-time record.
The truth is, scammers and crooks don't care about the FTC or the do-not-call registry. Although many companies do comply, many don't, especially the ones that bombard you with robocalls.
Unfortunately, once a scammer calls you and you answer the phone, you're on a fast track to getting tricked and scared into handing over money. That's the renewed warning the Better Business Bureau wants you to heed.
You may not think you'd fall victim to these scams. But people like you do all the time. Scammers are often professionals who are trained to make these calls. They'll scream at you, for instance, saying you'll go to jail if you don't pay the IRS.
Bonus: Is your phone registered? Check here: Do-Not-Call registry or call 1-888-382-1222. It's FREE to register.
In the old days of the do-not-call registry, it was easy for the FTC to block people soliciting your business, often aggressively. There were relatively few people making these calls.
There were offices filled with callers scattered around the country. Each caller would pick up a phone, dial your number and talk to you about a charity, a "free trip" you won, a great deal on a timeshare or something similar.
Humans get tired and can only make a finite number of phone calls. Today, computers automatically dial phone numbers. Computers never get tired, of course, and they can literally make thousands of telephone calls in one day.
Tip in a Tip: How to stop robocalls and telemarketing calls for good
Three tips to reduce unwanted phone calls
If you're getting a lot of robocalls or even old-fashioned calls from real people soliciting your business, you can drastically reduce the number of scams you fall for. These tips from the BBB are easy to follow.
Please share this information with your family. It's easy to forget to register all your phone numbers to the do-not-call registry. Plus, many younger people in your family may have never heard of it.
1. Do not answer the phone
Fortunately, most home phones and just about every cellphone have caller ID. You can see who's calling you before you answer.
If you do not recognize the phone number or it says "private number," don't answer. If it's a robocall or scammer or just someone you don't want to talk to, let them leave you a voicemail message.
Here is what you must know: These days, robocalls and scammers can disguise themselves behind fake phone numbers. You might see a caller ID that says it's coming from your city, for instance, but with the wrong area code.
2. Apps that block robocalls
Technology is making it easy for scammers to make millions of robocalls every month. The flip side is that technology has also helped to block unwanted phone calls.
Try a FREE app like Truecaller. When you get a call coming in, copy-and-paste the number into Truecaller.
It says it tracks 3 billion phone numbers. It can tell you if the number is coming from a robocaller and it lets you block phone numbers.
3. Call your cellphone provider
It's in the best interest of your cellphone company to keep you happy. If you're getting bombarded with unwanted phone calls, you might switch providers, right?
We've told you before that the major cellphone companies have been working on solutions to block scammers and other unwanted calls. Here's what you can do now.
Call your cellphone company. Ask them: Do you have an app to block robocalls? They might have a solution for you. For instance, T-Mobile offers two free solutions.
One is Scam ID, which alerts you when a known scammer is calling you. Scam Block, when activated, blocks all known scammers from calling you.
Now, those sound like helpful solutions to keep robocalls and scammers under control. Of course, you still need to be vigilant!