Friday night as I sat down to dinner, my phone rang.
It was not a number I recognized, so I didn’t answer it.
Soon, a voicemail icon appeared, alerting me this strange number had left a message.
Then, I got another call. And another. And another.
Within two hours, I had received 17 phone calls, mostly from strange numbers in Wyoming.
They all left voicemails, where a robotic voice told me my iCloud had been compromised and I needed to call Apple Support.
It was a scam.
First of all, Apple Support isn’t going to contact anyone like that. Second, I don’t use iCloud.
The calls were infuriating. And I wasn’t the only one getting them.
When I went to social media to complain — isn’t that the point of social media these days? — friends related they, too, had been harassed by these calls.
The Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin issued a consumer alert at the end of September, warning that there had been an uptick in these robocalls.
Each phone number was just a little different from the one before. Blocking didn’t seem to be working very well.
A friend suggested I answer and try to sell them the car warranty that I keep getting calls for. But just answering the call can make it more likely you’ll get more of these calls.
Phone scams are big business, and the reason scammers use them is because they work. In 2018, scammers cost Americans $10.5 billion.
App Truecaller said people received an average of 47 scam calls per month in 2018. I feel like that number has gone up this year. I get four or five per day. If it’s not the car warranty folks, its the Social Security folks or the Medicare advisors. We’re going into open enrollment season, so expect the health insurance scams to pick up.
Their goal is to get personal information from you — like your birthdate or Social Security number or banking information — or to trick you into sending them money, especially with gift cards.
Folks, there is no government agency that will accept payment for anything by gift card.
The BBB recommends screening calls with an answering machine, if the calls are coming to a land line, or get call blocking. Cell phones offer apps that can block robocalls. Some are free. Some cost a little. Check the reviews from users to make sure you get a good app.
But even with these tools, calls may slip through.
Tell them nothing. Give them nothing. Hang up.
You can also report these calls to the Federal Trade Commission, and register your phone on the Do Not Call List.