Bamboozled February 4, 2016: How to stop robocalls and other pesky scams too

Scammers are still at it.

Whether they use the telephone, the mail or email, they’re all after the same thing: your money and your private information.

Bamboozled has received so many reports about these annoying messages lately that we figured it’s time to remind consumers what they can do to get rid of them. Or, at least, get rid of some of them.

Let’s start with your telephone.

Consumers say they get lots of spam calls even though they’re on the National Do Not Call list.

That’s because scammers don’t care much about following the Do Not Call rules.

Reader Kelly McKinney-Brakewood shared how busy her phone has been recently. She said she received not just one, but three calls from someone identifying himself as “Dennis Gray.”

Each call was from a different phone number, McKinney-Brakewood said, and each warned her of an “enforcement action executed by the U.S. Treasury.”

“Ignoring this will be an intentional attempt to avoid initial appearance before a magistrate judge or the grand jury for a federal criminal offense,” the caller said.

McKinney-Brakewood didn’t fall for it.

“I am always amazed — although I shouldn’t be — at the audacity of some of these scams,” she said. “They are so outlandish that I can’t believe people would believe them, but unfortunately, I know some do.”

McKinney-Brakewood said she called the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about a year ago to complain about unsolicited calls despite the Do Not Call list, and the agency said it was a major problem and it even received such calls on its general number.

Another Bamboozled reader, Mary, 71, who asked that we withhold her last name, says she’s received a whole bunch of spam calls recently.

On just one day last week, she received three robocalls.

“…from David Gregg of the U.S. Treasury Bureau of Detention or some such place alerting me to the fact that if I ignored them, I was subject to pending criminal problems, another credit card debt call and one about problems with my computer,” Mary said. “Fortunately the IRS has stopped calling me.”

Even though it may not help with scam calls, all consumers should sign up for the Do Not Call list anyway. You can also put your cell phone on the list.

Next, talk to your carrier. Most phone companies offer some kind of call blocking feature that may help with the spam calls you receive.

Then, be sure to file complaints with the FTC and the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).

There’s another tool you can use. It was created when the FTC encouraged people to come up with new technologies to fight robocalls.

The winner of one contest was a free service called Nomorobo (No More Robocalls).

Many Bamboozled readers have reported success with the program, which allows you to sign up your number and the service detects computer-generated calls. Unfortunately, the service doesn’t work with all carriers.

Still, give it a try.

For the record, no government agency will reach out to you by phone the first time. Not the IRS or the Treasury, and not because you missed jury duty, or because you’ve won a free grant.

If you receive a call and you think it could be legit, hang up and call the agency directly for confirmation. We’re willing to bet the call will be a fake 99.99 percent of the time, or more.

THOSE ANNOYING EMAILS

Unwanted emails are another fact of life these days.

Whether it’s the Nigerian prince (those are still out there), the lottery or the inheritance you need to capture from overseas, scammers keep trying.

And yes, they’re still using the IRS scam, one Bamboozled reader, Arthur, said in an email.

He shared the communication, which used the IRS logo and said:

“Kindly update your filling details for the year 2015 due to error and complains that we are having,” it said, then giving a hyperlink to a site that surely isn’t run by the IRS. “We appreciate you sparing the time to learn about our tax refunds. It’s one extra way for Income tax department to make your tax payment experience better.”

Bollocks.

There is no one way to completely eliminate spam email, so you need to be a little creative and have a lot of patience.

Start by investigating what kind of anti-spam, blocking or junk mail capabilities are offered by your email service, and use them.

Then be sure to “unsubscribe” to whatever emails you no longer want. The scammers won’t offer an “unsubscribe” button, but legitimate (and sometimes annoying) companies will. Yes, it takes time, but it’s worth it.

If that doesn’t stop enough of the fakes, consider having two email addresses. Use one with your friends, family and business associates, and use the second one only for online business, shopping, website sign-ups and the like.

THOSE ANNOYING MAILINGS

Scammers and legitimate businesses alike use traditional snail mail to reach consumers. There are several ways you can cut out the junk.

Start with a site called OptOutPrescreen. This is an opt-out service offered by the credit bureaus. It’s one way to limit the offers you receive from insurance and credit companies.

Next, try the Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS). You can use this to opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies.

If you’re tired of catalogs and coupons, try Catalog Choice. After you create a free account, you can enter the unwanted catalogs you receive and opt out.

Finally, take a page from some Bamboozed readers who like to make sure junk mailers pay for the annoyance with their wallets.

If the mailing you receive says “return service requested,” “forwarding service requested,” “address service requested,” or “change service requested,” you can send it back to the sender. Just mark the package or envelope “return to sender” and it will go back to the sender — which may have to pay for the return mailing costs.

Small satisfactions, yes, but it’s something.

Do you have some other resources to cut back on unwanted calls, emails or mail? Share them in the comments section below so we can all benefit.

Have you been Bamboozled? Reach Karin Price Mueller at Bamboozled@NJAdvanceMedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @KPMueller. Find Bamboozled on Facebook. Mueller is also the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Stay informed and sign up for NJMoneyHelp.com’s weekly e-newsletter.

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