Scammers are becoming so tricky that almost anyone might fall into their traps. People with cognitive limitations or dementia are especially at risk of losing significant amounts of money to the scammers. This article identifies six call blocking features that can help you and your loved ones stay connected safely.
Everyone I talk to says they frequently receive phone calls from scammers, and most have a friend or family member that has been victimized by these criminals.
Last week, yet another friend of mine reported that scammers had tricked her dad into giving out sensitive information. Again.
She contacted me for some advice about better protecting her dad from the crooks. This article is part of my response to that friend.
Ironically, the scammer claimed to be from a credit card company’s anti-fraud department. They said they were calling to verify whether the purchase of an expensive new iPhone on their credit card in a faraway state was legitimate.
Calls like this can trip up anyone. People who get tricked by scammers should be angry at the criminals, not themselves.
Call Blocking is the Best Defense Against Scammers
So how can we protect ourselves and our at-risk loved ones from these scams? Especially for loved ones dealing with dementia, it is not enough to tell them not to give sensitive information to callers.
Call blocking technologies are available that can substantially reduce the likelihood of losing money to criminals. These technologies also reduce or eliminate the annoying robocalls that plague our phones so that when the phone does ring, it is likely to be someone you actually want to talk to.
Many companies offer call blocking apps for smartphones. The Federal Trade Commission’s most recent guidance for consumers acknowledges the existence and utility of these call blocking and call labeling applications.
PC Magazine published a good article about the robocall and scam caller problem. It covers the iPhone’s built-in options for restricting calls and briefly describes several well-regarded call blocker apps.
I did some preliminary testing of a few of these apps but not an in-depth evaluation and comparison. Eventually, I plan to create a buyer’s guide for call blocking apps. Until then, I have formulated a list of the key features that make an app especially useful for family caregivers and their loved ones, enabling them to stay connected safely.
Six Call Blocking Features that Help You Stay Connected Safely
Here are the key features I look for in a call blocking app as a family caregiver. Many of these apps have a free version, but you generally need to upgrade to the paid version to enable some of these features.
1. The ability to block phone calls and text messages. Both calls and texts are common attack vectors for scammers. Ideally, the app has an option that uses your contact list to allow only contacts to ring your phone or send texts to the phone. This is especially important if the phone user is at risk due to dementia.
2. The ability to completely block known scammers rather than sending them to voicemail. As noted in the PC Magazine article, some apps go beyond blocking to actively engage scammers in simulated calls. This keeps the scammer on the line as long as possible, thus reducing the number of potential victims the scammer can get to that day.
3. The ability to notify a device other than the loved one’s phone of new voicemail messages. This way, the family caregiver knows there is a new voicemail to review.
4. The ability for a family caregiver to check and delete voicemail messages from a device other than the loved one’s phone, such as by logging into the account via a web browser. This way, the caregiver can listen to, and act on, voicemails as necessary. This is useful for day-to-day communications management and protecting loved ones from scammers.
The opportunity to manage voicemail remotely is important because some scammers are purposefully skipping the phone call and going straight to voicemail. Thus, they can quickly push recorded voicemail messages out, and they don’t have to hire as many people. Apparently, even the crooks are having trouble finding enough workers.
Another reason some scammers are going straight to voicemail is that doing so may allow them to skirt laws restricting certain types of phone calls. They argue that the laws don’t apply to them because they are not ringing anyone’s phone.
5. The ability for a family caregiver to remotely review call logs, both inbound and outbound, from a device other than the loved one’s phone. This capability is helpful for day-to-day communications management and minimizing losses to scammers.
Outbound calls to people not on the contact list or to financial institutions may be a response to a scammer that reached the loved one by some means other than a phone call. Being able to remotely review call logs enables caregivers to know about and act on this information.
6. The ability to manage contacts from a device other than the loved one’s phone. This way, the caregiver can add, delete, or update contacts anytime from anywhere.
I hope you find this article helpful in protecting yourself and your loved ones from scammers and annoying robocalls.
Ken Clipperton is the founder of Caregiver Technology Solutions, which helps family caregivers and their loved ones stay connected safely at home and when transitioning to new living situations. Ken has more than 25 years leadership experience implementing and managing IT and telecommunications systems in higher education, as well as personal experience helping his parents through multiple transitions. The technologies Ken implemented enabled them to avoid isolation and fraud. He wants to help other families experience those same benefits. www.caregivertechnologysolutions.com