Getting a robocall from a telemarketing agency is deemed normal these days. But hey! is it really normal or even legal? Telemarketing isn’t illegal but is definitely annoying. When was the last time did you got a call from a telemarketer? Possibly, today, a few hours ago or maybe a few minutes ago. But how do robocallers get your phone number?
According to a report, around 26.3 billion robocalls were made to the US-registered phone numbers last year. The month of August alone saw 4.2 billion robocalls. The numbers are an eye-opener. A robocall blocking app Hiya revealed that the volumes are increasing month-on-month and will continue to see record highs year after year.
Last year, 2019, more than 44% of the calls you answered were robocalls. Will the calls this year be a similar waste of time?
Have you ever wondered how robocallers get your phone number?
Through a mobile carrier.
The first and foremost way a robocaller can get hands-on your phone number is through a mobile carrier directly. Mobile carriers have allegedly involved in selling location data along with other details like numbers and addresses of their customers to third-party companies.
No matter which mobile service provider you are associated with — the chances of a data leak is estimated to be high. Some were reported to be involved in selling location data to third-party agencies for their vested interests, including Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.
Terms of Service dialog box.
Remember you clicked on ‘I agree’ when prompted to read Terms of Service, exactly where the game begins. Nobody bothers to read the terms even when you know that you might end up compromising your privacy. Apple’s Terms of Service document contains more than 20k words. No wonder users skip reading it and instantly accept terms.
This blind acceptance of terms mentioned in the document leads to data sharing wherein data can be your phone number, address, location, gender, age or anything you unwittingly provide.
Data accumulating firms.
There are companies working in the backdrop dedicatedly for the collection of data. They collect user’s information from social media websites, public forums, comment boxes and other freely available websites to build a comprehensive user profile. The collected data is then stored in a streamlined fashion based on age, location and more to sell out to businesses across the globe.
Credit reporting companies.
Companies like Equifax, Experian and TransUnion offer services like fraud prevention and credit monitoring. These companies aggregate data from millions of individuals and businesses about their spending, debt and more financials.
The data, thus collected, is sold to insurance and loan providers, banks, credit card companies and even employers who intend to do background checks on new hires.
Contests and competitions.
How often you end up filling up a registration form at a contest in expectation of winning a brand new car or a new smartphone or winning a five-star hotel stay deal? Contests like such lure people to sign up and provide details like phone numbers, addresses, names, etc.
Entertaining such ads on the web or offline (say in a shopping mall) can result in never-ending robocalls. Ensure to go through Terms of Service. Also, don’t forget to inquire about the company’s authenticity hosting such a contest or competition.
Another profound way of robocallers getting hands on your phone number is through charity functions. It has been found that charities share donor’s personal information with other likewise foundations or even sell details to third-party telemarketing firms.
Calling an emergency service like 800, 900 or 888 can also get your details in the hands of telemarketers. The regulating body uses ANI (Automatic Number Identification) to identify and store your number in their database. It is completely legal and authorized by the Federal Communications Commission.
The phone numbers, thus collected, serve basis for complete information collection including name, address, age and more. The data is then sold to third-party institutions dealing in telemarketing services.
How to avoid robocallers?
There is very little that you can do to avoid robocallers completely. However, doing your bit can make a difference.
Here’s what you can do.
– Register for a “Do Not Call List.”
Doing this will only help you bypass sales calls but calls like political, informational, surveys, charitable and debt collection will still ring.
– Know what your voter registration distribution policy says.
As per rules, political parties cannot call cellphones without prior permission and consent, however, this does not apply to landlines. Different states have different rules about how a voter’s information will be used by the political party.
Some states even allow voters to opt-out of sharing phone numbers from the voter registration lists shared with the political parties. Also, there are several schemes in place that help keep voter information safe and confidential.
– Do not fall for lucrative offers.
Stay updated and research proactively before entering into a contest or sweepstake. Regardless of what’s on offer, do not participate especially when you know that your privacy is at stake. Be practical, how often does one win a car or lottery?
– Do not put out contact details on public platforms.
It is advised to not share your phone number anywhere on the Internet – on any public platform, forum or social media. Data aggregators, while working behind the scenes, collect information available on public domains to sell it all to a telemarketing company.
– Get an alternate number.
This will help you keep your primary and personal contact safe. Even though you end up signing up for a contest or a service, you won’t have to deal with telemarketing calls on your personal number.
– Robocall blocker.
With a robocall blocker, you can stop incoming calls from unknown callers. You can ask unknown callers to send you a whitelist request. You can create a whitelist for your circle so that their call doesn’t get dropped.
There are plenty of options available in the market, explore a bit to find the best fit.