The Phone Rings…

In the past, you would just answer the phone, believing it was likely someone you knew. In 2022, it is much more likely that the caller is a pre-recorded message trying to sell you something, or worse yet, trying to steal your personal information.

By Catherine Blinder

In the past, you would just answer the phone, believing it was likely someone you knew. In 2022, it is much more likely that the caller is a pre-recorded message trying to sell you something, or worse yet, trying to steal your personal information. 

The phone has become an annoyance, rather than a way to communicate with loved ones and friends.

What can you do? The first thing to know is that, sadly, scammers have countless technological resources at hand to take advantage of us, as well as constant and unfettered access to phone numbers bought and sold. We can take precautions, but only the phone service providers have the power to stop them from infringing on our privacy and attempting to steal our information. Many service providers are working on solutions, but the international scammers are constantly changing their tactics.

If someone calls you out of the blue and asks you to hand over personal information, wire money or pay with a gift card, it’s a scam. It is always a scam. Hang up immediately. If they say there are the IRS or Social Security or offer a special warranty, they are scammers. Hang up.

The National Do Not Call Registry has been around for 18 years, and more than 244 million people have signed up for it. The Registry was designed to stop sales calls from legitimate companies. Scammers don’t care if you’re on the Registry. The FTC does not and cannot block calls. Even though the Registry can’t stop all of the unwanted calls you’re getting, being on the Registry could reduce the number of calls you get and make it easier for you to spot scam calls.

There are two types of illegal calls – robocalls, which are prerecorded, and live calls. The overwhelming majority of calls reported were robocalls – 68 percent.  

A few types of robocalls are allowed under FTC rules without your permission. Below are some examples.

  • Messages that are purely informational, such as your flight being canceled, a reminder about an appointment, a pharmacy reminding you of medications waiting, or someone letting you know about a delayed school or business opening.
  • Debt collection calls. A business contacting you to collect a debt can use robocalls to reach you. But if they try to sell you services to lower your debt, it is most likely a scam.
  • Political calls.
  • Messages from charities. Legitimate charities are allowed to make these calls themselves, but if a charity hires someone to make robocalls, that call is illegal.  A message giving you an option to stop these calls must be included. 

There are ways to protect yourself – call-labeling and call-blocking. The call-blocking or call-labeling option you choose will depend on whether you’re getting calls on a cell phone, traditional landline, or home phone that makes calls over the internet (VoIP).

Call-labeling shows “spam” or “scam likely” on your phone’s screen for incoming calls. You can find these apps easily online.

Call blocking is technology or a device that can prevent many of the unwanted calls before they reach you. Be aware, though, that call-blocking services or apps could block some legitimate calls.

(Check out apps listed at a website for the U.S. wireless communications industry.)

These apps may let you:

  • block calls based on the geographic location or area code 
  • let you create lists of numbers to block, or lists of numbers to let through
  • send a prewritten text message to the caller

Some apps access your contacts list. The app’s privacy policy should explain how it obtains and uses your information. Make sure you read the policy.

Check out what your phone provider offers by looking at their website or calling customer service. There may be services that are free of charge or that come with your plan. 

Most cell phones come with settings that allow you block calls from specific numbers, though there might be a limit to how many numbers you can block. 

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol, and it simply means that your phone makes calls over the internet. If you get your phone service through a cable company, or use a phone/internet/cable bundle, you probably have VoIP service.

Some internet-based services and phone apps require all calls to be routed through their service, where they are instantly analyzed. 

If you use a traditional landline that doesn’t utilize the internet (VoIP), you can buy and install a call-blocking device, normally a small box you attach to your phone. Speak to your phone provider to understand the best application for you. For more information on call blocking apps, see

Call blocking can help, but some robocalls might still get through. If you get an illegal robocall, hang up; don’t press a number, as that could lead to more robocalls. 

Mobile phones are a fact of modern life, and robocalls are as well, but you can take precautions to lessen the number of calls.

And please, keep reporting calls! The FTC takes the phone numbers you report and releases them each business day to help telecommunications carriers and other industry partners working on call-blocking and call-labeling solutions.

If you have lost money to a scammer, report the incident at and learn more at and

And as always, please pass this information on to friends and family!!

This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at