The phone rings and although you don’t recognize the caller or the number, you answer. On the other end an unfamiliar voice says, “Can you hear me?” You might be tempted to say yes but STOP!
One audible ‘yes’ from you can be digitally manipulated to sign you up for mailing lists or worse, be used as proof that you gave permission to purchase an item or subscription. Although it’s tempting to answer the phone whenever it rings, the wise choice is to make use of technology that you control. The answering service, these days known as voicemail. If you have a landline, your service provider probably offers voicemail and can guide you to set up your inbox. Nearly 90% of Canadians and 70% of Americans have cell phones with many of those being smartphones that have technologies and settings that can support your privacy. Start by setting up your voicemail on cellular and smartphones as soon as possible if it’s not already activated.
iPhone users can go to their Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers and slide the setting to on. Android phones have similar options. This will send anyone to voicemail that is calling from a number not contained in your contact list or to whom you have not previously initiated a call. You will never hear the phone ring and the caller won’t know that your phone didn’t ring however they can choose to leave a voicemail message that you can review at your leisure. Legitimate callers will generally leave a message while those who don’t have good intentions may ultimately drop your number from their call list because you never answer.
Another trick of devious callers is to ask, “Is this <your name>?” Again, you might be tempted to say yes but in doing so, you’ve not only provided the ‘yes’ prize but you’ve confirmed that the number they called is live and belongs to the person whose name was attached to the call list. Prepare to be on their call list for as long as you have that phone number. Oh sure, you can block the number but a live fish will be confirmed on telemarketer call lists that are sold and resold and you will receive calls from a multitude of numbers until the end of time.
The best thing to do when you receive a call from a number or name you don’t recognize is to let it go to voicemail. If you choose to answer the call, the best thing is to click into protective and aware mode before you answer the call. If the voice on the other end isn’t recognized, never say yes to any questions you are asked. Canadians are notoriously polite, but you can hang up if you decide you don’t wish to engage with the caller without saying goodbye. A caller saying they are from your bank will be able to give you their name, phone number and the purpose for the call. Tell them you will verify the call and call them back. End the call and call your local bank branch manager, give them the information you’ve been given and ask them to verify the caller and their number. Follow the same process if you get a call from the Canada Revenue Service. They may call if you owe taxes or to initiate an audit but you can verify the call by taking down their information and verifying their identity through your local tax office.
While your air ducts may need cleaning from time to time, you can call a local, trusted company to take care of the task. You may use a Mac computer but get calls saying your PC has a virus – a dead giveaway – but if you are concerned, a local company referred to you by friends is a better resource than a mystery caller who wants to put apps on your hard drive. I have a son-in-law who reasons that the longer he keeps a telemarketer on the phone, the fewer people will be bothered by them that day so he strings them along until the telemarketers get so frustrated that they are the ones who hang up. Youtube is full of people recording pranks played on telemarketers if you want some amusement but whether or not you’re tempted to try it yourself, make sure you train yourself to never say ‘yes’ to unknown callers.