In my presentations to community groups and conversations with senior adults, everyone says they get lots of scam calls and robocalls. But few are aware of how to block scammers from ringing their Smartphones and home phones.
This lack of awareness is perhaps unsurprising. Until recently the guidance provided by the federal government made little or no mention of available technologies for blocking scam calls, especially for home phones.
Old Guidance: Don’t Give Sensitive Information or Send Money
I was frustrated by the lack of useful guidance from the federal government on how to protect senior adults from phone fraudsters. They did offer information about common phone scams and the fact that the IRS and other government agencies will not call you and demand money over the phone.
However, their advice generally came down to just telling your loved ones not to give out sensitive information over the phone and not to send money to callers.
This was good, as far as it went, but not very helpful for family caregivers trying to protect a loved one who is suffering from one of the many forms of dementia. Unfortunately, the scammers are tricky. They know how to take advantage of vulnerable seniors.
Updated Guidance: Use Call Blocking and Call Labeling Technologies
The good news today is that the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Advice division has updated its guidelines to include very helpful information on How to Block Unwanted Calls. The guidance covers both Smartphones and home phones.
The FTC now identifies call blocking and call labeling technologies as “your best defense against unwanted calls” and provides guidance specific to smartphones, home VoIP phone services, and traditional landline phone services.
For Smartphones, the FTC recommends looking into both built-in features your phone may have, and downloadable call-blocking apps.
For home phones, the FTC recommends contacting your carrier to see what call-blocking and call-labeling services they offer for your phone service.
The FTC’s guidance necessarily stops short of recommending specific apps or service providers. However, it does include a link to the Federal Communications Commission’s Call Blocking Resources. The FCC provides helpful company-specific information about blocking calls for many mobile phone and landline providers in the USA. It also provides direct links to call-screening and blocking resources from phone manufacturers Apple, Google, and Samsung.
Make Your Phone Your Friend Again
Today, I am rejoicing that the federal agencies responsible for consumer protections and communications both recognize and recommend technology-based solutions to the robocall and scam caller problem.
You can make your phone your friend again!
Nevertheless, it is still necessary to identify the specific solution(s) available to protect yourself and your loved ones. Use the FTC and FCC resource pages noted in this article to guide you to an appropriate and actionable solution.
Caregiver Technology Solutions exists to assist family caregivers and senior adults in identifying and implementing technology-based solutions to the twin problems of fraud and isolation. We offer and recommend a growing set of specific technology solutions and are actively seeking to grow a nationwide network of people who implement these solutions in their communities.