If you, for example, are actively seeking employment and expecting phone calls back from potential employers during a period of receiving unknown calls, your hands can be tied.
Or, you may be receiving unsolicited calls from an unwanted individual like a stalker, which can become traumatic.
Take control and reduce anxiety by checking out the following ways to investigate who’s calling you before you pick up:
Who called me from this phone number?
If you want to dig more into the phone number calling you, you can do a reverse phone search.
This useful website allows you to search the number of interest and receive free and insightful data about it.
You can check if others have reported this number (or add your own report) allowing you to estimate how suspicious it is.
How to tell if it's a scam call?
Scam calls can come from live people or from automated machines that deliver prerecorded messages i.e., ‘robocalls’. Rather than play ‘robocall roulette’, here are some suggestions:
Run a quick web search: to know if a call is a scam or not, search the number online. The phone number, if legitimate, should generate web page results that show the individual or organisation it's connected to.
Look at what your phone displays: while receiving a call, check your phone display for a number and location. If your phone simply says ‘Unknown caller’ then it’s safe to assume it’s a scam. Although anyone can hide their number it is recommended to let these calls go to voicemail and only call back if you’re sure of their identity.
Check for verification: many mobile carriers verify phone numbers when a call comes through. For example, the Google phone app shows a ‘badge’ on incoming calls that connects them to a business - you can use this to assess the legitimacy. However, even legitimate businesses may use robocalls.
Keep an eye out for ‘trick’ numbers: scammers can use ‘spoof numbers’ to throw you off. These numbers resemble a number of someone close to you with a few digits off, or they use a number with your local area code.
Phone number area codes: where they’re from and which to avoid
A common trick of scammers is to use numbers that come from familiar area codes.
You may notice often scam calls arise from UK area codes as this is a tactic to effectively target victims.
According to Hiya (an anti-Scammer platform), these are the top 10 UK area codes used for ‘nuisance phone calls’:
020 (London), 0161 (Manchester), 0141 (Glasgow), 0113 (Leeds), 0121 (Birmingham), 01922 (Walsall), 01268 (Basildon), 0151 (Liverpool), 0115 (Nottingham), 01792 (Swansea).
For international area codes, according to a report by Police Credit Union it is recommended to look out for numbers from the Caribbean region as this is a hotspot for scammer activity, watch out for the following:
232: Sierra Leone, 242: Bahamas, 246: Barbados, 284: British Virgin Islands, 268: Antigua and Barbuda, 345: Cayman Islands, 441: Bermuda, 473: Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique, 664: Montserrat, 649: Turks and the Caicos Islands, 758: Saint Lucia, 767: Commonwealth of Dominica, 721: Sint Maarten, 784: Saint Vincent and Grenadines, 809, 829 and 849 : The Dominican Republic, 868: Trinidad and Tobago, 876: Jamaica, 869: Saint Kitts and Nevis.
What can you do if you’re receiving scam calls?
If you are receiving unwanted calls (scam or not) then the next best thing to do is just block the number.
However, remember these numbers constantly change so you may have to block several numbers before you see results.
It is recommended you also research your mobile carrier’s ‘anti-scam’ solutions. You can use mobile applications like Truecaller that work to deter spoofed numbers.
Lastly, if you are desperate then try the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) which is a ‘Do Not Call’ registry for UK landline and mobile numbers.
This allows you to opt out of unsolicited live sales and marketing calls (it’s also free and quick to register.)