Show of hands. Do you answer calls from numbers you don’t know? Me neither. Sure, it could be something important, but it’s most likely just spam.
We all know answering robocalls leads to more of them. If you’re beyond fed up, tap or click here to read about an app that automatically sues robocallers on your behalf — to the tune of $3,000 a pop.
Even worse, the mysterious call could be an enterprising hacker pairing tech smarts with complex social engineering. That’s what makes frightening SIM-swap schemes so effective. Tap or click to find out how you can protect yourself from this growing threat.
There’s a simple way to cut down on spam calls and ward off hackers: Block your number when making outbound calls. Here’s how.
1. Block your number when calling back a number you don’t recognize
How often does this happen to you? A strange call comes through and the person (or bot) on the other end of the line doesn’t leave a message. Anyone from your credit card company to your doctor to, yes, an annoying robocaller could be behind that string of digits.
To avoid the call is to miss out on potentially valuable information, but you don’t want to spark even more unknown calls.
Thankfully, there’s a quick fix you can try on nearly every phone you own — including landline handsets. All you need to do is dial *67, then the number you want to call and tap the call button. On a landline, simply dial *67 followed by the number you want to call.
That’s all it takes. Now, the recipient of your call will only see “Blocked” or “Private” instead of your number on their caller ID.
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2. Block your number to keep yourself off of ‘call lists’
Maybe you have answered or even called back robocallers and spammers a few times. Well, here’s the bad news: Your number is on a list, or lots of them, now. These lists show robocallers that your number is active and leads to an uptick in calls.
In many cases, these companies make extra money selling the phone numbers they’ve acquired while conducting their “business.”
What can you do? Contact your carrier or phone provider to have your number placed on a “Do not call” list.
For outbound calls, however, there’s another method you can try to shield your number from prying eyes. This one goes a little deeper to the core of your phone’s operating system and will block your number permanently on any type of caller ID. Don’t worry, it’s not permanent. You can turn your phone number back on at any time if you choose to.
On iOS, navigate to your phone’s Settings and scroll down until you see the Phone option. Tap it and select Show my Caller ID. Here, you’ll see a toggle switch which is in the On position by default. Turn it Off to hide your number for good.
On Android, open the Phone app and tap the three dot icon near the search bar. On the drop-down menu that appears, select Settings, followed by Calls. Next, tap Additional Settings, then Caller ID. On the pop-up menu that appears, select Hide Number to disable your number from Caller ID.
RELATED: Blocking calls is all well and good — until you can’t get through. Tap or click to find out if someone you’re calling has blocked your number.
3. Block your number online to keep your phone number out of the hands of hackers
One of the biggest risks of sharing your number online doesn’t come from robocalls. Those are generally just annoying and scammy — but hackers pose a unique and persistent threat to all types of private data.
One of the worst and most common phishing schemes actually involves stealing a legitimate phone number and using it to sign up for services, or even take over your phone account.
You’ll even see hackers reverse engineer your phone number to harass you at work or at home. Criminals can spoof your number to hide their true identities while they bombard other people with calls.
Instead of typing in your number to any old online form, use a different one. VoIP services use the internet to relay audio. Google Voice is especially useful, as it will let you choose a number different from your own that you can use for online signups.
Just keep in mind, you will have to give your true phone number to Google to sign up for the service. Tap or click here for 4 Google security features you should be taking advantage of.
To sign up for Google Voice, download the Google Voice app for iOS or Android. The program will guide you through the setup steps and you will need to link your Google account to proceed. If you don’t have one, you’ll be prompted to create one within the app.
After your account is linked, you’ll choose a Google Voice number. You can enter a ZIP code or city to pick a number that feels right for you, but for privacy’s sake, choose one with a different area code than your own.
Once you’ve selected a number, Google will text you a code to verify your account. And that’s it! You’re ready to start sharing your number without really sharing your number.
Get the most out of your new Google Voice number. Tap or click for 5 ways to use it to make calling or messaging easier.
No matter how smart your defenses, some hacker or scammer probably has you beat. If not, they’re working on it. In the end, we’re better off giving them nothing to work with.
BONUS TIP FOR EXTRA KNOW-HOW: ‘Hey Siri:’ 10 tips to take your productivity to the next level
Siri has been around for more than a decade and it’s evolved into a solid voice assistant. This AI is quick to answer your questions and tell you jokes, but did you know it’s capable of answering more than just “What’s the weather like today?”
If you haven’t taken the time to check out the range of Siri’s capabilities, you may believe it’s nothing more than a glorified trivia aide, jokester and weather forecaster. Oh, and let’s not forget it collects your data.
But the truth is Siri can be a pretty useful personal assistant that can help increase productivity at work, home or anywhere in between. Tap or click for 10 ways to get a whole lot more out of your virtual assistant
What digital lifestyle questions do you have? Call Kim’s national radio show and tap or click here to find it on your local radio station. You can listen to or watch The Kim Komando Show on your phone, tablet, television or computer. Or tap or click here for Kim’s free podcasts.
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Learn about all the latest technology on The Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.