Cybersecurity Tip #3: Combatting Robocalls

Robocalling has gotten out of hand. Very out of hand. And the robocallers have adapted their techniques recently in a very tricky way.

I’ve been getting phone calls recently from numbers that are spoofed to look like my phone number, with the first six digits (three for the area code plus the first three numbers). They are also trying from numbers similar to those from my hometown. I believe the idea is to trick people into picking up, thinking it’s a family member, or an unwitting misdial.

I mostly solved this issue simply by changing my voicemail. In my voicemail recording, I give callers explicit instructions to simply call a second time, and I will pick up, or send me a text message. It works tremendously well. Here’s the script:

Hi. You’ve reached John Edwards. Due to an increasing number of robocall scams that are going on in this country right now, I don’t pick up the phone for numbers that I do not recognize on the first call. You can leave me a voicemail and I will call you back. You can send me a text message and I will text you back. You can even call again right now, because any time I receive two calls from the same number, I pick up. Thank you very much, and have a nice day.

Here’s why I think it works:

  1. Anecdotal evidence from my friends has been good. Some of them have said they found it helpful, and they started doing the same. That makes me feel like I had a positive impact on the world.

  2. Real human beings who need to talk to me can follow the instructions. If they leave a useful voicemail, I’ll call back. If they call a second time, I’ll pick up.

  3. When I call friends and they don’t pick up, I rarely listen to their entire voicemail message, let alone leave a message for them. I’ll generally text or try again, which I believe to be standard practice among friends.

  4. If it is really important, and a human being is on the line, they should and generally do follow the instructions.

  5. Robocallers aren’t advanced enough to respond to that message, and they never text or leave voicemails.

Feel free to use and amend the script as you see fit. But if you do, don’t forget to credit yours truly.

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