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WAAY 31 I-TEAM: How do scammers get your phone number?

Our WAAY 31 I-Team is taking an in-depth look at robocalls, how they’re impacting people here in the Tennessee Valley and what might happen to stop the nuisance calls.

Posted: May 7, 2019 6:30 PM
Updated: May 10, 2019 12:01 PM

Our WAAY 31 I-Team is taking an in-depth look at robocalls, how they’re impacting people here in the Tennessee Valley and what might happen to stop the nuisance calls. It's important to know how scammers get your number in the first place.

To break down how scammers get your number, we stopped by the home of Annie Woodard. It didn’t take long for her phone to ring. “Hello,” Annie answered.

You need to know something about Annie: she’s a huge Alabama football fan. While we were there, she was wearing a crimson t-shirt with “Tide” emblazoned across it. So, if Nick Saban had been on the other end of that phone call, it would be a dream come true for Annie.

Instead, the daily deluge of robocalls can be a never-ending nightmare. We asked Annie what scammers typically want when they call. “They’re calling about the extended warranty on my car,” Annie explained. “My car doesn’t have an extended warranty. It’s too old!”

Annie’s own cell phone becomes a source of frustration. “It’s a recording,” she told WAAY 31. “So, you can’t tell them to hush. You can’t tell them, but I just hang up on them.”

It makes this Alabama fan’s blood boil almost as much as losing to Auburn. “Yes, it makes me real angry, especially if I have run in from outside to get my phone if I leave it in the house.”

The scoreboard has you and most everybody else coming out the losers. In December, the Federal Communications Commission said some 850,000 robocalls were made to the 256 area code alone.

Spam callers know exactly how to score your phone number. Who’s to blame?

You could be the biggest culprit by simply giving away your digits. Your fumble may begin when registering product warranties, entering contests, even filling out public information for clubs, associations and professional licensing.

It all makes you an easy tackle.

Apps on your phone may also be selling you out. When you accept terms of service, you could be giving the go-ahead to someone who wants to sell your phone number.

Sometimes, robocallers may randomly dial your number out of dumb luck. Auto-dialers make it quick and easy to call all possible phone number combinations. That includes unlisted and mobile numbers.

Most telemarketers, even legitimate ones, buy phone numbers from third parties. The Better Business Bureau warns your number could wind up in a data base. When you call a toll-free number, Caller ID technology might put it there.

So does applying for credit, registering to vote on some websites and making a donation to charity. The third-parties charities hire often make money selling your personal contact information.

The best advice from experts: go on defense and protect your phone number. If you don’t, you could wind up giving it out only to have robocallers use it against you.

Back at Annie Woodard’s house, she told us, “I would hope that they would do something.” Robocallers are the last people she wants to hear from. “I have my phone to keep up with my kids and my grandkids and my friends and relatives,” she told us. “That’s why I have a phone.”

Annie figures robocallers are stealing more than her joy. They’re pilfering part of the price she pays for her phone. “It makes me feel like I want to do something about it, and you can’t. I’ve had them blocked. I still get them.”

The tide of robocalls keeps rolling in.

Wednesday night on WAAY 31 News at 6, we’ll explain the different types of robocalls.

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