What To Do About Phone Harassment
Linda Collins - June 26, 2020
Nobody likes to be harassed. I feel like that probably was the safest way to start this article. For lack of a better word, phone harassment Is at best annoying and at worst can be dangerous. Particularly if the caller is threatening your safety or the safety of others.
Harassing calls are a pretty big deal. With billions of robocalls placed in 2019, the year ended with an uptick of over 10 billion calls over the previous year. The FTC reported that they had received about 3.6 million complaints about robocalls that year as well as almost 1.4 million complaints about nuisance callers.
Table of Contents
What Exactly Qualifies as a Harassing Phone Call?
In short a harassing phone call is any, and I repeat, ANY, call that is meant to threaten, intimidate or annoy the recipient (the only exception is a political robocall to your landline, as that is protected by the first amendment). It certainly includes any calls that threaten your safety or that uses obscene language.
And not to freak you out but being a victim of reoccurring phone harassment can also mean you are at an increased likely hood to become a victim of physical harm, not to mention the fraud and identity theft that can occur.
There are quite a few laws that protect you as a consumer against these types of harassing phone calls. Telemarketing calls, while annoying, typically follow regulations and can relatively easily be stopped on your end.
That said, the laws are clear. Nobody is allowed to call you with obscene or harassing calls that include lewd language, direct threats or intimidating behavior, and they ALWAYS have to identify themselves or they are also in violation of the law.
Obviously though, every law gets broken, and those with nefarious motives will pay no mind to it. You may need to be more proactive in stopping these calls from getting to you.
How Should I Try Blocking Harassing Calls?
Well if most of your phone harassment consists of telemarketers, the answer is quite simple. Add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. This lets telemarketers know that you don’t want to receive unsolicited calls. It’s free and signing up via donotcall.gov is quick and easy.
Of course this is not going to eliminate the robocalls all together. As we stated before, bad actors will always be willing to go further. They really could care less if you are on the do not call list.
Other Methods of Blocking Calls
Contact Your Provider
Every major telecom company offers some level of automatic blocking to their customers. They all have available spam detection and blocking capabilities, and it costs you nothing to take advantage of it, as well as offer premium services you can sign up for.
Third Party Apps
There are many free and paid third party apps that you can install on your cell phone that will automatically take care of these unwanted calls. It utilizes a shared network of known numbers and will not allow them to go through. It will also allow you to custom block or whitelist certain numbers as you see fit.
Enable Your Tech
Your phone already comes loaded with some goodies that you can deploy. iOS and Android both have native call-blocking options. These features allow you to blacklist only numbers that call you directly. So wihle it won’t limit calls from spoofed numbers, it CAN minimize more targeted harassment.
When Should I call The Police?
Here is the rule of thumb. If it’s a question… i.e. if the words “should I be worried” or “should I get help?” then you should immediately call the police. Nobody is going to fault you for being scared, nothing bad will happen if it turns out what you are scared of doesn’t qualify. But the rule of thumb is, it’s better to it sooner than later (or never).
If you aren’t quite ready to call the police, start taking notes. Write down every time this happens. Note the time and date of the calls, whether you think they are male or female, tone of voice, approximate age (based on how they sound and what they say). If the number is not spoofed, law enforcement may be able to track down the caller.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much the police can do to stop phone spam or robocalls. But submitting complaints establishes a track record that may be actionable in the future. So don’t be afraid to contact help.