Have you ever received strange phone calls at the office with “Unknown Caller” showing up on the Caller ID? I’ve stumbled upon an admirable startup called LostCalls.net, an extensive public database of phone numbers involved with illicit activities.
Not only do such calls hold up the line, you never know if a scammer or solicitor on the other end. Here is a brief overview on how to use the service so you're not left in the dark.
How to Use Lost Calls
The main thing I like about Lost Calls is the simplicity and straightforwardness of using their web app, without stifling paywalls to go through. Simply start by entering the phone number (without dashes or parenthesis) to promptly query their database.
I used a clean local phone number as an example, and as expected, this number did not have any complaints:
Although a number is rated as “clean”, it still may not be the case. The website depends on user ratings to determine the legitimacy of the originating number. If you had a bad time with a caller, you can click on “Your Rating” and leave your star review.
I won’t leave out the juiciest part of any website: the comments section. Aside from star ratings, people can leave behind their in-depth experience with a phone number so that web surfers will know exactly what happened. This is especially important for users to decide if a phone number is simply used for prank calls, or for more serious crimes.
Here is an example from one of the more troublesome phone numbers:
Going back to the front page, and scrolling to the bottom, they have a list of numbers that are frequently searched for. If you are compiling a block list for your phone, these numbers would be a good start.
Common Phone Scams to Avoid
Even though people have moved on to internet-based forms of communication, phone scams are still as big as ever, and criminals are expanding their operations to a grand scale. More likely than not, shady call centers will purchase proxy virtual phone numbers to mask where they are really calling from, although their accent usually gives away that they are not from the US.
Scams that are coming out of such overseas call centers include:
- Fake government officials: This would more commonly include IRS agent impersonators want to collect back taxes that don’t exist. In the case of the IRS, they will never call your house and would instead send letters if you were behind on tax payments. In some cases, they may also claim to be from your local state or municipal tax office.
- Telemarketers: Even though you can add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry, there are rogue agencies that do not respect this list and peddle their scam products against your will.
- Fake National Do Not Call Registry Agents: Speaking of the list, there are scammers that will claim to be from the registry in order to collect sensitive data from victims, and sometimes that includes credit card details. If you ever get solicited to be added to the registry, it’s probably not a legitimate phone call.
- Fake sweepstakes: This is a common scam that goes after low-hanging fruit, and there are many variations of it. The idea is to pretend that you won a sweepstake from a popular company, and in order to collect your reward, you will have to send money or gift cards.
- The Grandparent Scam: This is a scam making its rounds for years, yet some people still fall for it. To put it simply, someone calls pretending to be your grandchild, and if they are convincing enough, they will ask their “grandparent” for financial help.
- Affordable Care Act Scam: While this one has dwindled, there are still fake phone calls claiming to help people get access to free “Obamacare” healthcare, which technically doesn’t even exist. Don’t share your personal information with such calls, and report it to the Lost Calls database.
- Fake Technical Support: Callers will pretend to be a part of the support team of Microsoft or computer manufacturers in order to convince them to install malicious software. Large companies are unlikely to make these random phone calls, so just hang up.
Such scams also apply to text messaging, and in some cases, scammers will add you on WhatsApp, LINE, and other chat applications to annoy you even further. While most text-based spam is automated, there are international call centers that having people manually texting to look for more fish to take advantage of.
There you have it: Lost Calls is a website that's doing everyone a service by keeping track of annoying phone numbers so we’re not left in the dark when these unknown numbers call in. It is the type of website that grow as the community submits more input, so if you have the need to share a bad experience with a solicitor, be sure to contribute to their growing database.