Maryland Office of the Attorney General – Consumer Protection Division provided the following to assist with unwanted calls.

We’ve heard you! We’ve seen many comments about robocalls and spoofing. These types of calls, whether to your landline or cell phone, can originate from anywhere in the world, making it difficult for government agencies to prevent or reduce their frequency. But we do have some tips for what you can do as a consumer to protect yourself.

We have all gotten them—calls from numbers we don’t recognize from faraway places, calls from unrecognized numbers with local area codes, calls that cryptically identify the number as coming from the “IRS” or some other government agency (“spoofing”), when the call is actually from someone else. The chances are that many, many of these calls are generated from automated sources, usually on behalf of a telemarketer (“robocalls”). “Neighbor spoofing,” in which a phone number on your caller ID appears to come from a local number—even one very similar to your own number—is a particularly loathsome form of robocalling. Always keep this in mind: caller ID showing a “local” number does NOT mean it’s necessarily a local caller.

Some of these calls are from people or companies trying to sell you something, but they could also be scams. In any case, they can run from mildly annoying, to exasperating, to outright dangerous. Scammers that use spoofing or robocalling are very good at tricking victims into providing personal information and/or money over the phone.

As some of you have noted in your comments, certain phone carriers are using computerized algorithms to try and warn you when they suspect a call is from an illegitimate source, usually by inserting a word or phrase like “Spam?” just before the number on the caller ID. This technology isn’t perfect, but it could help you decide which calls to answer. You can check with your phone carrier to see if this option is available to you.

There are a variety of smartphone apps that claim to prevent or reduce robocalling and spoofing. While we can’t recommend a specific app for this purpose, you can search your service provider’s app store for suggestions.

When all else fails, we always recommend that you don’t answer any calls from numbers you don’t recognize. If a legitimate person needs to reach you, assuming you have voicemail, they will likely leave a detailed message. Most often, robocalls and scammers don’t leave messages. But if they do and you suspect that the caller is trying to sell you something you don’t want or trying to scam you, delete the message, block the number, and don’t call them back.

A law was passed in 2018 making spoofing illegal. However, this does not mean it is any easier for our office to stop a spoofed call. Instead, this was done to make it easier to charge scammers once they are caught. Previously, our office could only charge a scammer when the scammer was able to trap a victim and cause them to lose money. This recently passed law permits us to also charge the scammer when we are able to prove they spoofed a call in their scamming efforts, regardless of whether the person receiving the call lost money as a result.

As always, if you have been the victim of a scam, please contact our office directly at 410-528-8662 for assistance.

Karen Straughn
Assistant Attorney General
Director, Mediation Unit
Consumer Protection Division
Maryland Office of the Attorney General