Majority of the Public Do Not Answer Unknown Calls in Fear of Scams

By Greg Tavarez September 06, 2023

We are constantly introduced to new “eras” as new technologies are released. Think about caller ID, as an example. In the past, the act of answering a ringing telephone was often a matter of curiosity and necessity. Without any information about the caller, individuals had to take the risk of answering potentially encountering unwanted calls or telemarketers. There was an inherent mystery associated with each call, and this lack of information was frustrating and intrusive.

Fast-forward to the present, and caller ID has since become an integral part of our daily lives. It provides valuable information about the incoming call, such as the caller's name or number, allowing individuals to make informed decisions about whether to answer or ignore the call. It might seem miniscule to many, but this has brought a sense of control and convenience to widespread communication experiences.

But as many look to utilize technology for its main purpose, there are bad actors who look to take advantage of it. And, related to caller ID, seeing “unknown” when receiving a call or (even a call with the same area code, but the number is not recognized). Many receive these weekly – 70% of consumers to be exact, according to a National Cellular Directory survey.

"Remarkably, our survey highlights the modern reality, as 70% of participants received multiple calls from unknown phone numbers weekly,” said Principal CEO Wyatt Doolittle. “This statistic reveals the persistent challenge of unknown callers in our daily lives.”

When receiving an unknown call, a majority said they did not answer the calls. Additionally, 27% of the respondents stated that it depends, and 20% responded that they do answer the call. As for the majority, the main reason was “possible scammer.”

Scammers employ increasingly sophisticated tactics to deceive and defraud individuals, making it essential to exercise caution. These fraudulent callers may pose as legitimate businesses, government agencies or even acquaintances, leading to potential financial losses, identity theft or personal information breaches. To safeguard themselves from such risks, people have become wary of picking up calls from unfamiliar numbers, opting instead to rely on caller ID and other security measures to vet incoming calls and ensure their safety and privacy.

The survey then asked, “Have you ever tried to look up the phone number using a reverse phone lookup website?" and more than half of the respondents answered “Yes.” (It was good to know that I wasn’t alone in this step). It does make sense, though; to ensure if others are reporting the call or if the number is a legit business that is attempting to reach out to recurring or potential new customers.

Dealing with unknown phone calls can be a frustrating and sometimes concerning experience. The results of the survey conducted by the National Cellular Directory shed light on the prevalence of unknown phone calls and the various reasons people hesitate to answer them. The rise of robocalls, spam, and scams highlights the need for effective strategies to manage these calls and protect yourself from potential threats.

The STIR/SHAKEN framework, for example, is in the fight against caller ID spoofing, and there are apps to help mark numbers as “spam” or “scam alert.” The National Cellular Directory also offers a service that uncovers the identity of unknown callers, reducing the need to answer calls from suspicious numbers.

Remember, when in doubt, let unknown calls go to voicemails. If it’s an important call, most callers will leave a voicemail.

Edited by Alex Passett
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