PSA: Let Voicemail Answer Phone Calls from Mystery Numbers

February 08, 2017


We’ve all received random calls from unrecognizable phone numbers; when your caller ID tells you where the call has supposedly originated from, but nothing else. When basically you have no idea who’s on the other end of the line or what they want from you.


Well here’s a BBB best practice for today’s modern age: if you don’t recognize who’s calling, DON’T feel obligated to answer the phonelet it go to voicemail! If you point out that this is simple and obvious, you’d be right, but consumers encounter these types of issues constantly, thus we're putting out this Western Michigan Public Service Announcement.


If you think about it, there are really only a couple of scenarios when you’d get a call from a random phone number:


A telemarketer got ahold of your information and is trying to sell you something.

+  They will leave a voicemail describing whatever they’re trying to sell you.

+  Since you sent the call to voicemail you avoid talking to the telemarketer, needing to kindly tell them you’re not interested, or having to hang up on them altogether. If you want what they're selling, give them a call back, and if you don’t, delete the voicemail and go on with your day.


A scammer got ahold of your information and is trying to scam you.

+  Scammers typically won’t leave a voicemail, that’s because their scams are most effective when they can use high pressure tactics to persuade you of something while you’re speaking with them over the phone.

+  Scammers place calls over the Internet, allowing them to disguise where the call is originating from, so don't believe that you're getting a call from Washington DC, Los Angeles, or Hong Kong just because your caller ID says so.


If a scammer does leave a voicemail, you’ll have a chance to listen to their message and make a clear headed decision about whether or not to respond to their request. You'll also have time to research the phone number and their particular offer online to check the validity of their statements. And if the voicemail does provide details of their scam, you now have an audio recording of the scammer’s tactics that you can report to BBB’s Scam Tracker, the authorities, or another regulatory agency.


A friend got a new phone number that you haven’t added to your contact list yet.

+  Your friend with the new phone number, they’re going to leave you a voicemail or shoot you a follow up text saying “hey, I got a new phone number!” which you can then add to your contacts so you recognize them the next time they try to get ahold of you.


It’s a legitimate emergency from a caller whose number you don’t recognize.

+  If it is an emergency, you better believe that the caller is going to leave you a voicemail to inform you of the situation so you can get in contact with them immediately.


Bottom line is, how often do your friends call you via their new phone number or are you contacted about an emergency situation? Not too often. That means all the other mystery calls you've been getting fall into either the "scammer" or "telemarketer" categories. Be your own call-screener: send those mystery numbers straight to voicemail, before deciding what to do next. 

Additional Ways to Handle Calls from Mystery Numbers:

Besides letting calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail, here are some other things you might consider doing to further protect you, your information, and your time from being wasted by these types of callers.

+ Report unwanted sales calls and robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) online.

+ Report scams and scam attempts to BBB's Scam Tracker so we can investigate further and alert other local consumers of the situation. 

+ Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry; this will help cut down on unwanted calls from telemarketers.