Can I get student loan scammers to stop calling?
November 3, 2017 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I get 3-5 calls every day from "student loan forgiveness" scammers. Most of the calls are from the area code of my hometown (always different numbers, so I can't just block them), but sometimes they are out of state. I also get calls from out of state vendors for my job (which I receive on my cellphone) so I'd like some way to get them to STOP CALLING.

I am on the national Do Not Call list for telemarketers. I have additionally tried picking up the phone, and if I reached an actual person, to tell them to add me to the do not call list. It went like this:

Robocall: blah blah press 1 for student loan forgiveness
me: 1
Person on other end: blah blah navient, student loans blah blah
me: please add me to your do not call list
Person on other end: blah blah time is running out
me: I'd like to speak to your supervisor
Person on other end (ignoring me): blah blah
Person on other end: We'll call you back later (hangs up)

Now I just don't pick up any calls from numbers I don't know, but it's really annoying because:

1) I have to know when my cellphone rings in case it's my son's daycare, so my phone is ringing all the time
2) I miss calls from vendors and have to listen to their voicemails and call them back

Is there anything I can do?
posted by permiechickie to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have created a contact on my phone called 000-telemarketers and anytime some stupid number calls me I add it to that contact. It's is set to "block" and does not ring.
posted by amanda at 10:53 AM on November 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, assign a special ring to your son’s daycare so you recognize that one.
posted by BrashTech at 10:55 AM on November 3, 2017 [13 favorites]

Ugh, Navient. We've complained about this to the FCC. Some information and context in this 2016 article and this 2017 article. Note in particular, from the latter:

What if a servicer ignores my requests to stop calling?

In some cases, calls may stop only after the issuance of a formal “cease and desist” order from a court, Ms. Saunders said. Lawyers who handle cases under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act can be found on the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates.

posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 11:11 AM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

The short answer is No.

I don't answer calls from numbers I don't know anymore.

Some apps on Android (and presumably iPhone) work pretty well.
posted by gregr at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not very familiar with the federal debt exemptions to the TCPA except that they are allowed to make robocalls to cell phones without prior consent, but I'm pretty sure they're still required to abide by the other rules.

I've had a couple of very persistent callers that only stopped once I sent them a certified letter telling them to add me to their no call list and mail me a physical copy of their no call policy. None of them were about student loans, though, so I can't guarantee that'd work. (See here for more Navient specific information.)

And I do want to note that many of those phone blocker/ID apps, including TrueCaller and Hiya, mine your personal contacts and add them to a public database, so by using them, you're publishing your friends' unlisted phone numbers and sometimes other information such as email addresses, alternate numbers, etc. Which is a pretty terrible thing to do to people, IMO.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I use Hiya on Android and it's been an incredible help. In the several months that I've had it installed now (maybe it's been a year?) I've had to report maybe 5 new numbers it didn't automatically block. No false positives, either.

My phone is always set to vibrate and it goes off for a few seconds before Hiya jumps into action, so I assume you might hear a few rings too. That might still be easier to deal with than responding to nonsense calls though.

I don't think there is a way around scam calls without a tool like this, honestly. I highly recommend it.
posted by erratic meatsack at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Not sure what version of Android it starts for, but at some point the phone app gained an option to block a number and report as spam. Presumably this is how some of my incoming calls are marked as spam from the get-go.

But yeah, seconding not answering unknown numbers.
posted by bring a tuba to a knife fight at 12:44 PM on November 3, 2017

I would set a custom ringtone for everyone in your contacts (could be the same for everyone, maybe a different one for the daycare) and then just never answer calls that use the default ringtone.
posted by AFABulous at 1:55 PM on November 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

If they're coming through your student loan servicer, have you considered setting your number in the student loan info to be a google voice number and then sending everything to voicemail or whatever from there? If they're too scammy and already have your number, though, that won't work.

If you want to go nuclear - change your number (port your current one to google voice or something if you want to retain access just in case) and then never give it to anything student loan related.
posted by mosst at 1:57 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure that Navient article is about their collection activities, not this--the asker says "scammers" and I get a ton of calls like this myself, they aren't from the actual loan servicers. They're purely scam calls and they've been reaching a fever pitch recently. They're just using an autodialer guessing at cell phone numbers and faking a "local" number to try to get you to pick up. I have not however found a good solution. The thing about the "spam" number thing is that because they're faking caller ID, many of the numbers they're calling from are valid phone numbers of ordinary people who have nothing to do with it. I've gotten probably a dozen total calls or texts from angry people who don't understand that I didn't call them because my number was one of the fake ones used at one point. I don't know a good solution for this but hoping this helps someone else maybe think of something.
posted by Sequence at 2:11 PM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Oh, boom. Sequence is right. On rereading, those do sound like spoofed calls. Scammers do that specifically to avoid blacklists and increase the chances of their marks picking up.

Probably the closest you can get to a solution is to either whitelist or assign a custom ringtone to known contacts such as the daycare and add vendors' numbers as they come in, then send everyone else directly to voicemail/silent ringtone.

If some of these calls are coming on a landline, check your provider to see if they offer robocall blocking options, which can require callers to actively confirm they're a live caller, usually by pressing 1 or entering their number, before connecting.

If that doesn't work well enough, you might need to change your number and just hope that it's not recycled from someone else getting those calls, and that it doesn't get back out again (which can happen if people who have you in their contacts are using call blocking apps that publish contacts, BTW) .

These scams are a scourge.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:47 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you've got time when they call, have fun with it.

Option 1:
Loanscammer: Would you like to reduce your loan debt, blah blah consolidation program, blah blah reduce rates blah
You: Who are you? How'd you get this number?
LS: Navient student loan bank blah blah
You: You work for Marcellus, don't you?
LS: Pardon? No, student navient bank reduction etc
You: Look, you tell that bastard I did what he wanted. I played the game; I took the money; I stashed the body in the car and drove it off the bridge just like he said. You assholes quit calling me or I'm coming after you next.

Option 2:
LS: Would you like to reduce your loan debt, blah blah consolidation program, blah blah reduce rates blah
You: *breathy voice* That sounds fascinating. Tell me more.
LS: Navient student loan bank blah blah
You: Oooh, I want to hear more about this. Let me get comfortable. *sound of rustling clothes* And tell me... what are you wearing?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:48 PM on November 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Along the lines of ErisLordFreedom's suggestion would be to use a service like Jolly Roger Telephone Company to waste the time of the scammers
posted by borkencode at 3:01 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

These folks are bottom-feeding scammers, there is nothing you can do or say to stop them...but engaging with them AT ALL guarantees that they will persist. I agree with those who say that a homebrewed whitelist is probably your best solution.
posted by praemunire at 3:35 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, and yeah, to clarify, these are not people connected to my actual student loans, which I am (sadly) paying off on time every month. What adds insult to injury is that they are always implying like my loans can go away, which they cannot, until I pay them.

I guess a whitelist for daycare / important contacts is the best option here, and have all other calls go to voicemail.
posted by permiechickie at 6:26 PM on November 3, 2017

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