Q&A: Should I answer a call to my smartphone if it’s an Unknown number?

September 23, 2021

: It feels like I get mystery calls on my smartphone every day. Should I answer a call if it’s an Unknown number? 

Answer: Getting a surprise call from an "unknown number" can spark worry and also curiosity. Is the call coming from a scammer? My doctor? The state lottery commission? (Just kidding! That one would be a scam.) 

Even if you really want to know who's calling, don't answer. Note: If there's a special situation — for example, you're awaiting news about a loved one who's sick — you'll get a heads-up to expect a call from an unknown number. In that case, of course, take the call. If the caller turns out to be a scammer, hang up right away. 

Here are a few reasons it's generally a bad idea to answer a call from an unknown number: 

  • If the caller is a robocaller, scammer, telemarketer, or pollster, you're tipping them off that they've reached a working number. That could make you a future target for more calls and even get your number sold to others. 
  • If you answer a call from a criminal and speak to them, they may record your voice. They could use it to steal your identity to open an account or show that you “agreed” to pay for a big purchase. 
  • The caller could pose as a bank, charity, or other legitimate caller, steal your personal info and scam you out of thousands of dollars or more. Just check out this Federal Trade Commission list of common telephone scams, from “free trial” scams to lottery scams to timeshare scams. 

The bottom line: Unless you're expecting an important call from an unidentified number, don't answer. A legitimate caller who needs to reach you will leave a message. Just make sure there's room for it in your voicemail box.

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