Do you want to permanently stop calls from salesmen, telemarketer or debt collectors? If YES, here is exactly how to report harassing phone calls to the police .
Phone harassment is something most people don’t really give a lot of thought to until it happens to them. It is not just annoying, it is also illegal. Furthermore, it is a serious threat to your privacy, sense of security, and personal information. Phone harassment is nearly impossible to prevent or avoid, making it difficult for those affected by phone harassment to stop unwanted or threatening phone calls.
What is Phone Harassment?
Phone harassment is defined as any form of unsolicited telephone communication that is threatening, obscene, or unwanted. Phone harassment can be said to occur when someone intends to annoy, harass, threaten, or even harm you by:
- Constantly making your phone to ring
- Making obscene comments, suggestions, or requests
- Refusing to identify oneself over the phone but is still calling over and over again
- Making repeated telephone calls where the conversation consists only of harassment, especially after you have requested not to be contacted again
- Attempting to steal your financial or personal information over the phone
- Pretending to be someone the caller is not
- Making a telephone call and using heavy breathing or silence with intent to intimidate
If you are not sure whether or not the phone call you are receiving constitutes phone harassment, you should ask yourself: “Does the caller intend to threaten, intimidate, steal, or annoy me during their phone call?” If the answer to any of these questions turns out to be a yes, then the phone call can be considered to be phone harassment.
4 Major Forms of Phone Harassment
Even though phone harassment comes it many forms, they all share a very common similarity which is that they rob you of your privacy and sense of security. Here are the most common forms of phone harassment.
1. Blocked or No Caller ID Calls: Blocked or no caller ID phone calls are phone calls where it is not possible to view the incoming caller ID number. To place a blocked call from a landline or smartphone, all you need to do is dial *67 before the phone number you want to call. More often than not, someone that is calling you with no visible caller ID, and they do not want to reveal their identity, usually don’t have your well-being in mind.
2. Robocalls & Spam Calls: this is another very common form of phone harassment. Every month in the United States alone, about 3 billion unwanted spam and telemarketing calls flood consumers’ smartphones.
Spam calls, especially those that are illegal, are a form of phone harassment that pose a severe threat to the security of your personal and financial information. Phone scammers pose as the IRS, banks, and loan services and call you in attempts to steal from you over the phone.
Another tactic that is used for placing spam calls is known as neighbor spoofing. This is a form of harmful caller ID spoofing that allows spammers to place calls that look like they are coming from a phone number in your local area code. This way, people will be more likely to pick up the call because it looks familiar to them.
3. Intimidating or Threatening Phone Calls: a lot of times, phone harassers do not even hide their caller ID. They just keep calling you all the time with their real phone numbers.
More often than not, this type of phone harassment comes from someone that you know or someone that you gave your phone number to. The harasser could be a former boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, business associates, disgruntled family member or even a stalker.
Another well-known form of intimidating phone harassment is debt collection phone calls. Even though debt collectors are legally recognized by the law and they have certain rights, however, you are not required by law to interact directly with them.
Much like spam calls, you hold the right and power to opt-out of debt collection calls. If you believe the creditor is calling for a legitimate debt you wish to pay, you can still relieve yourself of collection calls by requesting to resolve the matter in the form of written communication.
Debt collectors must abide by this request, because calling you again would be a violation of the law. If you continue to receive these calls after this request, you should utilize phone recording services to provide hard evidence of harassment.
Phone harassment is illegal and you are protected from this by the Telephone Consumer Protect Act (TCPA). However, the unfortunate reality is that this legislation will not do much to stop your phone harassment problem, even if you decide to take legal action.
Though the TCPA is a helpful guideline like many other helpful laws, it does not stop harassers from flooding your smartphone or landline phone especially with a blocked called ID. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act was never designed to help you:
- Reveal the blocked caller behind the harassing phone calls you receive
- Stop or prevent that caller from calling you again
- Provide evidence of phone harassment in the form of call logs and voice recordings
The key problem when trying to take legal action against phone harassment is lack of ability to reveal the true identity behind the blocker or spoofed phone calls you receive. Because many solutions cannot disclose the real identity of blocked callers – there is little you can do until you have that information.
How to Report Harassing Phone Calls or Text Messages to the Police
1. Save the Harassment Data: if you are making use of a phone that has the ability of taking screenshots, then you should screenshot the data. If the device you are using does not come with this feature, you should take of picture of the screen with another camera. You will also want to “Lock” or “Protect” each harassing message. But you still must be sure to have backup copies in the event that something happens to your phone so your data is not lost.
2. Get Your Cell Phone Records: when you want to report a case of phone harassment to the police, you should get your cell phone records. You can do this by logging in to your account and downloading your cell phone records. Be sure to save and also print the records that coincide with the harassment you are experiencing.
3. Compile All Evidence: next, you should gather and arrange all the information you have collected on the harasser (including the gender of the caller, estimate of the caller’s age, the description of the caller’s voice, the time and date of the call, what was said in the call or calls et al.) in a fashion that will be easy for the police to navigate through.
You can make use of a file folder to help you with this. For instance, one folder can contain your photo evidence, the other can contain the print-outs of your cell phone records, another folder can consist of the proof of all the efforts you have made to stop the harassment; such as evidence via screenshot of you telling the offender to “stop harassing me” as well as any other efforts you have taken.
Yet another folder can consist of any “history” you have had with the harasser. For instance, if the harasser is a former friend or date; compiling evidence of the relationship-gone-bad and your decision to end the relationship is of great use to police. Any email correspondence, Facebook messages or other evidence you have that shows what led up to the harassment is very important.
4. Have your own copy: it is very important that you have an identical copy of the evidence that you submitted to the police. You may not be able to get the files you turn over to law enforcement back for a very long time and sometimes you may not even be able to get it back at all (depending on how far your case goes.)
5. Include Your Contact Information: Make sure you include your contact information on the very front of your binder or folder that contains your evidence. In addition to your name and phone number, you should also add your address, email and alternate phone number (if any) in case your main number is not reachable.
If you have information pertaining to your harasser (name, nick-names, aliases, email, address, et al.), you should keep it in a separate folder. Do not include this on the main page as you do not want your evidence accidentally returned to your harasser instead of you.
6. Go to the Police: if you know where your stalker resides, then you should report to the police in his or her area, even if it is in the next city. When you get to the police station, you should ask for a detective. Usually, you will first need to explain your case briefly to the person working the front desk area.
Try to keep your explanation concise. Speak clearly and without emotion. Stating things like “Mr. Tom is a mad man that ought to be locked up in a psych ward!” is not effective and will not get you help any faster (even if Mr. Tom is really stark raving mad).
Instead, use keywords that explain your issue, such as “Mr. Tom first started harassing me via unsolicited text messages on (include date). I have asked him severally to stop but he persisted. The harassment has become worse and I am now scared for my safety as well as my family’s safety. I have brought all of the corresponding evidence of Tom’s harassment with me.”
If you were unable to speak with a detective about the issue, you should do well to get the business card of both the officer and detective. If the business cards are not available, record the officer’s name and the detective’s name as well as the detective’s phone number.
As long as the harassment does not get worse, you should wait a few days before you do a direct follow up with the detective.
In conclusion, you should never ignore abusive phone calls. Doing nothing about harassing phone calls will not make them go away. Even if you are only documenting the phone calls, it’s important to do something rather than nothing.