Are you being harassed by obscene, threatening or creepy calls or messages?
These could be part of a scam or general perverted nuisance or could even be triggered by a mentally disturbed person, and posing a real threat to your life.
Stalking is on the rise with 78.8 percent female stalking victims and 75.9 percent of male victims claiming to have faced harassment through voice calls or texts according to a study by Colorado State University’s Women and Gender Advocacy Centre.
Data on bullying is equally disturbing with one in five teenagers expected to be a victim of text bullying.
If you have tried ignoring those unwelcomed messages although they don’t seem to cease, and if they are becoming frequent and beginning to bother you, then it’s time to take some action.
Here are 5 essential steps to take if you are facing phone harassment.
Reverse phone lookup
This should be the first step to take when you see a number that you do not recognize.
Search engines like Google or social media platforms like Facebook are the easiest tools to use for a basic search.
People search sites like Nuwber are increasingly being used for more in-depth searches.
These background screening sites have been growing in popularity in recent years due to the impressive amount of information they can provide while maintaining your anonymity.
They use complex algorithms to sift through a massive network of information sources to filter and display the most personal details of the person whose identity you want to discover.
Basic information like name and address are provided free of charge by most people search sites.
More comprehensive details are usually provided at a fee and could cover a vast amount of information from a person’s family details and property records to credit ratings and mortgages.
These sites can also provide you with details of criminal offenses, felonies, and misdemeanors as well as arrest records.
These should be enough information for you to identify who is behind the unwelcomed messages and to determine the next course of action.
Block the number on your phone
Attempting to block the caller is the second most essential step for you to take.
Most phones today have in-built options to do this effectively irrespective of the make and model.
When you open the call record or text message, you will usually find a menu option next to the number that will allow you to block or blacklist it.
Follow the instructions and the phone will automatically block the selected number from messaging or calling you in the future.
This is the easiest and most basic way to block unwanted callers from harassing you.
Inform your telecom operator
When the calls or messages are becoming frequent you can also call your telecom operator, explain the incidents and request for the number to be blocked.
Most telecommunication companies will provide their customers with the facility to block calls, and can even offer to monitor the number and escalate for action if harassment persists or seem to target other customers.
AT&T, for example, provides customers with the option to report unwanted calls and texts using an online form.
T Mobile offers a similar feature with its Spam Reporting Service, where messages forwarded to the shortcode 7726 are investigated by its Security Centre using a global database.
So, ensure that you inquire from your own service provider for the reporting procedure applicable to your network.
However, depending on your telecom operator this could be provided free of charge or at a small fee.
Download a caller identification app
There are plenty of caller identification apps like Truecaller and Whoscall available to download on app stores.
These provide a simple, fast and convenient way to tackle those annoying calls and messages.
They can not only help you identify the caller ID but can also provide you with call and message blocking services.
They do this with the help of massive user-generated databases they have gathered, with some of the larger apps claiming to have access to databases with over 1 billion numbers.
Once downloaded, they can keep track of unwelcomed calls and messages on your behalf.
While most of these apps offer their services free of charge, they may sometimes provide advanced features at a small fee.
These are a great way to effortlessly identify and block those unwanted calls and messages.
Call the police
If all other steps fail or if the messages are continuing with a different number after being blocked or seemed to have worsen in frequency and intensity, and you are beginning to feel threatened, then it is time to seek law enforcement help.
Ensure that you compile all evidence and keep records of dates and times since the calls started.
Take screenshots of call records and messages and keep copies for yourself for future reference.
Note down any specific patterns in the caller behavior. Are they more frequent during a specific time of the day like after midnight or right before noon?
Has it been consistent since the day it started or was it intermittent with breaks of 1 or 2 days in between?
Are there specific words used frequently that seem unnatural or strange? Ensure that you record all relevant details and inform the police.
These will help them uncover important clues and even to finally identify the person responsible.
While being harassed by unwelcomed calls and messages could be quite an emotional experience, try to keep your emotions in check and approach the situation logically as possible to help the police extract relevant information from you.
Lodging a police report may help any ongoing police investigations as well if similar incidents have already taken place with others.
Regardless of the nature and frequency, unwarranted and unwelcomed calls and messages need to be tackled head-on.
While refraining from any direct response or reaction is essential, if they are left unattended, you could also risk more aggravation.
Therefore, take action today to ensure that you handle call harassment smartly and effectively.