The usual advice on handling scam calls has been to not answer unknown caller id’s or hang up immediately and to not interact, lest the scammers will flag the number as live and will call it more often.
However, a recent extensive study out of NC State has confirmed what I’d always suspected and that is the scammers pay scant attention to if and how the calls are answered and blindly keep on calling. That means they fire up their auto-dialers, sequentially calling numbers and connecting the answered calls to agents regardless of past history.
I get plenty of these calls myself with the immediate telltale sign being a local but unknown caller id. If I have some time to kill, I pick up the call, go through the initial robot IVR qualification steps and when the live agent finally comes on, I just waste their time.
There are plenty ways to waste scammers' time. You can hang up after the initial greeting, talk gibberish, ask them to wait a minute and set the phone down, or just go along pretending that you are interested in whatever junk they are peddling. The scammers are pretty savvy in recognizing time-wasters and hang up rather quickly, but by then you have wasted a bit of their time.
Now If everyone wasted a few seconds of the scammers’ time, that can add up quickly to a substantial loss to them with the effort not justifying the potential gains. That should drive some if not the majority of the scam call centers out of business.
So, go ahead and answer the scam calls. Every time you waste a scammer’s time, there’s the satisfaction of knowing that it might have saved a vulnerable person from falling victim or at least from being annoyed.