A Complete Guide to Google Voice and Stopping Unwanted Calls
In my last article, I wrote about stopping internet spam and scams in general. In this article I wanted to go into detail about Google Voice and the ever-increasing harassment, unwanted calls and how scammers are utilizing this service as well as ways you can combat the harassment from Google Voice phone numbers.
What is a Google Voice Phone Number?
Google Voice is a service provided by Google that allows users to select a free phone number. This number then connects to existing devices (work phone, home phone, cell phone, etc).
Why Use Google Voice?
There's numerous legitimate reasons for someone to opt to use Google Voice. For example, let's say you must cancel your cell phone for whatever reason; you will lose your cell phone number. This is always a hassle! With a Google Voice Number, you can "port" (move your contacts) from one phone to a different phone without ever losing your Google Voice Number - so friends, family, coworkers, etc never even have to update your contact information.
If you operate a small business and you do not want to use you "real" phone number, you can get a free Google Voice Phone Number and link this number to your cell phone. You will still receive your calls, but your "real number" is "hidden".
You can also use Google Voice's "answering machine" instead of your own phones. The reason this is cool is because Google will transcribe the voicemail for you and send you the "text", preventing time wasted on checking the voicemail or misinterpretation.
In addition, SMS / Text messages can also be sent to the Google Voice Number.
There are several more "pros" to using Google Voice, but this gives you a fairly good idea of the service.
Skype is a "internet calling" company that allows users to make free calls to other Skype users and for a small amount of money, the user can make internet calls to anyone.
The problem with Skype (when it comes to "internet harassment" and stalking) is that EACH TIME a number is dialed, the outgoing number changes. This makes it easy for an individual to "stalk" another individual without having to reveal their identity In addition, the ever-changing-numbers confuse the person being harassed.
Google Voice and Skype Phone Linking
Now that we know that Skype can produce a new number each time and that Google Voice is a free service, all that is left to do is "link" (AKA "connect") the two together. This can simply be done by logging into Google Voice and clicking "Add Another Phone". Type in a name (like "Skype"), give it your number, and uncheck "Receive text messages on this phone".
Next you need to "Activate" the phone through Google Voice which is easy.
Have Skype is running on your computer or your phone. You need to make sure it's running on the device you plan to use it on. Google Voice will then make a call to confirm your phone. Once you do, you may hear the voice on the other end say it didn't go through—but if it shows up in your Google Voice settings, you should be fine. To test, you can click the "Call" button in Voice's web interface to make a call, and choose Skype as the phone to call with. If Skype doesn't ring, then you can head back to the settings and try again.
Google Voice Harassment / Stalking Phone Calls
If you are looking to simply end the harassment from the current Google Voice number, you will want to follow Google's directions and use the Global Spam Filtering System. The Spam Flitering System makes it possible to automatically redirect calls, texts, and voicemails from any of the numbers in the Google database that have been identified as spam directly into your spam folder. To enable this feature simply following the 3 directions below:
- Click the wrench icon and select Voice Settings.
- Click the Call tab.
- Check the box next to Global Spam Filtering.
If a number ends up incorrectly marked as spam, you can easily unblock it by selecting the message and clicking the Not Spam button in your spam folder.
Block Google Voice Callers Video
Google and Law Enforcement / Police
If you have done EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER to attempt to stop the harassment (including, but not limited to):
1. Asking the person to cease calling / texting (make sure you have PROOF of your request)
2. Filing a complaint with Google directly (make sure you retain proof of the complaint via a Screenshot or even take a good photo(s) with your phone or camera)
3. Reporting the abuser
4. Blocking the abuser
AND if the culprit returns as a "new" stalker / harasser, then you will want to take the following actions:
First, contact local police with all of the above information. Be sure to have available all of the ways you have been harassed (including phone records, emails, texts, etc). You will want to make backup copies of each so you can leave one copy of everything with police.
Second, if the harassment continues, contact the police again. Find out what the police plan to do to stop the harassment.
Third, if you cannot get resolution in a timely manner, then hire a lawyer to send a Legal Demand to Google:
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
fax: +1 650 253 0001
You can also ask your lawyer to telephone Google directly and request a specific name of someone all legal demands and requests can be sent to. Googles phone number is +1 650 253 0000
Reporting Harassment to Skype
If you are being harassed / stalked by a variety of numbers, it is most likely that the culprit is utilizing Skype to contact you. You will first want to log the numbers and TIMES of calls received, then contact Skype Support or send a HIGHLY DETAILED log of times, numbers and the exact harassment to firstname.lastname@example.org
You also will want to REPORT the user directly if you use Skype by using the "REPORT ABUSE" box:
HOW TO REPORT SKYPE ABUSE
Skype and Legal Action: Involving Law Enforcement
If you seem to be "hitting a brick wall" with stopping Skype Harassment, you can have a Legal Demand sent to Skype directly at:
3210 Porter Drive
Palo Alto, California 94304, USA
As stated in the Legal and Terms section of Skype, it is against policy (as well as the law) to use the site to harass / stalk / cause problems.
In particular, see section "6.3 Prohibited Use: You may not:
(c) send unsolicited communications (also referred to as “SPAM”, “SPIM” or “SPIT”) or any communication not permitted by applicable law or use the Software, Products or Skype Websites for the purposes of phishing or pharming or impersonating or misrepresenting affiliation with another person or entity;
(e) use the Software, Products or Skype Websites to cause or intend to cause embarrassment or distress to, or to threaten, harass or invade the privacy of, any third party..."
Harassment / Stalking DEFINED
Before you can make a genuine "case" of harassment or "stalking" you need to understand what harassment and stalking ARE and ARE NOT.
Harassment is legally defined as "the act of systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group, including threats and demands"
Stalking is legally defined as "Stalking is a distinctive form of criminal activity composed of a series of actions that taken individually might constitute legal behavior... ...Most states require that the stalker pose a threat or act in a way that causes a reasonable person to feel fearful. The threat does not have to be written or verbal to instill fear. For example, a stalker can convey a threat by sending the victim black roses, forming his hand into a gun and pointing it at her, or delivering a dead animal to her doorstep."
Magic Jack Being Used for Phone Harassment
Magic Jack is another alternative for "internet calling" which is yet another tool used by scammers / harassers. In fact, the harassment became so bad that the Attorney General in Mississippi released an announcement about it in 2011.
See, When you purchase a Magic Jack, you can make and receive phone calls; and just like with Google Voice, you can choose a telephone number from almost any area code. This is a feature that is being exploited by scammers and harassers who want to hide their location.
Back in March of 2010, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi received at least 48 phone calls from the same telephone number and opened a case against the harasser. The Magic Jack phone number was then traced back to the culprit.
How YOU Can Fight Phone Harassment for FREE
You can have a Trap Line / Blind Line set up.
HOW TRAPS AND BLINDS WORK:
Both of these are tools used by investigative agencies to catch culprits. The idea behind using a trap line is that if you capture the telephone number that the party is dialing from, you have a fact that they were at this location at the time of the call.
HOW TO SET UP A TRAP LINE:
"Local phone companies have varying policies on whether to call the phone company or the police first. Some recommend that you first call the phone company's business office and explain the problem. A representative will connect you with the "annoyance desk." Other phone companies may require you to file a formal complaint with local law enforcement before they will deal with the matter. To find out what your phone company's policy is, contact the business office and ask for assistance. AT&T policies are available online at their Annoyance Call Bureau site. Click on "Annoyance Call Types" for specific guidance. Verizon policies are available at their Unlawful Call Center.
If the calls are frequent or particularly threatening, the phone company can set up a "Trap" on your phone line. The Trap allows the phone company to determine the telephone number from which the harassing calls originate. You must keep a log noting the time and date the harassing calls are received. Traps are usually set up for no more than two weeks. The phone company does not charge a fee for Traps. "
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
StephanieP from Los Angeles, California on August 01, 2014:
Finally some useful tips that I can use for my Google voice account. I will try this and hopefully the calls will stop. Thank you again for this information.