Robocalls number in the billions. Here are 15 tips to help stop — or at least slow down —the barrage of unwanted calls.
A robocall invasion is underway. We’re talking about those annoying and unwanted automated calls that often deliver a recorded message.
Americans received 49 billion robocalls in the first 10 months of 2019, according to YouMail, a robocall blocking app. Although some robocalls may be from legitimate sources, they can also be from scammers seeking to trick or bully you into providing financial information, which could lead to identity theft.
The good news? There are steps you can take to help eliminate robocalls.
15 tips for how to stop robocalls
Here are some of the best tips to help you stop annoying, unwanted calls which could come from fraudsters and spammers.
Use the National Do Not Call Registry
The National Do Not Call Registry is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency tasked with consumer protection. Adding your number to this free registry indicates you don’t want to receive telemarketer calls. This will help unclog your phone line, but it may not stem the tide of illegal callers. And charities, political groups, debt collectors and pollsters can still legally contact you.
Use cellphone-carrier blocking tools
All the major cellphone companies, such as Verizon and AT&T, offer some kind of call-blocking technology for iPhone and Android devices. Some of the call-blocking apps and services are free, while others charge a monthly fee. Contact your provider for information.
Use a third-party app
A number of third-party apps can help block nuisance calls and text messages if you’re not satisfied with your cellphone provider’s spam-blocking service. Only use reputable apps downloaded from the official Google Play Store or iOS App Store, since you’re granting access to your contacts list and potentially other sensitive information.
Report robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission gathers information about robocalls and analyzes trends, which helps various experts to identify illegal callers based on patterns. This data can also help create call-blocking solutions and develop anti-robocall laws. You can file a complaint on the FTC website.
Block incoming calls
When you receive a robocall, you can block the specific number that called. This prevents it from reaching you again.
Don’t answer anonymous calls
You don’t have to answer the phone, especially when you don’t know who’s calling. Simply let it go to voicemail.
Don’t trust caller ID
Spoofing technology can allow scammers to fake the name and phone number that shows up on your screen, making it appear as though a call is coming from a local number or even a government agency. If you don’t recognize a number and it’s similar to your own, it’s best to let it go to voicemail.
Use your phone’s Do-Not-Disturb function
Some smartphones have a feature that lets you turn off the ringer during specified time frames. You can decide whether to allow certain numbers to call even when the feature is on.
Use the Silence Unknown Callers feature
This iPhone feature allows you to silence all calls from numbers that you’ve never contacted or that aren't in your contacts list. Calls received from Unknown Callers areadded to your Recents list and sent to voicemail, where you can see if the call is legitimate. To enable the feature, go to Settings, then choose Phone. Toggle the “Silence Unknown Callers” button so it’s turned on.
Stop providing your phone number
Next time you download an app or sign up for a service, question whether you really need to give your phone number. Limiting the information you provide can help keep it from being shared or sold to third-party marketers, and may help keep it from being exposed in a data breach, which is how some robocallers get their number lists.
Or, only give out a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) number
You can purchase a VoIP number through a service provider, such as Google Talk, then direct calls to your cellphone. For instance, you could give your real cellphone number only to friends and family and the VoIP number to anyone else who needs to reach you. Using the VoIP features, you could send all calls to voicemail and screen for robocalls.
Don’t verbally confirm personal information
If you do answer a call, don’t confirm personal information or respond to any questions if you’re suspicious. Simply hang up.
Don’t press buttons to confirm info
Scammers often try to get a response. For example, the person or recording may tell you to press a button to confirm you no longer want to receive these calls. Don’t do it — just hang up. Scammers often use this method to identify potential targets.
Know the signs of a scam call
Knowing some of the hallmarks of a scam can help you avoid becoming a victim if you answer the phone. The caller may promise a reward, threaten to arrest or sue you, ask to confirm sensitive information, or otherwise try to tap into an emotion. It’s best to hang up on these callers and then block the numbers.
Don’t respond to pressure
If you’re being pressured to provide information immediately, don't be afraid to hang up the phone. Do your own investigation if you believe there's any truth to the caller’s message.
Robocall blocking apps to consider
Below is a listing of several robocall blocking apps for iPhone and Android that you may want to consider.
Hiya Caller ID and Block*
Hiya Caller ID and Block claims to use a database of known scammers to help you identify incoming robocalls, block calls and text messages, set up a blacklist of numbers to ignore, and receive spam alerts. Hiya also claims to work with more than 100 carriers worldwide. The basic app is free. The premium option for iPhones starts at $3.99 a month ($24.99 a year) and the Android version starts at $2.99 per month.
Nomorobo Robocall Blocking*
On their website, Nomorobo promises to intercept a call after the first ring, check the number against a list of known robocallers, and let calls go through that are likely legit. Legal robocalls, like school closings, are also allowed through, and you can block spam text messages and report a robocall or spam call. Nomorobo claims to have blocked more than 1.3 billion robocalls. Pricing begins at $1.99 a month for cellphones and is free for VoIP landlines.
RoboKiller claims on its website that it can block spam calls from a database of 1.1 million telemarketers and robocalls and even answers spam calls with prerecorded messages. The service also detects voice patterns so even if the robocaller changes its number, RoboKiller will know its audio fingerprint. Expect to pay $2.99 a month for Android phones and $3.99 per month for iOS devices.
* The inclusion of websites, apps, or links does not imply endorsement or support of any company, material, product and/or provider listed herein.
Why is it so hard to stop robocalls?
It’s an annoying problem with a simple answer. The internet has made it cheap and easy to dial thousands of calls at once using an internet connection instead of a phone. It’s also very easy for someone to spoof your caller ID, making a phone call appear legitimate. Some of these illegal calls are even placed from overseas, which can make tracking and enforcement difficult.
While the U.S. government and phone carriers try to wrangle the issue and come up with a long-term solution, you can use these tips and a call-blocking app to help cut down on the robocalls that reach your phone.
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