How many times a day do you answer your phone and hear a recording telling you your car’s warranty is about to expire or congratulating you on winning a free trip to the Bahamas? Adding to the frustration is the fact that most of these calls are from local numbers, leading you to believe someone you know is trying to get ahold of you. Robocalls are confusing and downright annoying, partly because they’re an inconvenience, but also because they’re often some sort of scam.
The number of robocalls ringing our phones at all hours of the day has reached an all-time high, and because of that those calls are also getting a lot of attention from the government and technology companies. The House has passed a bill that will all but stop robocalls, while the FCC passed a proposal that gives carriers the permission to be more aggressive when blocking spam calls. More recently, the implementation of SHAKEN/STIR technology by carriers and phone companies has begun to take place, identifying and blocking spam calls. Apple even added a feature to iOS 13 that lets you block all unknown callers from ever ringing your phone.
Robocalls convey a prerecorded message to your phone that often urges you to do something. Sometimes it’s a message from a candidate running for office or a call from your bank advertising a new service. Even more worrisome are the scammy robocalls — posing, say, as the “IRS” — that intend to trick people out of their money. It’ll be some time before the FCC’s proposal is implemented, so you’re not going to see a dramatic decrease in unwanted calls overnight.
Not every automated solicitation call counts as illegal. Calls from political campaigns, debt collectors and charities are all permissible. What’s not allowed are the calls from the fake IRS agents or the companies that claim you won a free vacation to the Bahamas.
While it’s not possible to entirely end robocalls from reaching your phone, there are some steps you can take to reduce the number of calls you receive.
Best practices to keep annoying robocalls at bay
According to the FCC, there are some easy steps you can take to help reduce robocalls:
- Don’t answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers.
- Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
- Just because an incoming call appears to be from a local number, doesn’t mean it is.
- Don’t respond to any questions that can be answered with a “Yes.”
- If someone calls you and claims to be with XYZ company, hang up and call the company yourself. Use the company’s website to find an official number.
- If you do answer a call and hear a recording such as “Hello, can you hear me?” just hang up.
- The same goes for a call where you’re asked to press a number before being connected to a representative.
When you answer a call and interact with the voice prompt or by pressing a number, it lets the spammer know your number is real. They can then sell your number to another company, or begin targeting your number more frequently.
Arguably, Google’s Call Screen feature goes against the FCC’s advice, as not only do you answer the robocall, but there’s interaction with the caller from your phone number, which will likely lead to more calls. Even though Google’s Call Screen feature is incredibly fun and entertaining to use unless you know the phone number is legit — it’s best just to not answer.
added plenty of new features, including , which adds the option to route calls from unknown numbers straight to voicemail. With the feature turned on, Siri will allow calls from numbers found in Contacts, Mail, and Messages to go through. Anything else will go to voicemail, and assuming the caller is legit, they can leave a message. And that’s the rub — we often receive important calls from numbers we don’t store on our phones, and ultimately, you could miss important calls. But if all else fails and you’re desperate to stop robocalls, this is a valid option.
If you find yourself receiving a lot of spam text messages, you can forward the message to the number 7726 (spells SPAM). It won’t block the number from texting you right away, but it will allow your carrier to look into where it came from and put an end to it.
Check with your provider
All four major wireless carriers offer some sort of call blocking feature to customers. Some are free, while others charge for something that should be free.
- AT&T’s Call Protect app is available for iOS and Android. The free version blocks calls from “likely fraudsters” and labels telemarketing calls. You can add numbers to a block list in the app, as well. The paid version provides caller ID for unknown numbers and offers mobile security features that are unrelated to robocalls. The premium version of Call Protect costs $3.99 per month.
- Verizon’s Call Filter app is for Android users on a postpaid plan. The service offers spam detection, a spam filter, and the option to report numbers for free. You can pay $2.99 a month (or $7.99 a month for three or more lines of service) for caller ID, spam lookup, and a personal block and spam list. Call Filter is built into most Android devices out of the box (which you’ve probably been prompted about) but is also available in the App Store for iOS users.
- T-Mobile’s Scam ID is free to all customers and includes Scam Block. The ID portion of the service will alert you that an incoming call is likely spam, while Block will block the call from ever reaching your phone. You need to activate the Block feature, either through the Scam Block app or by dialing #662# from your phone. You can pay $4 for Name ID to see the names of incoming callers.
- Sprint’s Premium Caller ID feature costs $3 a month and will identify all incoming callers and block robocalls. There isn’t an app to install, the feature is built into “select” phones and the Sprint network………Read More>>