Robocalls are the worst. That phony voice. The unstoppable message. At least you can get sassy with a telemarketer. Some robocalls are so convincing that you think you’re talking with an actual person, and they’re even programmed to respond to your voice.
Thanks in large part to advancing technology, robocalls are easier than ever to make. Here’s the shocker. It’s about to get worse. Click here to learn what's coming next, spam voicemails.
According to an FTC report, here are the top six spam call types reported by consumers in 2017:
- Reducing your debt (credit cards, mortgage, student loans)
- Dropped call or no message
- Vacation & timeshares
- Warranties & protection plans
- Calls pretending to be government, businesses, or family and friends
- Medical & prescriptions
So how do you shield yourself from these robocall and telemarketing scams?
I will warn you; this article is very comprehensive (read: long). It’s also one that you should most definitely share with your family and friends. You’re not alone cursing the endless stream of robocalls.
1. Block individual numbers
This feature is available on iPhone and Android, the ability to block specific numbers. Blocking numbers won’t stop every robocall and spammer number out there, but you can at least block the recurring ones.
On an iPhone, open your Phone app >> Recents tab, tap the circular information icon on the right side of the number you want to block. On the next page, tap Block this Caller to prevent future incoming calls.
On Android, you can likewise open your Phone app, navigate to the Recent section, do a long press on the suspicious number and select Block/report spam.
2. Use Do Not Disturb
Do Not Disturb is designed to block every number, except for your most trusted contacts or favorites. This feature is also built into iPhone or Android phones. Unknown callers will always have the option to leave a voice message. You can also add any number to your Contacts list to let them through in the future.
To customize your Do Not Disturb preferences on an iPhone, go to Settings >> Do Not Disturb. Here you can turn the mode on, set a Do Not Disturb schedule and set your allowed calls to either all your saved contacts or just your Favorites list.
On Android, go to Settings >> Sound (or Sound & Notification in other phones) then tap Do Not Disturb.
3. Use your carrier's tools
Major carriers have specific tools to identify, filter, and block suspected nuisance numbers from calling or texting your phone. Most require you to shell out an extra monthly fee to activate the caller ID service, but network-level blocking is free of charge across all the carriers.
AT&T subscribers can use a free iOS and Android app called AT&T Call Protect. It has automatic fraud blocking, suspected spam warnings and you can also use it to manually block unwanted calls.
If you don't have a smartphone, you can subscribe to AT&T's Smart Limits. Once you're signed up, log onto MyAT&T and hover over "Wireless" to see "Smart Limits." Select it and then choose "Blocked Numbers" to add a number. It costs $5 a month for one line or $10 a month for up to 10 lines.
If you have Verizon, you can temporarily block up to five numbers for 90 days for free. To add or edit your blocked numbers, just log into the MyVerizon website, go to the "My Plan & Services" tab, and the "Blocks" section.
The caveat is that after 90 days, you'll have to manually block the numbers again. This service is also ineffective against number spoofs and robocallers who constantly change their numbers.
For better spam and robocall control on Verizon, you'll have to get its Caller Name ID service. This will add automatic spam detection, spam blocks and caller details to your Verizon line. This costs $2.99 a month per line.
T-Mobile provides two free ways to combat robocalls and spam calls. First is Scam ID, an automatic system that identifies spam numbers when your phone rings. T-Mobile automatically does this on its network and there's no app to install nor service to turn on.
The second free method is Scam Block. Unlike Scam ID, which simply identifies known spam numbers, Scam Block gives you an option to block those numbers. To turn this on, just dial #662# on your T-Mobile handset. To turn it off, dial #632#.
Sprint customers can sign up for its Premium Caller ID service to protect themselves from robocalls and caller ID spoofers. This service is $2.99 a month.
4. Use third-party apps
Call blocking apps can identify who is calling you and also block unwanted calls that show up on a crowd-sourced spam and robocaller list. Here are the top call blocking apps you can use right now.
Nomorobo is an iOS and Android app that offers real-time protection from a growing list of robocallers, telemarketers, and phone scammers.
Nomorobo lets the phone ring once and tries to identify the caller. If the number is on the Nomorobo list, the app will automatically block the call for you. Nomorobo is free to use for 30 days, after that it costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 for an entire year. Not all major cell carriers support Nomorobo.
Next is the free Truecaller app for iOS and Android. This service lets you find out who's behind an unknown number. Just copy and paste the number into the search bar embedded in the app.
With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, it's a great resource to avoid answering an unwanted robocall.
The Truecaller app is free for both download and use. However, there is a professional version that can be bought as an in-app purchase and it costs $1.99 per month.
But Hiya Caller ID & Block is the one to get
The Hiya Caller ID & Block app is perfect for identifying calls that you want to accept and blocking calls and texts you want to avoid. The app is free, with no ads, and is extremely simple to use. If you had to choose one, this is the best choice.
It allows you to block calls, blacklist unwanted phone numbers and text messages, reverse phone search incoming call information and receive spam alerts. The app is powered by a database of hundreds of millions of phone numbers confirmed to be spam by other users.
The Hiya app is available for free on both Apple and Android gadgets. Click here to download the app for iOS and Android.
5. Use a phone with auto-spam and robocall filtering
Did you know that some smartphones already have built-in spam and robocall protection in place? Samsung's flagship Galaxy and Note smartphones have a native feature called Smart Call that automatically screens and flags suspicious numbers.
Google's Android smartphones like the Pixel, Pixel 2, and even the old Nexus and Android One, also have built-in spam call protection. With this feature turned on, users with Caller ID enabled will get a warning if a suspected spam call or robocall is received.
6. Join the National Do Not Call Registry List
In a perfect world, adding your number to the FTC's National Do Not Call Registry should stop telemarketers from calling you. Technically, it's illegal for telemarketers to call you if you are on this list.
Unfortunately, scammers don't follow the rules nor do they care about this list. However, it's still good practice to register your number as an added layer of protection against unwanted calls.
Joining the National Do Not Call Registry is actually very simple. You go to the website https://www.donotcall.gov/ and enter the landline or cellphone number you want on the list. Note that fax numbers are governed by different regulations, so signing them up won't do anything.
After going through a quick email verification, you're done. You can also call 1-888-382-1222 from any phone you want on the list.
7. The most obvious solution
If you receive a call from an unknown number or one that doesn't show up on caller ID, don't answer. If it's an important call, the person will leave a message and you can get back to them.
If you answer the phone and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify and target live respondents.
Once they know the number is active, you will receive more calls in the future. Nice.
What questions do you have about living the best digital life?
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