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Stop robocalls with Google Voice

The easy solution to annoying automated calls is “Just don’t answer the phone.” However, that’s not an option if your life is complicated. Your kids’ school may call, the vet may call with Sparky’s test results, or your elderly relatives may need to be in touch. If that’s not enough of a reason, there’s the matter of paying for phone service, then not getting to use it.

Even with the federal Do Not Call registry in place, automated phone calls can still come flooding in. Many businesses sell your information to third parties. In fact, agreeing to this kind of information trade can be part of the deal for many free or low-cost services. The bottom line is: Robocalls are annoying and need to be stopped.

Make those calls stop

The easiest way to begin the battle against automated calls is with Google Voice. Google Voice is a phone service run by Google—who you may have heard of—that offers things like free long distance and international calling. We’re interested in their free voicemail service, which we can use to screen out annoying automated callers.

Go to Google Voice now and sign up. Use the number you select as your new “home phone number.” It’s what you give out to businesses that need or want a phone number to keep on file. A good example is those discount cards drugstores and supermarkets use, where you save a few bucks and they track what you buy and pass your information on to third parties. Think of your Google Voice number as your public face, the one you can give out freely without worrying that your phone will ring at all hours.

As for your actual cellphone or home number, keep that private and give it to friends, family, and people that need it. That way, you can answer your phone knowing it’s probably a call you actually want rather than someone trying to sell you a timeshare or convince you your computer has a virus.

Exploring Google Voice further

For the full benefit of your new Google Voice number, there are a couple different settings we can explore to maximize its utility. Find and enable the “Do Not Disturb” setting first. Do Not Disturb means all callers will be sent to voicemail. That Google number will never ring and interrupt a meeting or family time.

If you’re worried about missing an important call, you can always set the voicemail message to give out your real phone number. And it can be easily turned off if the need arises. When the caller leaves a message, Google will send you an email with the call information. Sometimes it will even send a transcription of the message they left—though as always with computer transcription, this can be imperfect—so you know whether it’s worth calling back.

Get calls you actually want

Let’s say you are waiting for that important call, but you still don’t want your phone ringing with automated calls and scams. Look in the Google Voice settings for the “Screen Calls” feature and enable it. When call screening is on, callers will be prompted to say their name before Google lets them through. When you answer the line, Google will play the recording back to you, so you can decide if you want to take the call or send them to voicemail.

Your next steps

Obviously, this isn’t enough to take care of robocallers completely, but it’s a good first step to cutting down the hordes of automated calls. For a deeper dive, there are plenty of free and paid apps that can put the finishing touch on your anti-robocaller regimen. Look in the app store for your phone or mobile device to find those.

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