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Telemarketing calls are certainly nothing new, annoying us for decades by now. Aside from trying to sell you stuff, robocalls can be downright deceptive and malicious. Robocall scams are actually trying to rip you off or steal your identity.
You know what they are. These are the unsolicited, prerecorded telemarketing calls to landlines and wireless phones that seem to strike at the most inconvenient times.
The moment you hear that electronic voice, everything stops. Your pulse quickens; your blood pressure rises. It doesn’t matter what you were doing before. Maybe you were laughing at a joke. Maybe you were enjoying lunch. Perhaps you were watching your kid’s Little League game.
None of that matters now. You picked up that call, and you regret it –like all the other times. You want to shriek: Don’t call me again. I don’t care who you are. Just go away! Your words would fall on deaf ears. There is no one on the other end, and if you breathe a word, your voice may be recorded for future use.
The most notorious robocalls
According to the Federal Trade Commission, here are the top six spam call types reported by consumers:
- 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
One of the robocall techniques that’s increasingly getting more popular is a scam called “neighborhood spoofing.”
With this scam, fraudsters will disguise their numbers with local numbers that appear to match your area code and 3-digit prefix.
By spoofing a local number, these spammers are hoping that there’s a better chance that their targets will pick up the call.
And neighborhood spoof calls don’t just harm the intended targets, they are also a big hassle to the owner of the spoofed number.
If your number was ever used as a spoof call disguise, expect unexpected return calls from the spam victims. These return calls are annoying since the owner of the spoofed number is not aware that a spam call was ever made from their number.
Robocall plague is bad and it will just get worse
According to a recent report from telecommunication provider Transaction Network Services, a third of all calls placed in the first half of 2018 were robocalls. Yep, one of three calls in 2018 were scams. That’s enough for more than 16.3 billion spam calls, and 2018 is not even over yet.
The Federal Trade Commision (FTC) also revealed that it gets 400,000 robocall complaints each day. And judging by the trends, it’s just going to get worse!
The First Orion Corporation, a company that provides spam call filters to various carriers, is predicting that 44.56% of all calls in 2019 will be spam and robocalls. Yep, almost half of all the phone calls you will be getting next year will be a scam or a telemarketing call.
That means the U.S. robocall plague is growing exponentially each year, and it’s getting worse!
How will you find relief? Here are seven pointers for minimizing, or eradicating, all these unwanted calls.
- Reject Anonymous Calls Automatically
Many robocalls come up as “anonymous” on your caller ID, while most businesses and human beings come up as identifiable phone numbers. Chances are, you could terminate all anonymous calls without missing anything important.
Depending on your service, you may have access to Anonymous Call Rejection. Try this on your landline. Make sure your caller ID is activated. Enter the magic number *77, and you will hear three beeps. Hang up, and any call that hides its number will be rejected.
This service varies by carrier, and some carriers charge extra. But it’s a helpful tool for scammers or legitimate robocallers who slip through the Do Not Call Registry, which I’ll talk about next.
Note: In some jurisdictions, dialing *77 on your mobile phone may connect you with law enforcement. Tap or click here for a list, or check with local or state law enforcement before trying *77.
- Join the National Do Not Call Registry List
Millions rejoiced when the FTC created the National Do Not Call Registry – and in a perfect world, signing up would stop telemarketers from calling you. Technically, it’s illegal for telemarketers to call you if you are on this list.
But the world isn’t perfect. Scammers don’t follow the rules, nor do they care about this list. It’s still smart to register your number as an added layer of protection against unwanted calls, as joining the National Do Not Call Registry is very simple. You go to the website 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.
You can call 1-888-382-1222 from any phone you want on the list. That’s all it takes, and your number stays on the list until you ask for it to be removed or you give up the number.
Once you sign up, the Do Not Call list takes you off for-profit business call lists, but it isn’t immediate. Telemarketers update their listings only periodically, so the FTC says it can take up to 31 days.
Also, political organizations, charities and survey takers are still permitted to call you. Businesses you’ve bought something from or made a payment to in the last 18 months have a right to call. When they call, however, firmly tell them to take you off their list and they have to honor your request, although they might still try to talk you into reconsidering.
- Use Carrier Tools to Block Unwanted Calls
The four major carriers have tools to identify, filter and prevent suspected nuisance numbers from calling or texting your phone. Most require 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 and suspected spam warnings. You can manually block unwanted calls.
Verizon recently announced a free call-blocking service beginning in March. Verizon previously offered a “Caller Filter” service for $2.99 per month per line.
Verizon says it has identified 300 million spam and scam phone numbers that it will block. They say it will roll out the free spam alerting and call-blocking tools in March 2019.
T-Mobile provides two free ways to combat robocallers 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 or 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, dial #662# on your T-Mobile handset. To turn it off, dial #632#. Similar to Verizon’s Caller Name ID, T-Mobile has its own paid “Name ID” service, which identifies and provides caller information like the name, location and type of organization. You can block them as needed. This is included in T-Mobile ONE Plus plans. For other T-Mobile plans, it costs $4 a month per line.
It has a dangerous-caller identification that immediately identifies robocallers, scammers, and other nuisance callers before you answer.
Finally, 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, and it provides a threat level indicator to give customers an idea of how suspicious a call is. It does this by flagging calls with real-time data trends gathered across the U.S.
This service doesn’t automatically block known spam calls. Based on the threat level, you can choose to answer the call, block the number or report it to prevent future calls.
- Use the Best Apps to Block Robocalls
Another way to stop nuisance calls on your smartphone is via call-blocking apps. These apps can identify who is calling you and block unwanted calls that show up on a crowd-sourced spam and robocaller list.
Here are the top call blocking apps.
Nomorobo is an iOS and Android app that offers real-time protection from a growing list of robocallers, telemarketers and phone scammers.
Here’s how it works: Nomorobo lets the phone ring once, then tries to identify the caller. If the number is on the app’s robocaller list, the app will automatically block the call for you.
Nomorobo is free to use for 30 days, and then it costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 for an entire year. To sign up, you will need to provide Nomorobo with information. List the type of phone you have – wireless or landline – and select your carrier. Note: Not all major cell carriers support Nomorobo.
The Truecaller app for iOS and Android lets you find out who’s behind that unknown number. Copy and paste the number into the app’s search bar. Truecaller will search the unknown number to find out who it is. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, it’s a great resource to avoid answering an unwanted robocall.
Another great feature of Truecaller is its ability to block spam calls. When a pesky telemarketer calls, there will be a big warning in red, telling you that it’s a spam call. Just swipe up when this happens to automatically block that caller and add them to the spam list.
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 for $1.99 per month.
Hiya – Caller ID & Block
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 Hiya app is available for free on both Apple and Android gadgets with no ads, and it is 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.
Call Control – Call Blocker
The Call Control – Call Blocker app automatically blocks spam calls and calls from other numbers you don’t want to hear from. You can block entire area codes (like 888) if you’re getting tons of calls you don’t want from a particular location. The Call Control app is free and available for both Apple and Android gadgets.
Worried about missing out on important calls? Call Control gives you your own personal Whitelist and Contacts Protection to make sure people you know get through.
The app’s users actively report their spammers so its catalog is always up to date.
Call Control will automatically block active spammers, and the reverse lookup allows you to track them to their source. You can add numbers to the Community Blacklist and choose to block specific numbers that won’t leave you alone.
- Block Individual Phone Numbers
Here’s a feature that’s available on any iPhone and Android – the ability to block specific numbers. Although this cannot possibly stop every robocall and spammer number, you can at least block the recurring ones.
On an iPhone, open your Phone app, go to your Recents tab, then 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 put the number on your block list.
On Android, you can likewise open your Phone app, navigate to the Recents section, do a long press on the suspicious number then select “Block/report spam.” (This may vary, depending on the manufacturer and model of your Android phone.)
- Common Sense Prevails
This is the simplest solution, and many people try this low-tech approach to robocalls. 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. Millions of people are unencumbered by robocalls, and they don’t give these pests a second thought.
But be advised: If you answer the phone and the caller (often a recording) asks you to hit a button to stop receiving calls, just hang up. Scammers often use these tricks to identify and target live respondents. Once they know the number is active, you may receive more calls in the future.
Be Safe – Backup Your Data Regularly!
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