NEW YORK – Feb. 13, 2019 – "Hello! Please don't hang up … did you know that you could save a bundle on …?
It's a robocall, another automated telemarketer. Nowadays, robocalls make up 50 percent of all phone calls. In 2018 alone, robocallers spammed us with 26.3 billion calls. And it's only going to get worse: Robocalls are going to become more constant in coming years.
The moment you hear that electronic voice, everything stops. Your pulse quickens; your blood pressure rises. None of that matters now. You picked up that call, and you regret it. 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.
It's time to end those robocalls for good. Luckily, you have a whole arsenal of smartphone tools at your disposal. You block numbers, turn on Do Not Disturb mode, use your carrier's tools, or use third-party apps to end this telephonic pestilence.
Here are pointers for minimizing or eradicating those 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 robocallers who slip through the Do Not Call Registry.
Note: In some jurisdictions, dialing *77 on your mobile phone may connect you with law enforcement. 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. Just go to the website donotcall.gov and enter the landline or cellphone number you want on the list.
You can also 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.
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.
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: 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: Verizon recently announced a free call-blocking service that debuts in March. Verizon previously offered a "Caller Filter" service for $2.99 per month per line.
Verizon has identified 300 million spam and scam phone numbers that it will block through free spam alerting and call-blocking tools.
T-Mobile: 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 in 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.
Sprint: 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 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: 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, 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.
Truecaller: 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, in my opinion.
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 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.
Some phones block robocalls automatically
Did you know that some smartphones already have built-in spam and robocall protection in place? Samsung's flagship Galaxy and Note have a native feature called Smart Call that screens and flags suspicious numbers. Google's Android smartphones like the Pixels and the old Nexus and Android One have built-in spam call protection. With this feature, users with Caller ID enabled will get a warning if a suspected spam call or robocall is received.
Aside from ignoring the call, the user has the option to either block the number or whitelist it if the spam flagging is deemed an error. An option to report the call to Google is available.
Common sense prevails
This is the simplest solution, and many people try this low-tech approach. 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.
Copyright 2019, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY; Tech Talk, Kim Komando.