Need Robocall Relief? Here's How to Fight Back

Category: Telephony

Robocalls are on the rise, despite government regulations prohibiting commercial robocalls. The FCC estimates that 2.4 BILLION robocalls are placed every month, or about seven per U.S. resident. The FTC says it received nearly 3.5 million complaints about robocalls in fiscal year 2016. That’s up an alarming 60% over the same period last year! Here's what you can do to fight back…

Robocalls On the Rise

National and state do-not-call registries are ineffective against robocalls, according to an FTC consumer advisory. “The companies that use this technology don’t bother to screen for numbers on the national Do Not Call Registry,” the advisory reads. “If a company doesn’t care about obeying the law, you can be sure they’re trying to scam you.” (Political robocalls are still protected by the First Amendment.)

Renegade robocallers come and go so rapidly that regulators have trouble catching them; it’s like a game of Whack-A-Mole. These companies operate for a few weeks or months, then dissolve and reform under different names. Many robocall operations are based outside the USA, compounding the challenges facing law enforcement.

Spoofing the originating phone number to fool caller-ID is another robocaller trick. If you try to call the number from which a robocall ostensibly came, it will be “out of service” or belong to an innocent party. Sometimes, robocallers spoof the phone number of a large, legitimate company, so a robocall may show up on your phone as coming from your bank, for instance. The FCC recently approved rules that allow phone companies to block numbers that are not assigned to accounts, and numbers assigned to entities that request that their numbers not be spoofed.

Stop Robocalls

A new tactic is the “direct to voicemail” robocall. You never hear your phone ring, but suddenly there’s a voicemail alert from your phone. When you listen to it, it’s a robocall. One audacious robocaller has argued to the FCC that such shenanigans are not actually phone calls so they are exempt from regulations. The FCC has proposed changes to its rules clarifying that “ringless voicemail” is subject to all the rules that apply to ringing calls.

The FCC has also issued guidance to phone service providers, making it absolutely clear that providers have the right to let consumers block calls from any phone number. For years, service providers have been falsely telling customers that they “can’t” block calls for “legal reasons.” That cover has now been blown.

Some Tools To Block Robocalls

AT&T seems to be in the lead on spam-blocking technology, even though its Call Protect service is available only on iPhones and Android phones that support AT&T’s HD Voice. T-mobile says it’s currently unable to "selectively block incoming calls or texts from individual numbers through the network.” Sprint offers a service to block specific phone numbers. So does Verizon, but Big Red recommends customers use third-party apps for more comprehensive spam protection. The FCC maintains a Web page of anti-spam resources available from various service providers.

Nomorobo is one third party company that offers anti-spam services. The company, which won the FTC’s Robocall Challlenge, in which many companies competed to come up with the best anti-robocall technology. Nomorobo has crowd-sourced over half a million phone numbers used by spammers, and adds new numbers identified as spammers by its customers.

The Nomorobo service is free for VoIP-based landlines. If you get phone service via your high-speed Internet bundle, you almost certainly have a VoIP line. Supported VoIP carriers include AT&T U-verse, Charter Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity, Verizon Fios, Ooma, Optimum, TImeWarner Cable, and Vonage.

For mobile phones, it costs $1.99 per month to protect your iPhone with Nomorobo; an Android app is in the works. Unfortunately, Nomorobo is not available on traditional copper-wire landlines, or on the Magic Jack device at this time.

Google Voice is the best solution I know of for good old-fashioned copper-wire landlines. When you forward your landline to a free Google Voice number, calls are automatically answered, voicemails are transcribed into text, then emailed to you. Of course, you can answer calls from numbers that you know are real people. Google Voice blocks many known phone spammers, but you can selectively silence or block calls from as many numbers as you like.

TrueCaller is another robocall-fighting service. It claims 250 million users worldwide, and that its apps include the world’s best Caller-ID. TrueCaller blocks robocallers and telemarketers; identifies unknown callers; and performs messaging functions too. Available for iPhone and Android, TrueCaller is ad-supported with in-app purchases that unlock premium features.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Need Robocall Relief? Here's How to Fight Back"

(See all 35 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

GURUPERF
27 Jun 2017

My old landline phone has the ability to block numbers (alas only up to 30 numbers at a time). When I receive these annoying calls,which tend to be repeaters, day after day or even hour after hour, I add the number to the block list, deleting one of the earlier ones. This seems to keep the a**hole calls own to almost none.
The old blocked numbers never seem to come back, so it appears that these scum of the earth callers move on from their old numbers regularly


Posted by:

Don Vlack
27 Jun 2017

One thing I have tried with some success is to answer my phone and walk away with it off hook while the recording does it's thing. When there is no response at the end of it's spiel, it hangs up on its own. No more calls from that scam. It seems to have worked best on calls that I repeatedly get, even though they are from different numbers.


Posted by:

Sharon Hutchinson
27 Jun 2017

Thanks Ron for writing about TruCaller's ads. I was about to give them a try but that's all I need-more ads.

It is important to not even answer the phone on these calls since the scammer's computers log the time that the phone is answered and then one is more likely to get a "human" caller around that time. They figure that's when the target is most likely available.


Posted by:

Therrito
27 Jun 2017

For a while I had a robocaller that kept calling me telling me that I was approved for a Government loan that I didn't need to pay back (a LOAN that i didn't need to pay back? sounds fishy). At one point I got fed up with them and devised a plan for the next time that they called.
The next time they called I asked "You're from the Government?" and he said "Yes" so I replied "Okay. Send me a check". He went on saying he needed some info from me so I told him that the Government already knows where I live (they know everything, right?) and he could just send me a check. At this point they usually just hang up out of frustration. I used this tactic for the next few times they called and eventually they just stopped calling me.


Posted by:

Fitz
27 Jun 2017

I've used YouMail for eleven years, and it's incredible! The free version is wonderful and works perfectly for most people, but they offer paid programs which have cool options. Besides filtering out Robocallers, YouMail offers visual voicemail, voicemail-to-email, voicemail-to-text, and other awesome features. I'm still using the free service and I couldn't live without it -- it's the first thing I install when I get a new mobile phone.


Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
27 Jun 2017

Lately it seems we almost never get a robo or other spam call from the same number. They come several times a day from different area codes all over the country, sometimes from places where we know people, these I sometimes answer. Sometimes I let them go to voicemail on the landline, occasionally I answer then quickly hang up. We are on the Do Not Call Registry, though I wish it included charity and political calls.
On my AT&T cell I do usually block the caller, but as I said they were rarely coming from the same number so that seems rather futile.


Posted by:

Fred
27 Jun 2017

For cell phones try "Hiya" a call screening app. Much better than true caller and no adds...and...it's free.
I love it.


Posted by:

Greg C
27 Jun 2017

A simple solution to the few calls I do get and others might want to try: When I pick up the phone I answer with a SINGLE, SOFT Spoken "Hello" and then I wait. I hang up after 5 seconds if there is no response.
It seems scammers want people to say, HELLO, HELLO, HELLO, probably while their auto connect equipment tries to determine whether the phone has been answered or not, and then connect the call to a scammer. It works for me.


Posted by:

bob rice
27 Jun 2017

I've used nomorobo for years and maybe it's working but still getting 2-3 calls per day! The said aspect is robocalls must be working because they keep coming. 2.4 b per month! Stopping robocalls is like trying to stop the rain. Nothing works.


Posted by:

James Ford
27 Jun 2017

I use Nomorob on my home VOIP line ad it is great. I also use it on my iPhone with mixed success. The spammers are changing their tactics so rapidly that it is more difficult for them to keep up on the iPhone. I also use Truecaller as an adjunct blocking tool. Will have to give HiYa a try.


Posted by:

James Ford
27 Jun 2017

I use Nomorob on my home VOIP line ad it is great. I also use it on my iPhone with mixed success. The spammers are changing their tactics so rapidly that it is more difficult for them to keep up on the iPhone. I also use Truecaller as an adjunct blocking tool. Will have to give HiYa a try.


Posted by:

Jim
27 Jun 2017

We rarely answer our landline phone and just let the answering machine pickup. When we do answer (just for fun) it is usually the MS tech support scam or something like it. We usually don't answer unknown numbers on our cell phones either due to the scammers.


Posted by:

Peggy
28 Jun 2017

Our phone system announces who a call is from. If it is not someone we know, we ignore it. Except when my husband want sto spam the spammers. He will answer the phone and pretend to be really dense in response to his winning a car or the lottery. when they want him to send them $$$ to pay for the taxes before he gets the money something always goes wrong. A couple of times he has strung someone along for 2-3 weeks, with a bad money order number, name or the wrong store/address. As long as the spammer is trying to get $$$s out of him, they are not trying to spoof someone else.


Posted by:

Jim
28 Jun 2017

If these spammers put those talents to legitimate use instead of figuring out new ways to beat the system they would be millionaires.


Posted by:

Lou
28 Jun 2017

I use a free application called "Should I answer?" and it's fantastic. (That little green octopus has given me peace of mind.) It blocks every call that's not in my contact list. I stopped listening to annoying calls of all kind long time ago.

This is how it works: The application makes a sound, letting you know about an incoming call. It immediately shows me the phone call that has been blocked and the phone number rating for that call so I can choose to answer back or not. If there is voicemail I can choose to delete the message if it's a telemarketer. I just make sure that the people I want to call me back are in my contact list so I won't miss their calls.


Posted by:

Marilyn
29 Jun 2017

I only get 1 call every 2-3 months. Here's why....
I NEVER give out my phone number to cashiers, etc. Not only do those companies sell your number, but you never know who around you is listening.

Also, I NEVER answer a call not on my contact list. If it's a real call, they'll leave a message.


Posted by:

Lady Fitzgerald
30 Jun 2017

Because of all the companies insisting they absolutely have to have my phone number (actually, they don't), I give them a phony phone number, using a phone number that has the prefix 555. If someone is stupid enough to try and call that number, all they will get is directory Assistance (it's amazing how many people who should do not know that 555 is a fake prefix). I use the same number for store discount cards rather than carry the cards themselves around. No one gets my phone numbers unless they absolutely need it, then I swear them to secrecy.


Posted by:

Chuck
04 Jul 2017

I have Vonage but they came up with a great idea about a year ago. I have it ported to my android so I don't have to be right by an old school phone to get calls. I wonder if nomorobo will recognize that as a physical or a mobile. I guess I'll try it out. I get probably at least 2-3 calls a day and living part of the year in Thailand (12 hour time difference) that get's very irritating at about 2am.


Posted by:

Sunny
06 Jul 2017

Read posts:no workable remedy.Area telco, AT&T,Feb 2017,reneged on a long-awaited promise: placing "experimental nodes" to improve customary communication services. Among foothill cities of major mt. range,w/in city limits in So CAL, adjacent to Jet Propulsion Lab, a well-respected university,among foothill cities of major mt. range, above which are all TV/radio/GOVT protective towers = ongoing radio frequenc.issues.

Winds/weather etc.routinely fail & reduce cable customers to helpless state, as occurs in many other states where family live. Issues w/AT&T reported/published by Huff Post: AT&T LIED, still UNREFUTED, to CA PUC that U-verse hybrid fiber available, prompting our calls to AT&T @CA state HQ, where Mr. Spring & staff finally said: "we are too far from a Central Station, ditto; field office& and AT&T "continues to have no plan to change anything (note reneged promise above $@#%!)." Cell reception spotty at best even as aided by renting $99/mo. Verizon Jet Pack. In fact, this mobile service jokes: "we offer the best of the worst product/service'. NoMoRobo can't be used by AT&T cust. either who have AT&T traditional lines, which remain as same old ones used by your grandmother--old twisted copper pair of wires, down the line augmented by coaxial cable off of which too many upline customers vie daily for possibility of inconsistent connections.End of that line doesn't reach us!!!

STD. SVS. edging close to $40/mo.for what is LOUSY AT&T service (in essence, we are paying for pensions, labor costs, etc. of so-called AT&T minimal service provided after untold millions have been abandoned AT&T for better products/service that has become available to them. Foothill residences in our location and throughout this sizable city are not only ones affected--here exists a whole string of cities!

A married professional couple, performing essential communications;ie, business, regional disaster & pastoral care.& personal responsively, demands whatever we can manage to arrange. If you have an answer, we're listening.


Posted by:

JJ Sanders
14 Jul 2017

There is an easy solution that is not well known - the RoboBlocker. It uses a special process to determine if the incoming call is from a robot or real person and hangs up on the robots before your phone even rings!! Does NOT use or require Caller ID that is usually faked. Check it out at http://roboblocker.tech


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