Need Robocall Relief? Here's How to Fight Back
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.
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 Android or iPhone with Nomorobo. 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.
Hiya is a similar smartphone app that some AskBob readers have said works well for them. It can block calls and text messages, or blacklist unwanted numbers. Free, and available on both Android and iPhone.
Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 27 Jun 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Need Robocall Relief? Here's How to Fight Back (Posted: 27 Jun 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved