“Hello! Please don’t hang up… did you know that you could save a bundle on…?”
UGH… It’s a robocall, another automated telemarketer.
Nowadays, robocalls make up roughly 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.
You want to yell into the phone: “Don’t call me again! I don’t care who you are! Just go away!” Your words would fall on deaf ears though since there is no one on the other end… and if you breathe even one single word, your voice may be recorded for future use. Fun.
Luckily, you have a whole arsenal of smartphone tools at your disposal. You can block numbers, turn on Do Not Disturb mode, use your carrier’s tools, or use third–party apps to (mostly) end this telephonic pestilence.
Here are a few tips 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. 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.
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 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 that debuts in March. Verizon previously offered a “Caller Filter” service for $2.99 per month per line. Verizon also has identified 300 million spam and scam phone numbers that it will block through free spam alerting and call-blocking tools also coming in March.
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.
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.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT MONTH… with Apps to block scammers and other tricks already built into your cell phone.
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