Robocalls today are such an ever-present annoyance that it is easy to become desensitized to them. Why are we subjected to this constant onslaught anyways? This guide will discuss why we receive robocalls, and what we (as consumers) can do to protect ourselves from them.
What is a robocall?
A “robocall” is a phone call that is automatically generated and/or pre-recorded. These calls are often spam. Robocalls are so prevalent that an FCC report projected that approximately half of all phone calls made in the U.S. in 2019 were robocalls. Although many of these calls are spam prohibited by the FTC, some are more innocuous and may be exempt from legal restrictions, as in the case of political advertising.
“Call spoofing” is the act of disguising a number by making it show up as a different number on caller ID. This can result in many confusing situations, such as the reception of calls that appear to be coming from your own phone number. The primary reasons that robocallers spoof numbers are to bypass filters and to make their calls appear innocent. This is often achieved by disguising the call as a local number.
Who Makes Robocalls?
According to a USA Today report, a significant portion of robocalls originate from within the United States (particularly in California and Florida) although many also come from outside the country. You also may be at higher risk for receiving robocalls depending on what state you reside in. People living in Texas, California, Florida, Georgia and New York seem to be especially popular targets.
These calls can be so frustrating that it may be tempting to start answering and demand that the callers “take you off their list.” However, this is unlikely to help, since many of these calls are illegal spam. They likely have no interest in honoring the Do Not Call Registry, and probably acquired your phone number by purchasing a publicly circulating list. Therefore, even if you can convince them to stop contacting you, another robocaller will probably take their place.
Negative impacts from answering robocalls.
Robocallers may document when you answer in order to determine what times of the day or week may be ideal to call. It is also possible that if you answer, you may get caught up in a scam. Scams (such as phishing) often involve acquiring personal information or money from the target, and it is important to note that in some cases the caller may even pretend to represent your local police force or a federal agency.
However, although the best answer is often to just not answer these calls, that solution is causing widespread issues for both individuals and businesses. The increasing practice of ignoring unfamiliar numbers may cause people to miss important calls, such as those from medical professionals, and cause legitimate business inquiries to get lost amid the scams.
How to stop getting spam calls.
Although on some level, the widespread issue of spam calls can only be effectively addressed through large-scale oversight, there are many steps individuals can take to protect themselves from annoying and dangerous robocalls.
Use call filtering.
Many phone providers offer call filtering options. These will block certain categories of calls or send them straight to voicemail. For example, a filter may block numbers marked as spam, or may divert unknown or non-local numbers, depending on the filter.
Spam call blockers.
It is also possible to use third-party applications to block spam. However, while these are sometimes effective (depending on the individual app), they often cost money and may even use your information unethically.
National Do Not Call Registry.
There is a National Do Not Call Registry that American citizens can sign up for, and while it is the legal obligation of outbound calling agencies to honor this list, many robocallers are operating illegally to begin with, and likely will not honor the registry.
Registering should reduce the number of annoying calls overall, but there are exceptions to the regulation. For example, politicians, charities, and businesses with which you’ve recently been in contact can legally call individuals on the National Do Not Call Registry.
Other steps to prevent robocalls.
In some cases, call filtering and blocking options can be carrier-specific. These can often be found in your phone settings.
Blocking robocalls on Android.
Methods for blocking numbers will vary depending on the specific Android device, and there are usually multiple methods of doing so for each. There are often options for blocking numbers in both the general settings and in your contacts section.
In order to automatically filter out suspicious calls, there should be a spam filter option in settings. This will likely be found under “Caller ID & Spam” or a similar category. The filter simply needs to be toggled on.
Blocking robocalls on iPhone.
Methods for blocking numbers will vary depending on the specific iPhone device, and there are usually multiple methods of doing so for each. There are often options for blocking numbers in both the general settings and in your contacts section.
Many iterations of the iPhone also offer the option to filter out unknown callers. This can be found in the settings tab under “Caller ID” or a similar category regarding call features. The filter simply needs to be toggled on.
The FCC just passed a measure to help block the annoying (and illegal) calls.
Gone are the days I used to be excited when hearing my phone ring. Is it a friend, family member, or perhaps a colleague? Nope — just another scammer offering a “free” vacation in the Bahamas or a machine demanding payment for “unpaid medical fees.” When I think about it, I might actually receive more scam calls than actual calls.
The reality for millions of Americans is that we receive way too many robocalls on a daily basis. Nearly 48 billion robocalls were made in the US last year, and they certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Wait, what are robocalls and how do they work?
Often, a computer program leverages voice over internet protocol (VOIP) to quickly and cheaply call you. A computer-generated number comes up on your phone, which is often made to appear similar to yours to prompt you to answer. This technique, known as spoofing, disguises the true identity of the call origin and instead makes it show up as an unknown or generic number (like 123456789).
FYI: Robocalls can also show up as real numbers that belong to someone else. That means if you ignore the call but dial it back later, you might reach someone who has no idea their number was misused.
What is the FCC doing about robocalls?
Good news: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking some major steps to reduce the amount of illegal and unwanted calls. On June 6, 2019, the FCC unanimously passed a new measure that would help block robocalls. The ruling would allow carrier companies (like T-Mobile and Verizon) to automatically block illegal and unwanted calls before they reach consumers’ phones. Previously, carriers were allowed to block certain calls — but only after a subscriber agreed to opt in. Under the new measure, carriers can now do so without the consumers’ permission.
Like most things that seem too good to be true, there’s a catch: Carrier companies are not required to provide blocking services free of charge, meaning you might have to pay extra for it. Also, automated calls from legitimate companies (like reminders from your doctor’s office or an airline) may be blocked too. Credit, banking, and healthcare groups are advocating for change to make sure their auto-generated (and legitimate) calls can still get through.
With or without these new changes, there are still plenty of steps you can take to block these unwanted calls.
How to stop robocalls for good
The most important thing you can do to stop robocalls is not answer any unknown numbers. If you answer a robocall, you’ll be put onto a VIP list of people that the scammers know are more likely to pick up. Then, you could actually be passed onto a real person who may try to solicit information from you or trick you into buying something.
To be safe, let unknown calls go to voicemail and see what the message is. While you can often block specific numbers, it usually isn’t helpful since the number can easily change on the next robocall.
If you think you’re receiving robocalls, you can:
- File a complaint with the FCC, noting the time and date of the call, the number that appeared, a description of the message, and your number.
- Sign up for the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry, so it becomes illegal for telemarketers to call you. (It’s not foolproof, but it’s an easy first step.)
- Download a robocall blocking app from your cell phone carrier or a third-party.
- Utilize the “Do Not Disturb” function on your iPhone or Android — scroll down for step-by-step instructions.
The best robocall blocking apps and tools
AT&T Call Protect: A call-blocking app for AT&T customers that detects and blocks calls from likely fraudsters, identifies telemarketers and other suspected spam calls, and lets you block unwanted calls by number. Available on iOS and Android for free.
Sprint Premium Caller ID: A service that allows Sprint customers to identify unknown callers by name and get warnings on spam calls. Activate from your Sprint account for $3 a month.
T-Mobile Scam Block: A default-off tool that prevents T-Mobile customers from receiving scam calls. Activate from your T-Mobile account, in the latest Name ID app, or dial #622# from your T-Mobile phone. Offered to customers at no extra cost.
Verizon Call Filter: An app that blocks and silences unwanted calls for Verizon customers based on risk level. Available on iOS and Android for free.
RoboKiller: When someone calls you and their number is verified as spam from RoboKiller’s database, your phone won’t ring. Instead you will get a number that notifies you someone has been blocked. The difference between this spam blocking app and others is that it answers the call with a pre-recorded message, wasting the scammer’s time. Available on iOS and Android with a 7-day free trial, then $4 a month or $30 a year.
Hiya: An app that blocks any numbers and texts you want to avoid. Other services include blocking calls, blacklisting unwanted phone numbers, reverse searching incoming call information, and receiving spam alerts. Available on iOS and Android for free.
How to stop robocalls on iPhones
By using Apple’s Do Not Disturb feature, you’ll only be notified for calls and texts from your contacts. All other numbers will be silenced and delivered in the background. Here’s how to use it:
- Go to Settings →
- Do Not Disturb →
- Allow Call From →
- Select “All Contacts”
How to stop robocalls on Androids
Similar to iPhones, Android phones have a similar Do Not Disturb feature that silences sounds and other notifications from any number outside of your contacts. Here’s how to use it:
- Go to Sound →
- Do Not Disturb →
- Exceptions →
- Select “Calls From Contacts”
With the rise of automation in calling, the instances of spam or robocalls has seen a significant spike. Spectrum voice has developed tools to ensure your peace of mind and privacy. Spectrum home phone comes with features that help you block unnecessary, illegal or automated robocalls from your home phone conveniently at absolutely no extra costs.
Spectrum also offers online tools like Nomorbo to help its users block unsolicited, spammy or robotic calls. To value your privacy, spectrum has various call blocking features, let’s have a look at all of them:
Reject Anonymous Calls
You can set up your spectrum home phone to reject the calls that do not show a caller ID or are directed to you privately.
- Dial *77 to activate the service
- Dial *79 if you wish to deactivate the service
To do the same via your Spectrum account simply follow these steps
- Sign in to your account
- Click on the Voice Tab
- Go to Global Call Settings
- Now open Anonymous Call Rejection
- Enter your information
- Now click save
Reject Selective Calls
You can block calls from certain numbers if you don’t want to take them and the caller will hear a pre recorded message telling them that you are not taking calls at the moment.
- Dial *60 from your phone to activate this feature
- Dial *80 to deactivate this feature
To do the same via your Spectrum account simply follow these steps:
- Sign in to your account
- Click on the Voice Tab
- Go to Global Call Settings
- Now open Selective Call Rejection
- Follow the prompts
- Save your information and you are good to go.
Access all call blocking options online
In order to access and edit all other call blocking options offered by spectrum. To do it online, follow these steps:
- Sign in using your username and password
- Click on the Phone Icon to open the Voice platform
- Now go to Settings
- Click on (edit) in the Peace and Quiet section
- No Select On for any of the features like, Block unwanted callers, Block outbound Callers, Accept Selected Callers, Nomorobo etc.
- Turn them on and follow instructions to make customizations
- In the end, don’t forget to save changes.
Set up Nomorobo
This spectrum voice feature is available to all spectrum home phone customers that can block calls such as:
- Telemarketing Calls
- Unsolicited Calls
To do the same via your Spectrum account simply follow these steps:
- Sign in using your username and password
- Open the Voice platform
- Now go to Settings
- Click on (edit) in the Peace and Quiet section
- No Select On for Nomorobo
- Select the checkbox next to Terms and Conditions
- Don’t forget to Save Changes.
To know more reach out to spectrum customer service and an expert will be there to help you out with your concerns and queries.
11 August, 2021 at 10:04 AM
Posted by: VanillaPlus
(Sponsored Feature) There’s nothing more annoying and disruptive than a robocall, and no matter what anti-spam solution you use, some robocalls always seem to get through.
In fact, unwanted voice traffic is the FCC’s top consumer complaint in the United States.
But the fight against robocalls recently hit a new milestone—June 30 th was the deadline for U.S. operators to implement STIR/SHAKEN or an alternative robocall mitigation program.
Most of the operators who have completed the implementation, however, are now facing a number of questions with no evident answers:
- Which calls should be blocked and which shouldn’t?
- Who will be responsible for the formulation of the blocking policy? Will it be the regulator?
- Is there a way to perform the blocking automatically?
Telecom companies are struggling to identify all robocalls without mistaking them for legitimate ones.
Why Can’t We Just Block All Robocalls Once and For All?
If we block legitimate calls, this leads to revenue decline and negative customer experience as subscribers miss important calls.
However, if the blocking policy is too soft, robocalls pass through, leading to negative customer experience, participation in traceback activities and potential fines from the FCC.
In fact, the FCC suggests supplementing the STIR/SHAKEN protocol with additional tools.
AB Handshake Has a Solution
Florida-based company, AB Handshake, offers an innovative alternative.
Unlike STIR/SHAKEN, AB Handshake was designed to provide a comprehensive solution to the robocall nuisance using global call validation.
Rather than each company pouring resources into fraud protection systems via sampling, patterns, or statistics, AB Handshake has built a community of businesses that work together, using a common ‘handshake’ to validate calls from both ends.
The solution is integrated into a company’s network using the default functionality of the existing equipment — no special hardware or infrastructure is needed.
How it works:
- When a call is placed, the originating operator sends a verification request to the terminating operator.
- If it’s a robocall, when the terminating operator reaches out to the owner of the fraudulent range, they don’t receive verification.
- The call is then automatically identified as fraudulent and blocked before it can harass customers or rack up costs to telecom companies.
AB Handshake can block all types of fraud by identifying any manipulations to the call parameters in real time.
Any manipulation is an indicator of fraud, serving as foolproof logic for an automatic blocking mechanism:
- The solution provides value for both the originating and terminating service providers, as calls can be blocked by either side.
- It is more secure than the alternatives, as the transit carriers don’t participate in the validation process.
AB Handshake is now actively onboarding service providers worldwide with live traffic to any country in the world. The traffic can be used as a natural 24/7 test probe to detect inbound fraud, providing the ultimate protection against the robocall nuisance.
There are a several ways you can block unwanted calls and control which calls make it through to your house. These tactics can help you fend off telemarketers, robocalls, and other people whose calls you do not want to receive:
- Use calling features to block incoming calls
- Add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry
- Use a call blocker device
- Change your directory listing so it’s harder for unwanted callers to find you
Use CenturyLink calling features to block calls
Here are some tools CenturyLink offers to limit unwanted phone calls and solicitations, including “robocalls” or computerized telemarketing calls and scams. Some calling features can be activated and managed by calling the CenturyLink Update Center. You can press *78 or call 888-(your area code)-8052 (except in locations noted below).
- In Minnesota, calling from area code 763 or 952: call 888-612-8052
- In Iowa, calling from area code 641: call 888-515-8052
- In Arizona, calling from area code 928: call 888-520-8052
- In Oregon, calling from area code 971: call 888-503-8052
- In Oregon, calling from area code 458: call 888-541-8052
Note: The first time you call the CenturyLink Update Center, you’re asked for a security code. You can enter the temporary security code 1-2-3-4. Then, follow the recorded instructions to set up your own personal code.
You can use the same security code to manage many of the calling features on your account. Just be sure to remember your personal security code.
The No Solicitation feature blocks calls and functions like a screening service. An automatic message asks solicitors to hang up and tells regular callers to press 1 to complete the call. This feature relies on the honesty of the calling party, trusting that they will hang up if they’re trying to solicit your business. But in fact, anyone can press 1 and be connected through to your home phone. If you’re trying to block a harassing caller, this feature is unlikely to be effective. It is most effective for solicitation calls.
You can set up a privileged caller list that will allow callers you choose to bypass the No Solicitation greeting. There are three ways to set privileged callers:
|By area code||303-000-0000||Incoming calls from the area code you’ve selected won’t hear the No Solicitation message.|
|By area code and prefix||303-555-0000||Incoming calls with the area code and prefix you’ve selected won’t hear the No Solicitation message.|
|By 10-digit number||303-555-0102||Incoming calls from the specific number(s) you’ve selected won’t hear the No Solicitation message. (You can have up to 25 numbers on your list.)|
© 2021 The No Solicitation feature is included at no extra charge on all Price for Life bundles. For more information and instructions on how to use this feature, you can download the No Solicitation user guide.
You can use Silence Unknown Callers or a third-party app to block spam calls on your iPhone.
Turn on Silence Unknown Callers
With iOS 13 and later, you can turn on Silence Unknown Callers to avoid getting calls from people you don’t know. This blocks phone numbers that you’ve never been in contact with and don’t have saved in your contacts list. If you’ve previously texted with someone using their phone number or if a person has shared their phone number with you in an email, a phone call from that number will go through.
To turn on Silence Unknown Callers, go to Settings > Phone, then scroll down, tap Silence Unknown Callers, and turn on the feature. Calls from unknown numbers are silenced and sent to your voicemail, and appear in your recent calls list.
Incoming calls will come through from people that are saved in your contacts list, recent calls list, and from Siri Suggestions to let you know who’s calling based on phone numbers included in your emails or text messages.
If an emergency call is placed, Silence Unknown Callers will be temporarily disabled for the next 24 hours to allow for your iPhone to be reached.
Before you turn on Silence Unknown Callers, make sure you have important contacts saved or you could miss a phone call that you don’t want to miss. The call will still go to voicemail and appear in your recent calls list, but you won’t get a notification while the call is ringing.
Set up an app to filter and detect spam calls
- Go to the App Store and download an app that detects and blocks spam phone calls. You can download and install multiple apps with this feature from different app developers.
- Go to Settings > Phone.
- Tap Call Blocking & Identification.
- Under Allow These Apps To Block Calls And Provide Caller ID, turn the app on or off. You can also reorder the apps based on priority. Just tap Edit and then drag the apps in the order you want them.
Phone numbers that appear under Blocked Contacts are numbers that you manually block.
When you receive a call, your device checks the caller’s number and compares it to the list of phone numbers in your third-party spam apps. If there’s a match, iOS displays the identifying label chosen by the app, for example Spam or Telemarketing. If the app determines that a phone number is spam, it may choose to block the phone call automatically. Incoming calls are never sent to third-party developers.
If you determine that a number is from a spam caller, you can block the number manually on your device. Phone numbers that you manually block appear under Blocked Contacts.
If you no longer want to use the app, you can remove it.
Information about products not manufactured by Apple, or independent websites not controlled or tested by Apple, is provided without recommendation or endorsement. Apple assumes no responsibility with regard to the selection, performance, or use of third-party websites or products. Apple makes no representations regarding third-party website accuracy or reliability. Contact the vendor for additional information.
AARP | Comments: 0
En español | After declining in the early months of the pandemic, robocalls have come roaring back, nearly returning to their pre-COVID peak. YouMail, a company that provides call-blocking and call-management services, estimated that Americans received more than 4.9 billion robocalls in March 2021, half of them placed by scammers.
Illegal robocalls include telemarketing spam (automated sales calls from companies you haven’t authorized to contact you) and attempts at outright theft. Prerecorded messages dangle goodies like all-expenses-paid travel or demand payment for nonexistent debts to get you to send money or give up sensitive personal data.
Have you seen this scam?
- Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline: 877-908-3360
- Report it on AARP’s Scam-Tracking Map
Sign up for Watchdog Alerts for more tips on avoiding scams.
Scammers often use caller ID spoofing to mask their true location, making it appear that they’re calling from a legitimate or local number to raise the odds that you’ll pick up. In a 2019 AARP survey on robocalls, 59 percent of respondents said they are more likely to answer if caller ID shows a number with their area code.
If you do, the robotic voice on the other end might claim to represent a utility, a name-brand company or a government agency. Social Security and the Internal Revenue Service are perennially popular poses, and fraud watchers noted a huge increase in phony Amazon calls as the pandemic drove more people to shop online.
Other robocall fakes might offer you a free cruise, cheap health insurance or a low-interest loan. They might claim you’ve won a lottery, or tell you to press a particular key to learn more or get off a call list.
Whatever the message, don’t engage. Doing so can lead you to a real live scammer, who’ll pressure you to make a purchase or pump you for personal information, like a credit card or Social Security number. Even just pressing a key or answering a question alerts scammers that they’ve hit on a “live” number, and they’ll call it again and again.
It’s important to note that many robocalls are legal. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allows them for some informational or noncommercial purposes, such as polling, political campaigning and outreach by nonprofit groups (including AARP). Your dentist’s office can robocall you with an appointment reminder, or an airline with news about a flight change.
But illegal robocalls make up a fast-growing share of phone traffic, making it all the more important to be on guard for automated scams.
How to block robocalls on iPhone and Android
Tips on how to block unwanted robocalls on the iPhone and Android device.
Unwanted calls are often harmless but some are after your credit card information, IDs or passwords. All are a distraction and a waste of your time.
Robocallers have gotten more devious by masking their calls with phone numbers that use the first three or first six digits of your phone number.
But the scams are old. They pretend to be major banks, big tech companies, or government organizations like the IRS.
Whatever the scam, here are several ways to stop unwanted calls on your smartphone – and one way to stop them cold.
Manually: if you don’t get a lot of unwanted calls, you can block calls one at a time. On the iPhone you do this by selecting “Phone” then tapping the information icon (the encircled lowercase “i”), and selecting “Block this Caller.” On Android, it’s similar, you tap on the caller’s name, then long-press the number and tap “Block/report spam” (note that this procedure can vary slightly from device to device on Android).
Blocking calls manually, however, is usually futile because scammers and spammers are constantly changing their numbers, usually on a daily basis.
Use an app: there are lots of apps that take on telemarketers and suspicious calls, some are better at blocking calls before they get through than others. AT&T and Verizon, as with other carriers, offer apps that let you block calls by identifying likely fraudsters. To identify a suspicious call, numbers are run against a massive list of robocallers that is updated daily.
For instance, the basic setup of the Verizon Caller Name ID app ($2.99 per month per line) is like any call blocker app on the iPhone. After installing the app, under the iPhone’s Settings you tap on “Phone,” then “Call Blocking & Identification,” then toggle on the Verizon “Caller Name ID” app.
If you want to take this a step further, the Verizon app will also try to block suspicious calls and send them to voicemail. This requires going into the Verizon app and tapping “Block” then “Spam filter on” then setting a risk level.
For Android devices, you open the Verizon Caller Name ID app, tap “Block management,” tap “Spam filter”, then toggle the feature on and select the risk level.
AT&T has its Mobile Security & Call Protect Plus ($3.99 per month) service that has Automatic Fraud Blocking, which can detect and allow you to block incoming suspicious calls.
Samsung offers a “Smart Call” feature on its phones that can tell you if the call is suspicious and allows you to block the call. Go to “Caller ID and spam protection” in Call Settings, then turn on “Caller ID and spam protection.” Note that is not made available by all carriers.
And Google offers caller ID & spam protection for Android. With this, you can stop spam calls from ringing on your phone. “You won’t get missed call or voicemail notifications, but you’ll still see filtered calls in your call history and be able to check any voicemail you receive,” according to Google.
There are third-party apps that you can try for free such as Nomorobo and RoboKiller. After the trial period, both ask for a small monthly fee, which typically starts at $0.99 or $1.99 per month. There’s also an app called Hiya that is free.
The best advice is to try these services and see which one works for you.
Kill all suspicious calls: the most effective method is to limit calls to your contact list. On the iPhone, this will stop all unwanted calls from ringing on your phone. The only calls that get through are people on your contact list. Other legitimate calls typically go to voicemail.
On the iPhone, you go to Settings, then tap on “Do Not Disturb” then select “Allow Calls From” then “All Contacts.” This is deadly effective and may be a good option for people hounded by spam calls. For Android, you can do this with apps such as Calls Blacklist.