Effective Solutions to Stop Spam Callers

Apr 19, 2019

Getting fed up with disruptions from robocalls, scammers and telemarketing calls to your mobile phone that encroach on an otherwise productive day? That stands to reason, given that a March 2019 article from the USA Today network estimated that unwanted phone calls comprised nearly 30 percent of all calls made in 2018.  The same source projects that these calls will surge to roughly fifty percent over the course of 2019, driven largely by the availability of technology that has made it cheap, easy and lucrative to place a large volume of calls in a short timeframe, often using fake (spoofed) numbers. To defend your sanity, time and security, try using a combination of these strategies to greatly reduce unsolicited calls.

Get on the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry: No one would suggest that you can completely eliminate unwanted calls by registering with the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call list, but it won’t cost you anything to do it, and it’s a good place to start. You can also place your number on this list by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone you want to register.

You’ll need to wait 31 days for your number to be processed with the registry. As ConsumerAffairs points out, there are exceptions that make it legal for certain organizations to continue to call you, as in cases involving charitable nonprofits, political campaigns, organizations that are conducting surveys, and companies you’ve had a relationship with in the last 18 months. In reality, the Do Not Call Registry works best for filtering out calls from legitimate marketing companies that comply with FTC regulations. Clearly, this does not include fraudulent callers outside of the U.S.

Answer the phone, but say nothing: According to AARP’s author of “Scam-Proof Your Life,” Sid Kirchheimer, ignoring an unwanted call won’t solve the problem if the call gets directed to your voicemail. With a voicemail greeting, it becomes clear to the caller that your number is, in fact, in operation, which won’t protect you against future calls. An option that he recommends instead is to simply answer the phone with silence. Just by saying “hello,” or anything else, auto dialers are prompted to either launch a pre-recorded message (as in a robocall) or to connect you to a live operator, which may use any number of ruses to get you to reveal sensitive identifiable information. On the other hand, if you say nothing, the call usually disconnects. And if you get a “live” caller? Kirchheimer suggests waiting for the person to speak, then hanging up if you don’t recognize the voice.

Block the number using your phone’s settings or by contacting your service provider: When you’ve been getting repeat calls from the same offender, easy-to-use call blocking features on your phone come in handy, as they do when you want to avoid calls from a difficult family member or former significant other. To block a number using your iPhone, tap the small, circled “i” icon to the right of the number you want to block, then you can scroll down to tap “Block this Caller.” If you have an Android, tap the number you want to block, select “Details,” and then “Block Number.” Another method is to contact your service provider with the specific phone numbers you wish to block. Some providers charge a small monthly fee for this service, while others will do it for free, at least for a short list of numbers. For details on how to block a number using either your specific phone model’s calling features or your service provider, visit wikiHow’s “How to Block a Number on a Cell Phone.”

Turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature: Forbes suggests this clever tactic for blocking cold calls and fraudulent calls from scam artists before they can start. Just turn on “Do Not Disturb” in your phone’s settings, but select exceptions for your contacts. This is super easy to do from an iPhone. You simply go to Settings, tap “Do Not Disturb,” then select “Allow Calls From” then “All Contacts.” Of course, this means that your phone  won’t ring if any new caller reaches out to you, including ones you may actually want to talk to. And you won’t see notifications from these calls either. But you will generally see them as a missed call or voicemail, and you can easily turn this feature on and off. “Do Not Disturb” may not be the solution you employ all of the time, but it could make sense for days when you need to stay on task and steer clear of any extra calls. For helpful tips on using this feature, check out The New York Times’ article “How to Use ‘Do Not Disturb’ On Your Phone (While Still Letting Important Calls Through).” You can also click here to find instructions on using “Do Not Disturb” with your Android phone, or here for an iPhone.

Consider a call-blocking app: There are plenty of useful call-blocking services on the market, which can be great for filtering out calls that have been previously identified as spam or fraudulent calls. Some of these services are offered free, while others charge a low monthly fee. An excellent choice recommended by Lifewire for Android users is PrivacyStar. This app not only automatically blocks any number listed in its crowdsourced scam database, but it also lets you blacklist numbers, perform reverse number lookups and quickly file complaints directly with the FTC. You can also use PrivacyStar with an iPhone, but without all of the capabilities available with an Android phone. A few more suggestions for either iOS or Android: YouMail, RoboKiller and Nomorobo. The FTC also provides the following links to call-blocking apps for specific devices through the CTIA website: Android, BlackBerry, iOS (Apple), Windows.

Although you may not be able to prevent every nuisance call from reaching you using the tactics listed above, using a mix of the ones that fit best for your situation will go a long way toward minimizing these disruptions.  The tips below can also help you handle unwanted calls with finesse:

  • Don’t take action based on prompts from an unwanted call. For instance, don’t press a number to opt out of future calls, because this just validates that the number is current.
  • Don’t respond to any unsolicited text messages or click on their links (hackers often use texts that look as though they come from legitimate companies).
  • Beware of calls that are dropped or just ring once—this is a popular ploy to get you to call back.
  • Beware the following area codes, which are from Caribbean countries that charge high rates: 268, 284, 876 and 809.
  • You can report unwanted calls at ftc.gov/complaint,. Keep in mind that the more complaints there are, the more likely a phone number will be blocked from all phones.
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