Because you recently stayed at a Marriott hotel…Your vehicle warranty is about to expire…this is your last chance to claim your free cruise… how many of these calls do you get a day? If the number is higher than zero, you’re likely as frustrated as the rest of America.
Some of these calls come up as “Scam Likely,” many come up as local numbers, making it more likely you’ll answer your phone. Because the number of robocalls is at an all-time high, both the government and technology companies have started paying attention. Bi-partisan legislation passed by the House – the aptly named “Stopping Bad Robocalls Act” - requires calls to be verified and allows the FCC to take action against spam callers. The FCC has passed a proposal giving carriers permission to act more aggressively when blocking spam calls. AT&T and T-Mobile have joined forces to create SHAKEN/STIR, a two-pronged protocol that AT&T and T-Mobile will use to verify that the incoming caller is legitimate, and Apple added a feature in their iOS13 update that allows you to block all unknown callers.
Unfortunately, while there’s no way to completely avoid robocalls, these steps can limit the number you receive. The FCC recommends these tips to stop unwanted robocalls and avoid phone scams.
- Don’t answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers. If you do, hang up immediately.
- Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
- Remember an incoming call appearing to be from a local number may still be spam
- Don’t respond to any questions that can be answered with a “Yes.”
- If someone calls you and claims to be from a utility company, hotel chain, or other legitimate entity, hang up and call the company yourself. Use the company’s website to find an official number.
- If you do answer a call and hear a recording such as, “Hello, you have been selected…” hang up immediately.
- Hang up immediately if you answer a call that asks you to press a number before being connected to a representative.
By answering the call, you have identified yourself as a legitimate number to the spammer. One of the ways they make money is by selling your number to other spammers.
If instead of calls you’re receiving spam text messages, forward the message to 7726 (spells SPAM). Though it won’t block the number from texting you right away, it will allow your carrier to investigate the message sender and block it on their end.
All four major wireless carriers offer some call blocking features to customers. Some options are free, others are fee-based.
- AT&T’s Call Protect (iOS and Android).
- Verizon’s Call Filter app is automatically enabled for Android users on a postpaid plan. Most Android devices have Call Filter built-in out of the box but it’s also available in the App Store for iOS devices.
- T-Mobile’s Scam ID is free to all customers and includes Scam Block – available for iOS and Android.
- Sprint’s Premium Caller ID is built into “select” phones and the Sprint network.
Finally, if your provider doesn’t offer a screening service or an app, or it’s too expensive, you can always implement a third-party app. One option is Hiya, available for iOS and Android devices, and Nomomrobo, the service used by Verizon for its Fios customers, but always available as an app. Be sure the app is compatible with your device, offers automatic call blocking and spam alerts for suspicious calls and can easily report a number if a call slips through.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.