Tag Archives: Sprint

spam calls

Block Unwanted Calls, Texts, and Email

By Tracey Dowdy

Recently, I’ve been getting non-stop text messages addressed to someone named Alyssa, who is on her “last chance” to renew her warranty. They are as annoying as they are relentless. I’ve blocked the number and deleted the text without opening it dozens of times. 

I’m not alone. According to YouMail, there were over 58 billion robocalls in 2019. The scams are almost as plentiful as the calls themselves – you’ve won a Caribbean vacation, your PC has a virus, your identity has been stolen, you’ve been selected for a unique opportunity, or won the lottery. You may even get messages purporting to be from a government agency like the IRS. However, the IRS will not call, email, or text you – they communicate almost exclusively through snail mail. 

Wireless carriers are using SHAKEN/STIR technology to identify and block spam calls, on both their respective networks and between phone providers. 

Software giants like Apple have added features that prevent unknown callers from ringing you. Google has made its Call Screen feature more robust by routing suspicious calls to Google Assistant before your phone even rings. When Android 11 is released, it will Include even more robocall identification and prevention features beyond the default Android Phone app. 

If you’re receiving a lot of spam text messages, not just calls, you can forward the message to the number 7726 (spells SPAM). Though it doesn’t immediately prevent the number from texting you, it will allow your carrier to investigate and possibly intervene.

There’s no way to block every spam or robocall, but the FCC suggests taking the following measures to limit the number of calls you receive. 

  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize – let them go to voicemail.
  • Don’t answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers – this tells scammers your number is real, and they can then sell your number to another company, or begin targeting your number more often. 
  • Don’t assume an incoming call is from a local number just because it looks like it is. “Spoofing” technology allows scammers to trick your caller ID into displaying false information like a local area code.
  • Don’t respond to any questions that can be answered with a “Yes.”
  • If someone calls you and claims to be with ABC company, hang up immediately. Use the company’s website to find an official number and call them to verify.
  • If you answer a call and hear a recording such as, “Hello, can you hear me?” hang up.
  • If you’re asked to press a number before being connected to a representative, hang up.

All the major carriers offer some form of call-blocking technology, some free, some fee-based.

AT&T’s Call Protect app is available for iOS and Android. 

Verizon’s Call Filter app is automatically enabled for Android users on a postpaid plan. It’s built into most Android devices out of the box and is available in the App Store for iOS users.

T-Mobile’s Scam ID is free to all customers and includes Scam Block. To enable it, dial #662# from your phone.  

Sprint’s Call Screener Basic was recently launched with a free option for its customers. 

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.

spam calls

Reduce the Number of Robocalls You Receive 

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. 

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.


Should You Switch Wireless Plans?

Read the fine print before you jump to another network.

By Paul O’Reilly

In a sure sign that the US mobile market is rapidly maturing, it appears that some wireless carriers are less concerned about attracting new customers to the wonderful world of smartphones and tablets and are instead concentrating more on luring existing customers away from the competition. This has led to a jumble of early upgrade offers, termination fee payments, and other incentives, as the emphasis switches to the cost of wireless plans rather than the ever-improving excellence of the devices themselves.

While this may sound like good news for wireless subscribers, it has mostly led to more confusion in a marketplace that wasn’t exactly a model of clarity in the first place. If you thought it was hard to choose the right wireless plan before, try figuring it out when data allowances change every month, extra gigabytes are thrown in on a seemingly random basis, and one carrier is even offering to cut your existing bill in half.

This last promotion comes courtesy of Sprint and, perhaps more than any other offer, it highlights the complexities facing consumers as they try to save a few bucks on their monthly wireless payments. Taking a page out of T-Mobile’s playbook, Sprint specifically targets customers of the two biggest carriers and asks them: “Wanna cut your monthly Verizon or AT&T bill in half?” Of course, like many of these offers, the details are in the fine print – in this case over 550 words of fine print.

Sprint’s offer starts out looking reasonable enough. You have to turn in your old phone (or multiple phones if you are on a family plan) and sign up for a brand new one with a two-year contract, but you would have to do that with your existing carrier eventually anyway. Sprint will even pay up to $350 per line in termination fees, although you might have to wait up to 12 weeks for the money to arrive in the form of a Visa Prepaid Card.

However, there is one thing to note about turning in your old phone under the Sprint deal: you get nothing for it, even if it’s a phone with good second-hand value like an iPhone 5 and you have paid it off in full. But again, this is probably not a deal-breaker. That phone was most likely destined for the kitchen drawer anyway.

However, as you keep going with the fine print things start to get a little murkier. You eventually discover that Sprint is not offering to cut your whole bill in half but only the amount you pay for talk, text and data. As most people pay nothing for talk and text, that’s half off what you now pay for data. Depending on how much data you use, that could be a little or a lot, but again, you’re only saving half of one line of your monthly statement rather than the whole bill.

But if you’re a heavy data user – heavy enough to make a 50 percent saving worthwhile – there’s one big problem with switching to Sprint: according to a recent RootMetrics report, it’s got the worst network of all the top wireless carriers.

Not only is Sprint’s inferior network likely to result in slower download speeds and less reliable performance, it could also have real unforeseen consequences for your new Sprint deal. Again buried in the fine print, there is language suggesting that other plans (i.e. plans that pay the full data rate) might receive “prioritized bandwidth availability.” In other words, in times of heavy data traffic, half-price ex-Verizon and AT&T customers will have to wait.

Even worse, there is also a clause that allows Sprint to terminate your plan if more than 100MB of data usage each month is “off-network,” i.e. data consumed while the user is outside of the Sprint network. Considering that my family gets through 300MB a day and Sprint has the smallest network in the country, this is definitely not a deal for anyone that uses more than a few hundred megabytes of data a month.

And there’s the rub. The “cut your bill in half” promotion from Sprint is really only designed for low data users. But if you are a low data user, you aren’t going to see much in the way of savings anyway. And if you are a Verizon or AT&T customer, you are going to exchange those meager savings for a markedly inferior network.

As it continues to mature, the wireless space is starting to look more like the rental car industry, where Hertz and Avis charge premium prices based on service, reliability and network, while the competition carves out a variety of lower-priced alternatives. Of course, a maturing marketplace also results in more knowledgeable consumers, who are better equipped to make sense of the myriad of choices they now face. If you’re a wireless customer, you might want to remember the old adage that has guided savvy shoppers for countless generations: You get what you pay for.

You can follow Paul on Twitter.

The Online Mom LLC receives a fee for participating in certain promotional programs for Verizon Wireless.