Not every automated solicitation call counts as illegal. Calls from political campaigns, debt collectors and charities are all permissible.
What’s not allowed are the calls from the fake IRS agents or the companies that claim you won a free vacation to the Bahamas.
According to the FCC, there are some easy steps you can take to help reduce robocalls:
- Don’t answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers.
- Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
- If someone calls you and claims to be with XYZ company, 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, can you hear me?”, just hang up.
- The same goes for a call where you’re asked to press a number before being connected to a representative.
When you answer a call and interact with the voice prompt or by pressing a number, it lets the spammer know your number is real. They can then sell your number to another company, or begin targeting your number more frequently.
Check with your provider
Phone companies know how frustrating robocalls are for their customers and have taken steps to help users block annoying calls on their systems. For example, AT&T’s Call Protect app is available for Android and iOS users. When the app is installed and set up, AT&T will attempt to block fraudulent calls, warn of suspected spam calls, and allow you to block unwanted calls from a specific number for free. Verizon’s Call Filter app is free for basic spam detection, spam filter, and the ability to block numbers.
Both carriers offer a premium version of their apps that have more advanced call monitoring features, such as reverse number lookup, but those require a monthly subscription.
Check with your service provider to see if similar functions are available.
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Use an app
If your provider doesn’t offer an app or service to cut back on robocalls, or it’s just too expensive, there are plenty of third-party apps available.
You want to find an app that works on your device, offers automatic call blocking and spam alerts for suspicious calls and has the ability to easily report a number if a call slips through.
Hiya is a free app I have used on Android and iOS for some time now with success. It’s the same company that powers AT&T’s Call Protect app, as well as Samsung’s built-in call block and spam protection service. Samsung Galaxy users can enable the built-in service in the Phone app under Settings > Caller ID and Spam Protection. Setup is painless, and it offers an easy way to report a number.
Nomorobo is the service that Verizon uses for its Fios users, but it also has a phone app. The service is free for VoIP users and costs $1.99 per month for mobile users. Additional services that offer similar capabilities include YouMail and RoboKiller.
Another option is to sign up for a free Google Voice phone number. Instead of giving out your real number for random services, you could then use your Google Voice number — and once the robocalls start coming in, use the block feature. Just know that blocking calls may end up being a lot of work, as robocallers are constantly spoofing different phone numbers.