Most robocalls are illegal. But if you've answered a phone lately, you know they're happening anyway. Here's how you can fight back.
Automated calls are becoming more frequent and more infuriating. Weren’t they supposed to have been banned? Yes, but that hasn’t happened in practice. According to the Better Business Bureau:
The federal Telemarketing Sales Rule prohibits recorded sales messages unless you have given written permission for the caller to contact you, regardless of whether or not your number is on the Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov).
Nonetheless, a growing number of consumers are receiving calls that offer fraudulent credit card services, questionable auto warranty plans, home security systems and grant procurement programs.
Here are some tips from the BBB and Money Talks News for stopping robocalls. They’re not foolproof, but they can help.
1. Keep your number to yourself
You know how businesses ask for your number for just about any reason? If you don’t have to give it, don’t. “It is a tacit invitation for them to call that number or sell it to a third party,” the BBB says.
2. Tell companies you use to buzz off
It not illegal for a business to make marketing calls if you have a relationship with them. So read the terms and conditions of your purchases and services carefully. Buried in those agreements might be a clause agreeing to these annoying calls.
If you find out too late that you agreed to their spam, you can still stop it by specific request. Call and keep a record of the date you made the request, and follow up with the FTC if the business keeps harassing you.
3. Hang up right away
If you get a robocall, immediately hang up. “There is nothing to gain from attempting to reason with the people behind the calls,” the BBB says.
Contact your service provider to see if it has free blocking services but be warned: Your caller ID might show a phony number when the robocall comes in because the latest technology can fool your service.
4. Don’t press numbers
In the past, many people have recommended certain number combinations or the pound key to delete yourself from a robocall registry. But does pressing the right numbers really take you off the list?
The BBB says no, you’re actually making it worse: “By pressing a number, you are confirming that someone is actually responding to the call, and you will likely receive more of them.”
5. Get on the Do Not Call Registry
Sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s free, your number is never taken off the list, and it will at least stop law-abiding solicitors. It’s for both cellphones and landlines.
6. File a complaint
If you’ve been on the Do Not Call Registry for a month or longer and still get calls, file a complaint with the FTC. This may seem like a waste of time, but it doesn’t take long, and sometimes enough complaints can get policy changed.
If the call comes from an identifiable business, you should also report it to the Better Business Bureau.
7. Use a free service that blocks all robocalls
Nomorobo is a free tool you can use to block robocalls. You tell it who your carrier is, provide an email address and from that point forward, an algorithm blocks robocalls.
Nomorobo works by letting your phone ring once. It then identifies the caller and if it’s a robocaller, it hangs up.
Note, however, that the company site warns, “Nomorobo is only available on certain VoIP providers and only in the United States.” It isn’t yet available for most major cellphone companies.
8. Block political calls
The 2016 election campaign is starting to heat up. Since politicians aren’t trying to sell you anything, their calls are excluded from the do-not-call rules. That means these folks can call your landline and don’t have to stop even if you ask.
The best solution may be to have Nomorobo block these robocalls. But that’s about your only defense.
How have you successfully stopped robocalls? Share your story in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.