If your phone is ringing off the hook with infuriating robocalls, you are not alone. April saw a remarkable 3.4 billion robocalls, a year-over-year surge of 900 million, according to a report in the New York Times.
All those calls are driving people batty, according to the NYT report:
“Everywhere I go, it is what people talk about,” said Denise Grimsley, a Republican member of the Florida Senate, who said a woman named Elizabeth leaves her prerecorded messages several times daily selling a vacation package.
“But it’s not just annoying,” she added. “They are coming after your personal information.”
Stopping robocalls might seem hopeless, but there are ways to fight back. Following are seven tips for reducing those pesky calls.
1. Keep your number to yourself
You know how businesses ask for your phone number for just about any reason? If you don’t have to give it, don’t. The more you give out your number, the greater the odds that it will be sold to a third party.
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. Don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers
Ignore calls that come from unfamiliar numbers. According to the Better Business Bureau:
Use Caller ID to screen your calls and just don’t answer if you don’t recognize the number. If someone really needs to reach you, they will leave a message.
If you accidentally or unthinkingly answer, hand up immediately if the call sounds like a robocall.
4. Watch out for spoofing
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.
In fact, one of the latest scams involves something known as “spoofing.” According to the BBB:
Your cellphone or home phone rings. When you look at the number calling, you get a shock. It’s your phone number! No matter how curious you may be, don’t answer it. The person on the other end is part of a scam.
Common variations on this scam include someone impersonating:
- The IRS
- A debt collector
- A computer tech support representative
If you get this type of call — which sometimes involves your area code, but not your actual number — do not answer. The advice in No. 3 holds: If you don’t recognize the number, let the call go to voicemail.
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.
Even here, scammers are at work. According to the Federal Trade Commission:
Someone pretending to be from the FTC is sending out fake emails telling people that their Do Not Call registration is expiring.
Registrations never expire. Once you add a number to the Do Not Call Registry, you do not need to register it again.
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 software that blocks robocalls
Several companies now offer technology that promises to block robocalls.
Nomorobo is a tool you can use to block robocalls. The technology identifies and answers robocalls so they don’t go through to you. The software is free for landlines and $1.99 a month per device for cellphones.
Other options include:
This program allows a customer to put the phone on mute and patch telemarketing calls to a robot, which understands speech patterns and inflections and works to keep the caller engaged.
For more on keeping robocalls at bay, check out:
- “This Wireless Carrier Is Best at Spotting Robocalls“
- “Ask Stacy: How Can I Stop These Darn Robocalls?“
- “The Top 5 Cities for Robocalls — and How to Stop the Pesky Messages“
How have you successfully stopped robocalls? Share your story in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Chris Kissell contributed to this report.