If your phone is ringing off the hook with infuriating robocalls, you are not alone. Americans received 3 billion robocalls in May, according to the YouMail Robocall Index.
That is down from a peak of 5.7 billion robocalls in October 2019, a trend that YouMail has attributed to the coronavirus pandemic. Still, it’s little consolation to the recipients of those 3 billion unwanted calls last month.
While stopping robocalls might seem hopeless, there are more ways than ever to fight back, thanks to stronger federal laws and improved technology. Following are some tips for reducing those pesky calls.
1. Check with your phone carrier
A federal law enacted in December — the Pallone-Thune TRACED Act — requires phone companies to adopt authentication technology that enables them to determine whether incoming calls are legitimate before calls reach their customers’ phones.
But even before that, some major phone carriers had introduced new free anti-robocall features or were working on authentication technology, as we reported in 2019. So, contact your phone company or check its website to see what features, apps or other technology it offers to customers seeking to cut down on unwanted calls.
2. Check your smartphone
In addition to your phone company, your smartphone operating system might offer an anti-spam feature.
For example, certain Android devices offer caller ID and spam protection, and some Apple iOS devices offer a relatively new feature called “Silence Unknown Callers,” which enables you to send spam calls directly to voicemail.
3. Use a third-party app
If you’re unhappy with the anti-spam call options that your phone carrier or smartphone operating system offers, look into third-party apps like those we detail in “5 Apps That Block Robocalls.”
Some of those apps have been recognized by the Federal Trade Commission. One even lets you get revenge on telemarketers by tying up their phone lines with mindless chatter from “Answer Bots,” as we reported in “You Can Get Back at Robocallers With This App.”
4. 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, hang up immediately if the call sounds like telemarketing.
If the caller hangs up after one ring and you don’t recognize the number, don’t call back: It could be what’s known as a one-ring scam. To learn more, check out “Why Answering the Phone at Night Could Cost You Cash.”
5. Keep your number to yourself
You know how businesses and websites 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 chances that it will be sold to a third party.
If you must provide a number — such as if an online retailer requires you to give one in order to place an order — consider giving a fake number. Money Talks News managing editor Karla Bowsher has been using a go-to fake phone number in such situations for years without issue, she says.
6. Watch out for spoofing
Spoofing is a practice that some unscrupulous callers use to disguise the phone number from which they are actually calling. The goal is to trick you into thinking someone else is calling so that you answer the phone.
As the Federal Communications Commission warns:
“You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be aware: Caller ID showing a ‘local’ number does not necessarily mean it is a local caller.”
Be extra careful in weeding out these calls — which often come from scammers. Common variations on spoofing scams include someone impersonating:
- The IRS
- A debt collector
- A computer tech support representative
So, remember tip No. 4: If you don’t recognize the number, let the call go to voicemail.
7. Get on the Do Not Call Registry
Put your cellphone and landline numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. It’s free, and it will at least stop law-abiding solicitors.
Just be aware that some organizations — including charities, political groups and debt collectors — are exempt and thus still can call you even if you are on the Do Not Call Registry.
8. File a complaint
If you’ve been on the Do Not Call Registry for a month or longer and are still getting calls, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. This may seem like a waste of time, but it doesn’t take long, and enough complaints could get policy changed.
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