If your phone is ringing off the hook with infuriating robocalls, you are not alone. The number of robocalls exploded to a record-high 5.23 billion nationwide in March, according to the YouMail Robocall Index.
The number dipped a bit in April, but still came in at a depressing 4.9 billion. While stopping robocalls might seem hopeless, 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 Federal Trade Commission 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, hang 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.
Be extra careful in weeding out these calls. 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.”
Common variations on “spoofing” scams 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.
Just be aware that some organizations — including charities, political groups, debt collectors and surveys — still can call you.
6. 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 FTC. This may seem like a waste of time, but it doesn’t take long, and 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:
For more on keeping robocalls at bay, check out:
- “Ask Stacy: How Can I Stop These Darn Robocalls?“
- “2 Major Phone Companies Take ‘Key Step’ in Combating Robocalls“
How have you successfully stopped robocalls? Share your story in comments below or on our Facebook page.
Chris Kissell contributed to this report.