My phone has been blowing up. It’s not because I’m incredibly popular, though I like to tell people that’s why. No, instead, it’s because robocallers have taken over my phone.
I get at least three to four robocalls any given afternoon, and for someone who doesn’t talk on the phone often — I usually text or video chat — that’s a lot. If someone asks me if I want to discuss my car’s extended warranty one more time, I might explode. If it’s not that, it’s what my thoughts are on cruises or if I want to take a survey about some politician. What’s more, they always seem to know when I’m either about to eat lunch, have dinner, or already on a call.
While the number of robocalls appears to have fallen in 2020, with fewer callers manning call centers due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to robocall blocking app YouMail, they’re on the upswing again. After falling from roughly 4.8 billion calls placed per month in February 2020 to 2.9 billion per month in April 2020, robocalls have risen back to 4 billion per month as of January 2021.
Thankfully, there are ways you can curtail and even eliminate robocalls. Whether you use free apps from your carrier, download third-party apps with enhanced security, or make system settings on your Android phone or iPhone, these are the best ways to stop robocallers from harassing you on a daily basis.
AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon, Yahoo Finance’s parent company, each provide their own free apps for Android and iOS that will monitor and block spam and robo calls.
AT&T’s (T) Call Protect app offers spam and robocall blocking, lets you create a block list, and will send unknown numbers to voicemail. While free to monthly subscribers, an upgraded version is available for $3.99 per month and features reverse number lookup and the ability to choose whether to send different categories of robocalls, such as marketing or polling calls, to voicemail.
T-Mobile (TMUS) Scam Shield’s app is free to all customers and will block spam and robocalls before your phone even rings, as well as block spam texts. You also get full caller ID access for spam numbers, and can block categories of calls ranging from telemarketing and political calls to calls from jails and surveys.
Verizon’s (VZ) Call Filter app is free for users on monthly and prepaid plans and will let you screen incoming calls, send calls directly to voicemail, and report numbers as spam. Call Filter Plus, meanwhile, costs $2.99 per month and offers caller ID information for unknown numbers. It allows you to create your own block list and view the risk level of incoming calls.
There are also a number of third-party options available for blocking robocalls that provide a bit more functionality than their free carrier-provided offerings.
Nomorobo is a $1.99 per month app that will either identify or completely block robocalls. You can also look up numbers and add them to a blocking list.
YouMail is another robocall blocking app. A free version comes with occasional ads, but it will stop your spam calls and provide you with a nifty voice-to-text voicemail app. For $3.99 per month you can ditch the ads and get unlimited voicemail.
Both Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS offer built-in spam protection options. In both operating systems you can block calls from unknown numbers via their respective settings menus, and if you rarely get unfamiliar calls, that’s a great feature. But, if you do get calls from people you don’t know, say for work, then that’s likely a no-go.
You can also identify individual spam numbers as such so you can block them permanently. Spam creators, though, often change their numbers, so that won’t always help.
There's also the National Do Not Call Registry, which you can sign up for free of charge by visiting: www.donotcall.gov.
Finally, a little trick I’ve picked up on is to never answer the phone by saying “Hello.” That will automatically trigger the robocall to start up. If you answer and say “This is Dan Howley,”—use your name, though—the robocall won’t know when to start hitting you up for an extended vehicle warranty.
It doesn’t eliminate the problem of getting spam calls, but it does keep you from having to listen to them.
Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at firstname.lastname@example.org over via encrypted mail at email@example.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.
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