The scourge of robocalls has reached an all-time high, with 47.8 billion such calls made in 2018, a 56% increase from the previous year. It is the number one complaint fielded by the FCC at more than 200,000 consumer reports per year. It means that every adult in America receives about 150 robocalls per year.
But there are an increasing number of strategies and tips to help decrease the amount of calls, as well as a push from the FCC and measures by the House of Representatives and the Senate to combat scammers.
1. Don’t answer, and hang up
The most important thing consumers can do is just not answer the phone for strange or unknown numbers. Or if you do, hang up before engaging with the spammer. By interacting with the robocall, it lets the perpetrators know the number is real and can be targeted. In addition, never press a button to indicate you want to stop receiving calls — it’s another robocall trick.
2. Utilize call blocking services
Almost all cell phone providers now offer security features that can detect fraudulent numbers and warn you about spam and nuisance calls. Major providers offer these services for free and have additional premium security, from $2.99 to $3.99 per month, that can give accurate caller information and reverse look-up numbers.
3. Use your phone’s settings
Both Android and Apple phones contain settings that allow users to manually block phone numbers and label certain numbers as spam. Click on the Recent Calls log in the phone app and check the settings to add numbers to the blocked list.
4. Use apps like Robokiller
Third-party apps are another tool to block robocalls. Many were designed through a program run by the FTC, although the apps do require access to your contacts list. Robokiller promises a 90% reduction in spam calls and charges $1 per month, while Nomorobo is free for VoiP landlines and $1.99 a month for cell phones. Other apps include Hiya, Truecaller, and YouMail, and most include a free trial period of 7-14 days.
5. Verify official numbers
If a government employee or company representative claims to be contacting you for business purposes, hang up and call a verified number. Check the phone book, websites, account statements and other places for phone numbers, and remember that you will likely get a letter in the mail before receiving a phone call, especially from a government entity.
6. Don’t give out any information
There’s a chance you might answer a call and interact with a real person if your caller ID identifies a local number. Spoofing is a tactic used by spammers to deliberately falsify the number that shows up on your screen and make it appear similar to your own, but safeguarding any and all personal information, including account numbers, names, addresses, and passwords, from the operators is the most valuable strategy when speaking in person.
7. Add your cell number to the Do Not Call list
The National Do Not Call Registry is active and available for landlines and cell phones, but isn’t as effective as it once was. Register your number online and report robocalls to the FTC, which has resolved 121 cases against telemarketers and even collected $280 million in a case against DISH Network for Do Not Call violations.
8. Set a new password for your voicemail
Industrious hackers can use spoofing technology to gain access to your voicemail and gather valuable information. The FCC advises that users change or reset passwords for their voicemail service to prevent hacks. Both Android and iPhone offer step-by-step instructions on setting up or changing a voicemail account.
9. Report false calls and texts
Despite the prevalence of robocalls, there are a number of ways to fight back against illegal operators. Go to fcc.gov/complaint, the Consumer Complaint Center, and click the Phone link to file a formal complaint.
If your number is on the Do Not Call Registry, go to ftccomplaintassistant.gov if telemarketers have ignored the list.
IRS scams can be reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at www.tigta.gov or by calling 1-800-366-4484.
And immediately report spam texts, for free, by forwarding the number to 7726 (SPAM) and allowing the carrier to investigate the origins of the call.
10. Be extra vigilant about coronavirus scams
The global pandemic has led to a new class of scam surrounding relief checks. The Federal Trade Commission stresses that the IRS won’t call, email or text you with information about your stimulus payment. You don’t have to front any money to get your stimulus. And if someone calls and says you were paid too much and need to send some back, hang up immediately. Report coronavirus-related scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.