When robots call, don’t answer. Experts from the FTC and Federal Communications Commission told me that letting the systems know you’re a real person may get your number placed on a more valuable list of confirmed live humans. If you don’t recognize an incoming number, let it go to voice mail. If you pick up then realize it’s a robocall, just hang up.
Look up the number and report it. Copy the suspicious phone number and do a reverse lookup with an app like Hiya. A spinoff of Whitepages.com, Hiya has a large database of numbers used by scammers—much of it based on community reports. If you know it’s a scam number, report it in the app, then file an FTC complaint. The FTC says this aids in investigations.
Use a call-blocking service. Apps like Hiya, Truecaller and Nomorobo can alert you when a scammer calls, checking the incoming number against databases of phone numbers commonly used by illegal robocallers. On an iPhone, Hiya and Truecaller download their whole database to your address book—annoyingly, this might get synced across all your devices. That’s why I prefer Nomorobo, even at $5 a month.
Nomorobo creates a separate address book that updates every 15 minutes with the latest scammer digits. It has the best answer to fighting spoofed numbers as well. Previously available only on some home phones, the service tracks when a chunk of its customers are getting calls from the same number, then bans that number temporarily. It isn’t perfect, but its creator, Aaron Foss, says it’s 3% error rate is improving over time. Nomorobo, currently in a closed beta for smartphones, will be available to all in August.
Update your phone. Android devices currently allow pretty deep call blocking. This fall,Apple’s upcoming iOS 10 software will give iPhones new powers, too. You can already block numbers so that a caller goes straight to voice mail, but soon apps will be able to block callers in bulk—without dumping numbers into your address book to do it.
The Ammo of the Future
What if scammer calls could be intercepted at the network level? The FCC and FTC are hoping that’s what wireless carriers will do. Last June, the FCC said carriers could legally block robocalls and automated text messages, if asked by a customer.
The Telemarketing Guard from Canadian carrier Primus is the best example of how something like this would work. If a home-phone customer chooses to enable it, blacklisted numbers are challenged by Primus’s own robots before the phone ever rings. Time Warner, Verizon Fios, AT&T U-Verse and others have started offering Nomorobo to their home-phone customers.
Officials say U.S. wireless carriers have been slow to move. Currently, they put the onus of call blocking on users and phone makers. The problem with network-wide blocking is that you may miss calls you actually want, says Scott Bergmann, vice president for regulatory affairs for CTIA Wireless Association, the industry’s consortium. Verizon,T-Mobile and AT&T said they are constantly assessing new technology, but wouldn’t elaborate further.
Pressure from consumers and elected officials may give them an extra kick in the pants. Earlier this month U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y) teamed up with Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) to introduced a bill that would require phone companies to provide consumers with free services that block calls. Over 600,000 consumers have also signed the Consumers Union’s petition to phone company CEOs to offer tools to block robocalls before they hit their phone.
Yes, as the FTC and FCC promise to crack down on more culprits and pressure is applied to the carriers to do more, we’re plagued by incoming robocalls. At least my persistent IRS scammers now go straight to voicemail jail.
Source: Wall Street Journal