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8 Steps to Stop Those Annoying Robocalls

Category: Home and Garden

July 20, 2019 — Here is one thing in this increasingly divided nation that we can agree upon — we all hate Robocalls! These annoying and persistent calls often come right around dinner time from numbers and names that look familiar. If you answer, it is about a scam trying to part you and your hard-earned money and security. Even when enrolled in DO NOT CALL registries, the problem is so bad that many people have stopped answering their phone unless they are sure who is calling. The problem is also spreading to text messages.

For this article we have done some research to find out the best ideas for how to minimize the problem. Here we go:

Don’t answer your phone. Unless you are sure who is calling, better just to let it ring. If you do answer, it just confirms there is a real person behind your number, and they’ll be happen to try you again.

Ignore messages if the caller says they are from the IRS, Medicare, or Social Security. The real organizations don’t call, they always write. The scammers will try to scare you into paying them money.

Register with the national Do Not Call service. Although it doesn’t always work against the worst offenders and local telemarketers, it will screen out some spammers. Visit https://www.donotcall.gov/register/reg.aspx.  Call toll-free from the phone you want to register: 1-888-382-1222.

Consider a blocking service. Some phone carriers offer a spam call blocking service. AT&T subscribers can use a free iOS and Android app called AT&T CallProtect. The other carriers either have or are working on similar services.

Get the app. Apps like Nomorobo, TrueCaller, Call Control, and Hiya either block calls from know spammers or give you a way to find out who is actually calling.

Be careful about where you put your phone number and email address. Some scammers scrape websites looking for numbers and emails to harvest. To them, there is nothing better than a real number they can sell to someone who will harass you. We recommend you never add your phone number or email to a Blog or Forum (and that includes on Topretirements!)

Block individual numbers. Most smartphones give you the ability to block individual numbers. If you see from your call log that the same number is calling you over and over again, tap the “i” next to that number. Scroll down and you can block that number.

Scammers don’t deserve politeness. If you do slip up or answer a call you didn’t want to, hangup. Most of us are polite and don’t want to offend anyone. If you are not interested and/or your instincts set off alarm bells, no matter how faint, hang up! No matter how serious it sounds, if your grandson really was in jail and needed money he would call you (or his parents) directly.

Bottom line. Although Congress says it is working on a plan to end the scourge of robocalls, we’re not holding our breath. In the meantime, a few simple steps can help reduce the annoyance these inconsiderate (and worse!) folks cause you.

Comments? Have you taken other steps that have worked to reduce spam calls? If so, please share your experiences in the Comments section below.

Posted by Admin on July 19th, 2019

26 Comments »

  1. Most of this article addresses cell phones but a lot of us still have land lines as well as cell phones. I get bombarded with robo calls every week on my land line. I am on the Do Not Call List, NOMOROBO, I block calls on my land line phone blocker. NOTHING helps. The scammers keep changing their numbers and caller ID’s often. They use local phone exchanges to try to get people to pick up. I have been threatened to be arrested and that they would send the police to my house. They have left those messages on my answering machine. They try to sell medical devices and claim Medicare will pay for it. I get credit repair phone calls constantly, timeshare relief scams, they leave messages that the government has money that is owed to me. Some guy supposedly from Microsoft calls all the time to say they ‘see’ I have a problem on my computer and will help me fix it. The scams go on and on. I am SICK of it!

    by Louise — July 20, 2019

  2. To make it easier not to answer robo calls on thee cell phones I assigned a specific ring tone for each of my contacts and set the default ringtone to the quietest, most easy to listen to one available and never answer that one.. If it’s important they will leave a message and I can add that number to the contact list with a “contact list ringtone” . As for calls to land line – not an issue since we got rid of the land line a few years ago.

    by Jean — July 20, 2019

  3. Good point Louise. It is harder to block calls on a landline. Like you say, you can block individual numbers, which only works if the spammer keeps using the same number(s). Worth a shot though. Apparently you can dial *60, which allows you to turn on call blocking and block specific numbers. This Wikihow article tells how to do it (mostly about cell phones but towards the end on landlines)> https://m.wikihow.com/Block-a-Call It is definitely a problem!

    by Admin — July 20, 2019

  4. Louise, We got those calls on the landline and it’s one reason we got rid of it. FIrst I just unplugged the phone and checked voice mail a few times a day for important calls but that didn’t work out too well for urgent calls from family etc. Now most communication is done by texting rather than talking.

    by jean — July 20, 2019

  5. I have an addition: call your provider!

    I followed all of the steps listed above until I started receiving messages from real people saying they missed my call. I hadn’t called them. I decided to answer a call that had a person’s name and number listed. The woman wondered why I was trying to reach her. When I told her I hadn’t called and I was getting messages from people I didn’t know, wondering why I called. She said it was happening to her too. Robocallers have started using names and numbers of people who don’t answer, to make the call look more legit.

    I called Spectrum, my carrier, to report the problem. Their first suggestion was to change my phone number. When I explained the need to keep it, the rep told me she could block all robocalls from my number. Now, the phone rings once and the call is disconnected automatically. It has been amazing.

    If enough people connect their providers, I bet they will become more proactive in lobbying Congress or do something about the problem on their end.

    by CindyW — July 20, 2019

  6. I gave up the landline over 12 years ago, since I was already paying for the cell 12/7 anyway. After all, I could use the cell in the house, but I couldn’t use the landline in the car. I simply ignore any calls that aren’t from my contacts, even if from my area code and exchange. It’s so easy to spoof the caller ID area code and exchange in the robo-dialers, it means nothing. I had a friend who is now even receiving calls from himself… If it’s an unrecognized number (say, an internal number from a business, doctor, etc.), they’ll leave a voicemail. If you feel like going the extra mile, you can reverse-lookup the calling number at https://www.whitepages.com/reverse-phone and see if it may be a known spammer or possibly a simple misdial.

    by Peder — July 20, 2019

  7. This may only help if you have a Google Pixel phone, but knowing about it may allow you to find a comparable service or app. My Pixel has a “Settings” option to the Phone app that activates Call Screening through the Google Assistant. When a call comes in (even a known caller) I’m given the option to screen the call. If selected, the caller is told they are being screened and asked to identify themselves. At that point, more than half of spam callers hang up. I get a few specious responses which I then block, and mostly I’ve found my robocalls have drastically decreased. I suspect my screening is being noted and my number is removed from the call list. Friends or business associates who call from an unknown number simply let me know who they are and I answer. This has been a huge help and as I said, robocalls have significantly reduced. Very occasionally there is some confusion, but I have never lost a call I wanted. (Note that a third party screening app installed may interfere with this Pixel service.)

    BTW, we cancelled our land line years ago as near useless, costly and mostly irritating. My wife had our land line number transferred to her cell phone. No provider can legally refuse that option.

    by RichPB — July 20, 2019

  8. I very seldom answer my phone. I don’t keep my ringer on. If it is important they will leave a message,.

    by Debra — July 21, 2019

  9. I ditched my landline over 10 years ago because all I got were robocalls. My life became more peaceful instantly! They’re slowly tumbling to my cell number. I do not answer calls on my cell phone unless the caller is identified. If it is a legitimate call, they will leave a message. If they don’t leave a message, they get blocked.

    I’m not going to let my blood pressure rise over this, there are far more important issues going on in the world.

    by Linda — July 21, 2019

  10. I dropped the landline a few years ago, and don’t miss it at all (although Spectrum shows calls being made to my assigned number a few times a day). I’m content to rely on my cell for phone service.

    I lived in three states over the last few years and still have my original 20 year old cell phone number. I get about 3-4 spam calls each day showing that old area code. I don’t answer, block spam callers, am on the do-not-call lists and have the spam blocking apps, but they just keep coming. I’ve just started getting spam calls with the 2nd state’s area code. I moved to my latest (and hopefully last) state a year ago, and so far the spammers haven’t caught up — calls from this state have been genuine so far LOL although my new car dealership’s calls are showing up as beng from the UK?!! And I get some weird international calls leaving voicemail in Chinese and other languages.

    I’ve been lucky that all of the spam callers have been during the day and stop around 7-8 at night. Like Linda, I don’t get too stressed over this anymore — although it would be nice to be able to block them completely.

    by Kate — July 22, 2019

  11. You can program your cell phone not to disturb you at night. You set the hours when calls and alerts will not be received.

    by Linda — July 22, 2019

  12. For anyone who would miss the multi room extensions a landline offers, one can buy a 2-5 handset system that uses “Link2Cell” tech that connect over Bluetooth and use the cell line in place of the landline. I have a 5 extension system, similar to this https://shop.panasonic.com/cordless-corded-telephones/cordless-telephones/KX-TG7875S.html , that works great. Note that these systems also support landlines and the built-in digital answering machine only works on that. Your cell actually handles the voicemail when using a cell. The talking caller ID means when I’m in the garage or basement, I don’t have to carry the phone all the time. It also will handle 2 cell phones, though the system will only allow use of one at a time. You can still take or make a call on the second cell phone itself if the system is in use by the other.

    by Peder — July 23, 2019

  13. Have kept the At&T landline as I wanted to have the option of using fax machine……It is expensive, especially with the long distance option of an extra $20.00+ per mos. My AT&T landline is sporadic at best…have had the same problem three times over the past three months. Each time AT&T has assured me the problem was taken care of……the problem “Buzz” seems to clear up…and then come back. Each and every time it has taken AT&Ta full week to make the repair…poor service. Twice I have received calls from AT&T Presidents Office…….tried to phone them back the other day…after waiting on the line for what seemed like forever…..the AT&T rep told me they did not have a phone number for the President’s office…only an address….yet on three occasions in the past few months AT&T President’s office has phoned me and left a return number…????? In any event, I think Clark Howard is correct. AT&T is wanting to phase out the home line. This time around I was told by the AT&T rep: It may be that it can not be repaired permanently, as this is an antiquated system and there are not many technicians who know enough about it. I asked to speak to someone in repair services who could give me some information on the repair history regarding my line ..she said yes…she would connect me with someone who would know more about what they had done……she connected me to an automated line……all I could do was report the problem…no way to speak to a person…….looks like we may not have a choice in getting rid of the land line…AT&T certainly does not value it. AT&T is now wanting to sell me a wireless service…not going to happen with AT&T…lousy service at best.

    by Roberta Bengtson — July 23, 2019

  14. Roberta: An additional tip if you’re planning on changing service — I was with AT&T Mobile forever.
    I moved to a new state near my kids and decided it was time to update my cell plan. I was paying a ridiculous amount for service because I hadn’t paid attention to the fact that prices dropped from the last time I updated my service plan. Two of my kids reported everyone raved about Verison, in addition to getting an employee discount from the hospital where they’re medical professionals. I switched to Verizon and now no one can hear me when I talk on my cell phone in my house due to a lot of interference. Lesson: ask your neighbors what service they have and recommend before switching!!! Sometimes the location of a cell phone tower can make a huge difference. It turned out
    that a reason the hospital employees think Verizon’s service is great is helped by the fact their hospital complex has a Verizon cell phone tower. Out in my suburb, people use AT&T or Sprint. Lesson learned!!!

    by Kate — July 24, 2019

  15. Roberta – I know there are certain legal situations where faxes are required, but if you fall outside those requirements, I think you would be better served getting an inexpensive scanner (depending on your fax, it may already function as a scanner if it’s a multi-function printer unit) to hook up to a computer and use email to replace your fax, and send the fax to the resale shop, especially with the line cost and quality you describe. You can use the scanner for other tasks, too, like scanning family photos, scanning all your credit cards (in case of loss), even rebates. I usually don’t even have to mail in anything anymore with rebates, since most rebate houses have an web presence that allows submissions of materials online.

    I understand this is getting pretty far off-topic, but I’ve had great service with that AARP-associated cell provider, both for the price and service, since it rides on ATT’s network.

    by Peder — July 24, 2019

  16. My Android phone will allow me to set it so that only numbers in my contacts list will ring. I discovered this after getting 17 robocalls in one day a few weeks ago. The only downside is if someone calls you that you want to talk to, but they are not in your contacts list. I always ask folks to leave a message if I miss them, though, so it’s a small price to pay to shut my phone up from robo calls! Best of all, it works!

    by Dave Balius — July 24, 2019

  17. Some good news anyway. Yesterday the House voted 429-3 to pass a bill about robocallers. If agreed to by the Senate phone companies would be required to offer screening technology to customers that would identify and block spam robocalls. That technology would have to be free. Keep your fingers crossed.

    by Admin — July 25, 2019

  18. I have been using Republic Wireless for six years and love it! I pay a bit less than $24.00 monthly for texts, data and calls for $5.00 I can add more space for data. I have only done this once. All business is conducted online. My bill is paid directly from my credit card. Reception is great. They have a nice choice of phones, but you can use your own and keep your current phone number.

    by Jennifer — July 25, 2019

  19. If this does not get passed then I believe there is hanky panky collusion with the phone companies and politicians. These phone scammers prey on everyone. I am also starting to get an enormous amount of mail in my email junk mail folder.l I suspect the scammers will ramp that up if the phone option gets nixed.

    My poor Mother, God rest her soul, would have gone berserk with these phone scammers. She was not tech savvy. She did not have a cell phone or computer or anything technical. She started getting scam calls prior to her death and half the time she thought the robo calls were real people. She hung up on them but would tell me Rachel called again. She was a popular robo caller for years. I kept telling her these were recorded robo calls and not real people talking to her. Back in the ‘olden’ days people just got phone calls from friends or relatives. Not psycho robo calls.

    by Louise — July 25, 2019

  20. I have my Android phone placed on “do not disturb” mode 24/7. The feature lets me allow my contacts to ring through, but anyone not in my contact list is channeled right to voice mail. When I call for estimates or appointments with a new vendor/provider, I add them to my contact list so they can return my call. I still get 2-3 robocalls per day, but my phone never rings. I only get the “missed call” notification on my phone, which is easy enough to clear.

    How I enabled this (might be different on an iPhone):

    Go to Settings
    Choose Notifications
    Click the “Do Not Disturb” option to enable it
    Touch the “Do Not Disturb” option to open its options
    Touch “allow exceptions”
    Choose “Calls from…Contacts Only”
    There are other options to customize, such as setting hours when Do Not Disturb is active, or allowing calls to come through if the same number calls more than once w/in 15 minutes (I suppose this is to let non-contact, emergency-type calls through)

    My house has never been so peaceful!

    I learned about this feature from reading a cell phone forum. Hope this helps someone plagued with robocalls!!

    by Lara — July 28, 2019

  21. Another thing which we all need to know about with our cellphones, is that if you have BLUETOOTH turned on, someone can “Fish your line” by passing their cellphone near yours and use your phone line when you are not using it (including making long distance phone calls) without your knowledge. When the person they called tries to call back they will get you and not the perpetrator.
    This happened to me because I had Bluetooth turned on so TURN BLUETOOTH OFF !

    by Richard Burton Jr — August 6, 2019

  22. Got a phone call yesterday on my landline. The message was something like they have frozen my SS account and I would be arrested and taken to Federal Court. I could press 1 and talk to someone about it. How stupid and it irks me to no end that some really old senior could be duped into thinking this is for real. Some senior that has no other money but SS and would be so scared receiving that phone call. I was so tempted to answer the phone call and call them idiot scammer jerks. Why can’t these vile monsters be caught and arrested?

    by Louise — August 7, 2019

  23. Louise, I totally agree though it seems to be a lost cause. Most robo calls are exactly that & you don’t have a ‘real’ person to tell off! I don’t answer either my lan or cell unless I know the number, they can leave a msg. I do feel sorry for the people that aren’t tech savy or people not up with the latest scams & fall into these traps. People work hard for their money & benefits they shouldn’t have to worry about it being taken away or your personal info being compromised.

    by VTRetiree — August 8, 2019

  24. The Wall St. Journal reports that most of these annoying robocalls are facilitated by small telecom companies that charge almost nothing per call. The FCC and regulators are not sure about what power it has to regulate them. We sure hope they find a way!

    by Admin — August 19, 2019

  25. Blame the Internet and the proliferation of Voice Over IP installations that can exit anywhere in the world and tell you they are your next door neighbor.

    by Peder — August 20, 2019

  26. The Wall St. Journal just had a great article on how to stop annoying SPAM texts. Some tips:
    Do not click on any links – they are trying to get you engaged and get your info
    Do not reply “Stop sending these messages” (unless you know the sender)
    The FCC recommends you copy spam messages and text them to the number 7726 (SPAM)
    You can block individual numbers but it is a little bit like Whack-a-Mole (be careful not to call them while you are blocking). On an iphone tap on phone number at top of the screen. Tap the “i” button, then the number. Scroll down to where you see “Block this caller”.
    Article is https://www.wsj.com/articles/getting-attacked-by-robotexts-heres-what-to-do-11566385200 (behind paid wall)

    by Admin — August 21, 2019

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