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Handling RoboCalls

FEATURED | July 19, 2019

Handling RoboCalls

It happens to me no less than three times a day. The phone rings. I hope it’s a friend inviting me to a fun event or even a family member calling with good news. But, no. More times than not, it’s a solicitor. The messages range from offering a different insurance plan to applying for a new credit card to warning that the IRS , but the voice is often recorded. It seems even if you do press the button to be removed, the calls continue. In today’s age of technology, our cell phone numbers are easy to find, and that makes us all vulnerable to these types of calls. What is the best approach to handling robocalls?

According to NBC News, 5.2 billion calls were placed to phone numbers in the United States in March of 2019; that’s an increase from 2.5 billion from three years ago. The Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Program receives around 500,000 complaints a month regarding these unwelcomed calls.

The good news is that efforts are being made by the U.S. Senate through the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act to prevent criminal use of robocalling. The act would require the adoption of a call authentication system called “STIR/SHAKEN.” STIR is an acronym for “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited,” while SHAKEN stands for “Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.” It will help ensure caller ID is accurate, promote cooperation between agencies to address the problem, and expand powers to enforce civil penalties on violators.

In the meantime, if you find them as annoying as I do, here are tips for handling robocalls.

Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry. This submits the request for your mobile or landline to be removed from companies’ call roster. This can reduce the amount of calls you receive from robocallers and telemarketers, but it will not stop them entirely. This will not prevent you being contacted by city services including weather warnings and/or school closings, organizations and businesses with whom you have or had a relationship, or tax-exempt, non-profit organizations.

Many phone providers have launched services of their own to help protect their customers from falling victim to robocall scams. Some of these programs are free while others might add a few more dollars to your monthly bill for a stronger blocking system. For example, Verizon provides Premium Caller ID for $3 per month. T-Mobile supports a service at no additional charge. AT&T offers Call Protect Plus for an additional $4 per month. According to a study by Mind Commerce, these systems vary in accuracy ranging in success of 93% of the time for Verizon to 86% of the time for AT&T.

As with anything, there’s an app for this. Free apps including Hiya, Mr. Number, RoboKiller, and YouMail provide alerts for robocalls. For a couple of dollars a month, Nomorobo offers the same. Because each system works differently in terms of accessing your contact information, you’ll want to review the privacy policy of the one you choose before using it.

Most phone companies and/or smart phone settings include a feature that allows you to automatically reject incoming calls identified as anonymous. In addition, these calls will not have the ability to leave a voicemail. It is good to note that any personal friend, family member or important business will also be rejected if they call in from a number marked as anonymous. This may cause you to miss important calls.

Hang up. Just hang up. If it’s a recording, you’re not hurting the machine’s feelings. If you’re somehow transferred to a person, in my experience, they stick to their script and don’t acknowledge my voice. A simple hang up will do the trick. You can also go into your call history and block the number. Likely, the system will use a different phone number in your caller ID, but that at least will remove one more they can use.

There doesn’t seem to be a way to avoid robocalls completely… other than not owning a phone. My addiction to Candy Crush won’t allow me to give up my phone, so for the time being, I’m going to rely on the methods above.

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