By Evan Bleier / May 16, 2019

5 Ways to Rid Your Life and Phone of Annoying Robocalls and Spam Texts

Robocalls have been called "the consumer plague of our time”

A cellphone call. (Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash)
A cellphone call. (Alejandro Escamilla on Unsplash)

Earlier this month, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal called robocalls “the consumer plague of our time.” And while we might go with selfie sticks or self-driving Segways, the senator has a point as call-blocking company YouMail estimates there were 4.9 billion calls placed in April 2019 — nearly 15 calls per person.

That’s 15 more times than anyone needs to be unnecessarily annoyed or, even worse, potentially victimized by “spoofing,” a new tactic where scammers deliberately falsify their caller ID information to disguise their identity as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away personal info.

So how can you protect yourself from annoying robocalls and automated texts? Here are five suggestions culled from tips from the Federal Communications Commission, Consumer Reports and the CTIA wireless trade association.

  1. Add your wireless and/or landline numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry, which will then prohibit telemarketers from calling them. For texts, forward SPAM messages to 7726 (or SPAM). This free service reports the SPAM number to your wireless provider and flags it.
  2. If you don’t know a number, even if it says it’s from a local area, don’t answer it. If you do, hang up the phone right away. Failing that, if the caller – or a recording – asks you to hit a button to stop getting calls, just hang up. This trick is used to identify potential targets.
  3. Talk to your wireless provider about call-blocking tools they have. Providers such as AT&T, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon all offer anti-robocall services, some of which are free, some paid.
  4. Look into apps you can download to block unwanted calls. Nomorobo, RoboKiller, Truecaller and the aforementioned YouMail are all popular options.
  5. Enlist the help of the Jolly Roger Telephone Company at a cost of $11.88 per year. Essentially, the company offers a bot that uses algorithms to waste as much of a telemarketer’s time as possible by making them caller think they are talking with an actual human. If that’s too hardcore, you can always file a complaint online with the FTC or FCC after getting an unwanted call or text. Has to be a robocall or automated text though — not just your ex calling to “check in.”

Whether you use these tips or not may be a moot point in the near future as the FCC is considering a proposal which would force phone companies to “block unwanted calls to their customers by default.”

On the docket for an FCC meeting on June 6, the proposal says “carriers would simply have to allow consumers who do not want that kind of service to opt out” and block telecom providers from legal ramifications for blocking certain calls.

Either way, sooner or later, you’ll be able to stop getting those pesky recorded calls in the middle of a meeting asking if you want to change your insurance or somebody speaking to you in Mandarin.