CREDO Tip: How to Stop Robocalls

Heard from any robots lately? You’re not the only one. Robocalls are exploding. There were 4.9 billion robocalls placed nationwide in April 2019 alone (up from 2.6 billion the previous year). That’s around 14.9 calls to every person in the United States – in one month! In fact, almost half of all calls made on any given day are robocalls.

Many of these calls are legitimate, of course. Like maybe your dentist calling to remind you of that root canal. But many are worse. Worse than a root canal? Yes. Many robocalls – and live calls from people you don’t know – come from scammers trying to swindle you.

The Senate is trying to crack down on robocalls and recently passed the TRACED act, a bill that allows fines as high as $10,000 per call from robocallers who knowingly disregard the rules. The bill also seeks to increase the statute of limitations from one year to three years. It’s a great first step, but regulatory action alone will not stop robocalls. Regulators are up against the combined forces of internet technology, profit motive and geography (a lot of robocalls come from outside the United States) – and they’re losing.

The problem is robocall scammers are getting better. Techniques like “neighbor spoofing,” which makes it appear that a robocall is from a number in your area and, therefore, perhaps a call with an honest purpose. Maybe it’s your kid’s school or your car mechanic – so you answer. A lot of people do. And some of them are cruelly scammed. Some lose their life savings.

Take measures to protect yourself. Here’s what you can do.

Register your number in the National Do Not Call registry

This is a good first step. Once your number is listed here, most legitimate companies won’t call you anymore. But the Do Not Call registry prohibits only sales calls. You may still receive calls from political campaigns, charities, debt collectors and survey takers. And some think robocallers have outwitted the government, rendering the National Do Not Call Registry ineffective.

In addition, a company can call you if it has recently done business with you. Although if you ask a company not to call you again, it must stop. Make sure to record the date of your request if this happens.

Dismiss calls you don’t recognize

If your number is on the Do Not Call Registry for more than 31 days and you get a sales call or any kind of robocall, the simplest approach is to ignore it.

This is not always easy to do, of course. What if it’s important? If you do answer a call from a number you don’t recognize and it does turn out to be spam, don’t interact in any way. Don’t press a button to be removed from the call list or to speak with a live person. Doing this will flag you as a target and likely lead to more calls.

Instead, hang up and report the call to the FTC.

Get a call-blocking app

(Standard disclaimer: App creators’ views and values are their own and are not endorsed by CREDO Mobile. Before downloading any app, please confirm that it meets your personal standards for corporate ethics and protection of privacy.)

There are hundreds of call-blocking apps on the market now. Most work a similar way: They check incoming calls against a robocall database and block them. But they can only stop calls from known robocallers, so calls from fresh numbers may still get through.

One highly rated free app is Hiya, which is available for Android and Apple phones. Other free apps to check out include YouMail, Mr. Number and Truecaller. If you don’t mind a small subscription fee, there are paid apps that claim to do more, like Nomorobo ($1.99/month) and RoboKiller ($2.99/month).

One fun app is the Jolly Roger Telephone Co., which has the tagline “our robots talk to telemarketers so that humans don’t have to”. It’s 99 cents a month, but that small fee might be worth the satisfaction of sticking it to the scammers. For a few laughs, go to the Jolly Roger blog and listen to the remarkably lifelike Jolly Roger bots give clueless scammers the runaround. Score one for our side.

AT&T and Robocalls

While we’re on the topic of robocalls, we’d like to tell you about a 2018 robocall campaign by AT&T that was aimed at stopping California’s landmark bill to preserve net neutrality. The bill that AT&T was against would have ensured that California residents had access to a free and fair internet, without Big Telecom’s throttling and price gouging by.

Specifically targeted at senior citizens, the AT&T robocalls spread misinformation and claimed that California’s net neutrality legislation would increase cell phone bills and slow down data connections.

If you’re an AT&T customer, you should be angry. Do you really want to send a monthly payment to a company that wants to interfere with your internet so it can make more millions?

Instead, consider CREDO Mobile, the only carrier fighting for your rights and a free, open internet. For more than a decade, CREDO has been fighting for strong net neutrality protections. We’ve mobilized hundreds of thousands of CREDO members to take millions of actions, including petitions and phone calls to key decision makers and protests in Washington and across the country.

Are there other tips to block robocallers that have worked for you? We’d love to hear about them!

This is an update to a previously published article.