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Tired of spam calls every day? Here’s how to stop them

Most of the calls I get on my phone are not from my friends, family, or co-workers. No, instead they are from scammers and telemarketers, notifying me that I “won the lottery” or just pretending to be the IRS and threatening to pay me.

That’s why I don’t answer any phone number I don’t easily recognize, even if it might actually be important, because I’m scared by the sheer number of spam calls I get every day.

only this year Americans are expected to receive more than 52 billion robocallsThat breaks down to about a billion calls every week, according to YouMail, a company that specializes in blocking them.

And these calls come in all shapes and sizes. You’re probably familiar with so-called “possible scam,” but there are also more sophisticated attacks, involving the spoofing of popular business and local numbers, to convince you to hand over your personal information and cash. More recently, these attacks have moved to SMS, where there are phishing text messages that come from your own phone number.

No matter what the calls say, one thing is certain: they need to stop.

Last year, the Federal Communications Commission set out to solve the robocall problem by requiring major wireless carriers to start using stir/shake technology. stir/shake check all incoming and outgoing calls for wireless carriers that are routed through their networks. By verifying every call, operators can reduce the number of false or spoofed calls. But it only stops robocalls in one way: it’s not the beginning and the end. You may still get spam calls for free rides or fake notices that your student loan payment is due.

read more: CNET Interview with FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel

You can read more about stir/shake here. As the FCC continues its crusade, keep reading this story to learn things you can do to help reduce the number of times your phone rings throughout the day with calls from potential scammers.

How to keep annoying robocalls to a minimum

According to the FCCThere are some simple steps you can take to help reduce robocalls:

  • Do not answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers.
  • Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize.
  • Don’t assume an incoming call is really from a local number just because it looks like it is.
  • Do not answer any question that can be answered with a “Yes.”
  • If someone calls you and claims to be from company XYZ, hang up and call the company yourself. Use the company’s website to find an official number.
  • If you answer a call and hear a recording like “Hello, can you hear me?” just hang up
  • The same goes for a call where you’re asked to press a number before you’re connected to a representative.

When you answer a call and interact with your voice quickly or by pressing a number, spammers know your number is real. They can then sell your number to another company or start targeting your number more often.

When it is first launched, Google call screen The feature arguably went against FCC advice by answering and interacting with the robocall on your behalf. Nevertheless, Google added new features to Call Screen for his List of Pixel phones. The feature can now detect robocalls and spam calls and block them before they reach you. Google Assistant will interact with the caller and if it determines the call is legitimate, it will route it to your phone.

Apple iPhone has an option for Silence unknown calls, which adds the option to route calls from numbers not in your contacts, mail, or messages directly to voicemail. Any legitimate caller can leave a message. But that’s the problem: We often get important calls from numbers we don’t store on our phones, like a doctor’s office or a technician, so you could miss important calls this way. But if all else fails and you’re desperate to stop robocalls, this is a valid option.

If you get a lot of spam text messages, you can resend the message to the number 7726 (which spells “spam”). It won’t stop the number from texting you right away, but it will allow your carrier to investigate where it came from and put a stop to it.

Call screen feature on a Google Pixel phone

Call Screening is a feature of Google Pixel phones.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Check with your wireless service provider

All four major wireless carriers offer some type of call blocking feature. They all have a free option and a premium level. But let’s face it, all robocall blocking services should be free. This should not be a way for carriers to make money off of us.

  • AT&T ActiveArmor is available for iOS and Android. The free version blocks spam and fraud calls and provides annoying warning labels and a personal block list, and can block all unknown calls. AT&T ActiveArmor Advanced is $4 per month per line, with added benefits of caller ID for unknown numbers, reverse number lookup, identity monitoring, and public Wi-Fi protection.
  • Verizon’s Call Filter app is automatically activated for Android users on a postpaid plan. The service offers spam detection, a spam filter, a call log for spam or blocked calls, the ability to allow calls from specific numbers (iOS only), and the option to report numbers for free. You can pay $3 per month (or $8 per month for three or more lines of service) for caller ID, spam lookup, a personal block list, and a spam risk meter. Call Filter is built into most android devices out of the box (you’ve probably been asked if you have an Android phone), but it’s also available in the App store for iOS users.
  • T-Mobile Scam Shield It’s free to all customers and includes many features designed to protect you from robocalls and the sharing of your personal information. Dial #662# from your phone to activate Scam Block, or download the free Scam Shield app from your phone’s respective app store. With Scam Shield enabled, you’ll get full caller ID, scam reporting, scam blocking before your phone rings, and the option to favorite numbers to keep them ringing on your phone.

Use a different wireless carrier? I suggest calling their customer service or visiting their website to see if they offer a similar service.

Firewall takes a new approach to prevent spam and robocalls from reaching your phone.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Use a third-party app to limit the number of robocalls you receive

If your carrier doesn’t offer an app or service to reduce robocalls, or it does but it’s too expensive, there are many third-party apps available. You want to find an app that works on your device, offers automatic call blocking and spam alerts for suspicious calls, and makes it easy to report a number if a call slips through.

hello is a free app that I have used on Android and iOS for some time now with success. It’s from the same company that powers AT&T’s Call Protect app, as well as Samsung’s built-in call blocking and spam protection service. Samsung Galaxy owners can enable the built-in service in the Phone app at Settings > Caller ID other spam protection. Setup is simple and offers an easy way to report a number.

Nomorobo it’s the service Verizon uses for its Fios users, but it also has a phone app. The service is free for VoIP users and $2 per month for mobile users. Additional services with similar capabilities include Email other robokiller.

Using the Hiya app on an iPhone

Hiya offers solid call detection.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

the firewall application it’s only available on the iPhone and it does a fantastic job of blocking calls. In the event that you need to make a call that you’d rather not use your real phone number for, the $4/month subscription provides unlimited one-time-use fake phone numbers.

Another option is to get one for free. Google voice phone number which you can use to sign in to things instead of giving out your real number, and once robocalls start coming to that Google Voice number, use the block feature. Just be aware that call blocking can end up being a lot of work, as robocalls constantly spoof different phone numbers.

None of the above solutions are perfect, but they do complement your provider’s technology integration now required to verify caller identity spoofing. So at this point, you need to do some extra work to keep the number of robocalls you receive to a minimum. Between being wary of calls from unknown numbers and using a service (paid or free), you can reduce the number of unwanted and spam calls you have to deal with.

In short, carriers have begun to use Stir/Shaken technology to verify calls, which so far hasn’t significantly reduced the number of robocalls we all get. So for those with an iPhone, learn where is the setting to block unknown calls, but remember that using it could mean missing calls from doctors’ offices and the like. And for those with a Pixel phone, Google call screen feature it will surely help you, and may even entertain you.

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