How to Block Robocalls and Telemarketers

By Chris Hoffman on November 21st, 2016

Modern robocalls aren’t just telemarketers trying to sell you something. They’re often scammers trying to trick you into parting with your money or identity information. So how do you stop them from coming in?

Get on the Do Not Call List

In the USA, you can register your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Telemarketers are not supposed to call numbers on the list. Some other countries have their own “Do Not Call” registries, so check to see if your country offers something similar if you don’t live in the USA.

Just head to that government website and register all the phone numbers you use to avoid getting telemarketing calls. If you’re not sure whether you registered your number previously, you can verify whether the phone number is on the list or not.

Telemarketer calls should stop within 31 days of you adding your number to the list. Initially, numbers put on the list were set to expire after five years, forcing people to re-register their numbers. However, this requirement was removed. Your phone number will now never expire from the list.

Unfortunately, the Do Not Call list won’t stop all robocalls. It will stop legitimate telemarketing calls, but telephone scammers—which are generally located outside the USA, anyway—won’t bother following the rules. This also only applies to telemarketing, so political campaigns, charities, and surveys are still free to call you as well.

Ask Legitimate Callers to Stop

Callers with whom you have an “existing business relationship” are free to place robocalls to you, even if you’re on the Do Not Call list. However, if you ask the caller to not call you again, they are supposed to stop calling, or face a potential $40,000 fine.

If you asked the company to stop calling you and they continue, keep a record of the date and time you asked. You can then report the company to the FTC.

This won’t help if you’re dealing with a scammer. But, if a legitimate company is placing robocalls to you, it should follow the rules when you ask it to stop.

Block a Database of Numbers on Your Smartphone

The Do Not Call list is a great first step. Unfortunately, there are many telephone scammers out there who don’t want to follow the rules. And you may not want to receive calls from political campaigns, survey companies, charities, and other organizations that are exempt from the Do Not Call list.

To block those robocalls, you can download a third-party app for your smartphone that blocks a “crowdsourced” list of phone numbers that other people have reported.

There are quite a few apps for this, including Mr. Number, available for both Android and iPhone. When a robocall dials your phone number, you’ll see a warning that the caller is a suspected telemarketer or scammer. The app can also block these calls completely, so you won’t even know these numbers are calling you. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll need iOS 10 to take advantage of this app.

Block Individual Phone Numbers

Lastly, you keep receiving robocalls from a specific phone number—or a few specific phone numbers—you can block that number right on your smartphone. Both Android and iPhone have built-in ways to block specific phone numbers so you won’t receive phone calls from it ever again. You can do this right from the call history in your dialer app.

Unfortunately, there’s no foolproof solution to block all robocalls. Apps that do the dirty work for you are the best option, but that won’t help if you’re using a landline phone. In 2015, the FTC ruled telephone carriers could offer call-blocking tools to their customers. Telephone companies will hopefully provide better call-screening tools for all customers in the future. For now, though, these solutions should help diminish the problem, if not eliminate it entirely.

Image Credit: Rog01

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 11/21/16
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