How to Stop Robocalls to Your Cell Phone
If you are like the average American, you receive between 10-15 telemarketing phone calls to your mobile phone number every month. That's more than enough to know you'll want to learn how to stop robocalls to your cell phone. According to YouMail’s Robocall Index, there were 4.2 billion robocalls placed in August of 2018 alone. They are annoying at best and insidious at worst. Furthermore, if they use a spoofed phone number to falsify Caller ID information, they are also illegal. In September, the Federal Communications Commission imposed a $120 million fine against two companies that used spoofing technology to place hundreds of thousands of phone calls to unsuspecting consumers on a daily basis. The use of a spoofed Caller ID doesn’t just harm consumers by tricking them into answering predatory calls, it also harms the owners of the phone numbers being displayed.
The rightful owners are often deluged with angry return phone calls thanks to easy redial features on cell phones. Businesses can unjustly get online complaints via review sites, Facebook, or blog comments that damage their brand reputation. And there is no recourse for them to get their number removed from the robocaller spoofing technology. To the person on the receiving end of these malicious spoofed calls, it often feels like you have nowhere else to vent your frustrations, especially as the rate of calls increase with advancements in robocall technology. The FCC’s Chairman, Ajit Pai, has made it one of his agency's priorities to stop these kinds of communications abuses.
How to Stop Robocalls: Six Steps You Can Take
The good news is you don’t have to wait around for federal enforcement! There are steps you can take to reduce your exposure and potentially stop robocalls to your cell phone and other important lines. These actions include:
- Put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. There are some cases where robocalls are legal, such as for political campaigns or charities. But for solicitors, they may not use recorded sales messages without your consent. Although the Registry seems to have been losing effectiveness over the years, it is a good place to start. It will reduce some calls and provide a basis for filing future complaints against solicitors who ignore it.
- Tell companies you do businesses with not to contact you by phone. If you have done business with a company, they are legally allowed to call you unless you actively remove yourself from their contact list. You don't have to wait until you get that solicitation call, though. You can start at the beginning of a relationship with them. When you fill in contact forms online, always look for the checkbox that allows you to opt out of marketing communications. If you speak with a company directly, ask that you be placed on their do not call list. If you do get a call from a company you've done business with, ask them to remove you from their lists, and they must comply or face consequences.
- Deploy call blocking technology. There are many free and paid apps that can detect spoofed numbers. They either block them completely, send them directly to voicemail, or give you a warning sign on your cell phone display. Examples include Nomorobo, YouMail, Hiya, and Robokiller. Do your research to find the one that is the right fit for you.
- Make an official complaint. The Federal Trade Commission has a portal through which you can lodge a formal complaint against a telemarketer. It is through these complaint logs that regulators are able to build cases against violators of the spam call laws. You can’t just rely on the Caller ID information because of the ability to spoof. Instead, if there is a person on the other line, ask some pointed questions to gather the business name and real contact information. If it is truly a robocall with a recorded message, hang up. Pressing buttons will likely indicate a live line, not get you the information you need, and may actually spur more calls.
- Pester your wireless carriers. Most wireless carriers, including T-mobile, Verizon, and Sprint, are developing their own technology to combat spam calls. Call your provider to find out what is available to you today, and formally encourage them to persist in battling this challenge. Smart businesses respond to their customers, and the larger the volume of complaints, the more likely they are to put resources behind solving the problem and put a stop to robocalls for good.
- Don’t answer unknown callers. This is the simplest way to avoid getting caught in a telemarketer’s net: don’t answer the phone unless the caller is in your address book. Listen to your voicemails immediately and call back anyone who is legitimate. Keep contacts up to date, and you should have a very good indicator of which calls you should answer – if a name pops up, you’re set. If it’s just a number, wait and see.
Companies who are smart marketers know that the best way to reach target audiences is through a carefully crafted strategy that puts the right message in front of the right person at the right time with the right frequency. They go for quality over quantity, increasing the chances of not just pulling leads, but actually closing deals. Unsophisticated marketers take the volume approach, figuring if they can reach a million people cheaply, at least a few will result in some actual leads. To combat this predatory practice, we need to make the calculation work against them. Greater fines and a higher likelihood of getting caught abolish the idea of mass calls being "cost effective." Not engaging reduces their chances of returning even a handful of leads from their millions of attempts. In conjunction with strong financial penalties, you can act on the suggestions above to help stop robocalls to your cell phone and other lines you might be using. Take charge of your cell phone calls, and you can be a part of eliminating this telephonic blight.
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