The Rise of the Robocall – And How to Prevent Them

Telemarketing is seldom welcomed, and recently, the number of complaints is at an all-time high. Month by month, the volume of robocalls has steadily been increasing and shows no signs of slowing. In December 2018 alone, these digital dialers placed an estimated 4,700,000 calls as documented by filtering service YouMail; averaging around 170 per person each year. For many, robocalls have become an unfortunate fact of life; however, consumers aren’t helpless. There are several ways one may cut down or eliminate the number of robocalls they receive. 

First, for those who haven’t registered already, the Federal Trade Commission offers a “Do Not Call List” as a basic defense against marketing calls. Companies which legally follow FTC guidelines are forced to obey this registry, which may curb some of the traffic. Unfortunately, these account for a relatively small portion of robocalls; most unsolicited calls are made illegally and will bypass the list. 

Consequently, extra protection is often necessary, and third-party apps for iPhones and Androids best provide this service. Depending on the product, some apps use a simple blacklist, while others perform dynamic filtering. Blacklist-based apps rely on a preset list of numbers, all of which will be ignored. They’re typically cheaper, but less reliable. Alternatively, dynamic filters will send each call to a live monitoring service, only returning it once it’s been validated. This is more effective, but also more expensive. 

Of the blacklist-based apps, Hiya Caller ID and Block is perhaps the best option. It’s free in its standard version and blocks thousands of known spam sources. Additionally, it provides a small amount of extra protection by blocking numbers pretending to be near the recipient. Robokiller also offers a comparable service, as well as the ability to play antagonizing messages back to blocked numbers. However, it costs $1/month on Android and $2.49/month on iOS. 

Likewise, Nomorobo is the most popular dynamic option, offering an enhanced feature set at the low cost of $2/month. Recommended even by the FTC, it offers both SMS and voice filtering, ensuring users receive a more general protection. As it doesn’t rely on a static list, there is less risk of it becoming out of date. 

Though they offer some defense, the above apps still have their issues. Nomorobo tends to let blocked calls pollute voicemail, and the other apps often fail to catch the scammers’ newest numbers. If spam makes it through, a set of best practices may help mitigate spam by capitalizing on the bots’ predictability. Bots maintain their calling lists through speech recognition; by ignoring their calls, one may reduce the likelihood they’ll receive future spam. Thus, it’s important to decline calls from suspicious numbers, and stay quiet until a human speaks on the other end of the line.  

Author: Grey Ruessler, IT Tech Assistant 

Resources: 

YouMail. YouMail, 2019, www.youmail.com/. Accessed 10 January 2019. 

Whitney, Lance. “How to Block Robocalls and Spam Calls.” PCMagwww.pcmag.com/feature/362120/how-to-block-robocalls-and-spam-calls. Accessed 10 January 2019. 

Federal Trade Comission. “National Do Not Call Registry.” www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0108-national-do-not-call-registry. Accessed 10 January 2019. 

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