5 Ways to Deal if You Think Robocallers Are the Spawn of Satan Himself

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Fortunately, robots haven’t taken over yet, but they have infiltrated some of our most coveted possessions: our cell phones.

If you’ve been interrupted midtext by an obnoxious robocall, you’re not alone.

Americans received 3.4 billion robocalls in April, or about 10.4 calls per person affected.

And because the U.S. Court of Appeals recently overturned the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of an “auto-dialer,” advocates warn we may end up with more robocallers than ever.

Why Are Robocalls Bad?

Robocalls are unwelcome phone spam that can have fraudulent intentions, and you most likely never opted in to receive them.

Many robocalls are illegal, according to Federal Trade Commission guidelines. More so, many people are on the National Do Not Call Registry and still receive them daily.

In 2016, Americans lost an estimated $9.5 billion in robocall scams.

The scams use all sorts of bait tactics, from promising to lower your student loans or offering you discounted vacations, to threatening to bring police to your door for not paying taxes.

Our inclination to ignore unknown numbers can cause us to miss calls that actually matter, like flight or school cancellations, pharmacy pickups and appointment reminders.

How to Protect Yourself From Robocalls

We’ve covered ways to save your sanity from robocalls by not answering the phone, blocking spammy numbers and trolling back, but as the calls increase, so do your options.

Talk to Your Phone Company

Last year, the FCC enabled phone companies to block robocalls from numbers that can’t make outgoing calls, invalid numbers, unallocated numbers or those not assigned to a provider.

Many carriers provide free or relatively inexpensive services to alert you of potentially fraudulent calls.

Verizon has Caller Name ID, Sprint offers Premium Caller ID, AT&T has two security apps, and T-Mobile has Scam Block and other call protection services.

Let Your Phone Do the Work

Some phones have brand-specific apps that alert you to potentially fraudulent calls.

Samsung offers a Smart Call app that tells you if the incoming number is a known robocaller or possibly spam.

Google has a phone app that will turn the screen bright red for spam callers and sends the calls directly to voicemail. It should be available worldwide on Pixel, Android and Nexus devices. Google 1, Spam 0.

Use Third-Party Apps

You can enlist the help of an app that will aid you in your escape from the robot callers.

Hiya and YouMail are both free. Nomorobo is free for landlines and $1.99 a month for mobile, while RoboKiller is $2.99 a month.

Report Robocallers

First and foremost, you can file a complaint with the FTC online or by calling 888-382-1222. Or you can report robocallers to the FCC online or call 888-225-5322.

The Better Business Bureau also has a Scam Tracker service where you can find and report scam calls and businesses.

Additionally, you can forward any spam text messages to 7726 (or SPAM). Your wireless service provider will then report the spam number.

Don’t Say Yes

If you mistakenly pick up a call or think it might be a local friend due to neighborhood spoofing techniques, don’t engage. Just hang up.

You might even pick up a local number and get a person asking you why you called them, and get baited into a spiel. Or it could be a robot with an exciting offer. Don’t press 1 for an operator or to get off a list. Don’t say yes. Don’t pass go. Don’t collect $200.

What Are Your Rights Against Robocalls?

You have some, but they are constantly changing as the cat-and-mouse game between us and the robocallers continues.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act makes auto-dialers and solicitation calls to cell phones without prior consent illegal and prevents telemarketers from calling outside of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., among other things.

Computer auto-dialing is cheap and can generate millions of calls per day. Block one and another pops up. Shoot, I almost changed my phone number, but like Liam Neeson in “Taken,” their particular set of skills will enable them to find you.

If your mobile or landline phone number is on the Do Not Call Registry, then the call violates the TCPA.

You could reach out to a consumer rights lawyer and file a lawsuit against those who violate the TCPA; however, the penalties are minimal and sometimes the real source is nearly untraceable.

Going forward, the FCC plans to seek public comment on how auto-dialers should be defined and will take action based off the feedback, according to The New York Times.

Hearings, committees and other robocall blocking bills and acts are also in the works as legislatures grapple with solutions to protect consumers from the blatant abuse.

Until the calls stop, it looks like we have a serious case of rebellious robots on our hands. 

Correction: A previous version of this post misstated that Hiya and YouMail charge a fee. Both services are free.

Stephanie Bolling is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She has blocked 48 spam callers on her phone.