Can robocalls finally be stopped? (iStock)
Robocalls have tormented us for years. They’ve interrupted our conversations, dominated our work lines, and spread erroneous information across the country. The nation’s Do Not Call registry is pretty worthless at stopping them.
You can spend money on robocall blocking apps that might provide some relief. Tap or click here if you want to give some of the best robocall blocking apps a shot.
Apple’s new iOS 13 includes a robocall blocking feature. In theory, it sends all unknown callers straight to voicemail, but there’s a huge problem the engineers didn’t take into consideration. Tap or click here to enable robocall blocking on your iPhone and know the disadvantages when doing so.
Then, there’s call screening by Google Assistant through the Phone app, which only works on Pixel phones and select Android phones. It screens your calls and gives you a transcript, but it doesn’t always correctly understand the caller. Tap or click here for more info about this.
Censoring phone calls is a tricky business, but now that the FCC is starting to tackle robocalls, the biggest phone companies are following suit. Each carrier is using unique tactics to fight back. Depending on your carrier, you will have different steps to follow.
Once you start putting your carrier’s tools to good use, you can expect a significant reduction in pre-recorded calls with unlisted or misleading caller IDs. Yes, it’s true.
To fight robocalls, AT&T offers a free service for customers called Call Protect that includes features like automatic call blocking and spam alerts. AT&T Call Protect consists of the following:
- Automatic Fraud Blocking: Scans and blocks suspected scam calls, whether they’re automated or not.
- Spam Risk Blocking: Blocks calls or sends them to voicemail if they’re identified as “Spam Risk.”
- Unknown callers: Anyone not in your contact list can be sent straight to voicemail.
- Personal Block List: Build a custom block list for unwanted callers.
- Siri Shortcuts: Allows you to block and report unwanted calls using Siri.
- Custom Call Controls: Lets you set up your calls into categories to accept, block, or send straight to voicemail.
For $3.99 a month, you can sign up for Call Protect Plus. It also includes Automatic Fraud Blocking and the Personal Block List, as well as a few other features:
- Enhanced Caller ID: Gives details about “unknown” callers.
- Reverse Number Lookup: Look up a number you don’t recognize.
Try the free version before signing up for anything else. Call Protect is available by going into your account settings on myAT&T and turning it on. More information is available here.
Verizon offers a free service called Call Filter. It provides spam detection, blocking, and reporting. If you’re a current Verizon customer on an eligible plan with a compatible Android device, you’re automatically enrolled in the free version of Call Filter. To get these features on an iPhone, download Call Filter from the app store.
Verizon offers a beefed-up version called Call Filter Plus, which is $2.99 per month for one line or $7.99 per month for accounts with three or more eligible lines. Here are a few extra features you get with Call Filter Plus:
- Real-time alerts: Get alerts on your incoming call screen to help avoid spam calls.
- Spam Look Up: Get access to a database of over 100 million spam callers.
- Personal Block List: Block an unknown number once and never receive calls from them again.
- Spam Risk Meter: This feature ranks a caller based on robocall likelihood.
You can also subscribe to an individual line to either the free version of Call Filter or the premium version accessing your My Verizon account or enrolling in the Call Filter app. The free version works well enough for me and probably will for you, too.
The free robocall blocking features T-Mobile offers are turned on by default. These features include:
- Scam ID: Customers are automatically alerted when an incoming call is likely a scam. No app required and no need to opt-in or turn it on, as it operates at the network level and works through a T-Mobile phone with Caller ID.
- Scam Block: When enabled, T-Mobile will stop scam calls before they ever reach your phone. Customers can turn it on by dialing #662# in their My T-Mobile account or the Name ID app.
- Caller Verified: Users can see if incoming calls are authentic.
For an additional fee of $4 per month per line, subscribers get access to the company’s Name ID app, where you can build custom blocklists based on categories and frequent callers. If you want to upgrade with its Name ID feature, on your iPhone, add the Name ID service to your account via myt-mobile.com or call 611 from your phone. Then download the Name ID app from the App store. For Android phones, download the Name ID app from the Google Play Store.
Sorry to disappoint, but Sprint doesn’t offer a free robocall blocker. Its Premium Caller ID feature is available for $2.99 per month, per line and displays the names of callers, even if they’re not in your address book. On select devices, it will automatically screen and block unwanted robocalls.
You have to contact Sprint to subscribe. Click or tap here to download it for iPhone, or click or tap here to download for Android.
If you have a Sprint phone, try one of the free robocall blocking apps I mentioned at the top of this article.
As of right now, it’s unknown how the upcoming T-Mobile-Sprint merger will affect the companies’ robocall features, but analysts speculate T-Mobile’s features will become available to Sprint users, rather than the other way around. To learn more about how this merger will affect your phone bill, click or tap here.
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.