‘Tis the season for stopping robocalls

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Nothing puts a damper on the holidays like unwanted calls interrupting your day.

Maybe you’ve gotten one — you answer the phone and hear a recorded message instead of a live person. Internet-powered phone systems have made it cheap and easy for scammers to make illegal sales robocalls from anywhere in the world.

Fortunately, you have some options to block robocalls and other unwanted calls. Some are free and others cost money.

  • Check with your carrier about call-blocking services. Many carriers now offer services that block unwanted calls for wireless phones and for some types of home phones, too.
  • Try a call-blocking app. These apps use blacklists to weed out or flag unwanted calls and give you options about how to handle the calls — ringing through with a warning, going straight to voicemail, or blocking the call altogether. Many apps also let you flag additional numbers that should have been blocked, which helps improve the app. Some apps even use complaints to the FTC as a source of information.
  • Use features built into your mobile phone. These features can let consumers block specific contacts, identify unwanted incoming calls for future blocking, and set “do not disturb” hours.
  • Consider a call-blocking device for your home phone. Devices can be installed directly on a home phone.

During the last few years, the FTC has stopped billions of robocalls that offer everything from fraudulent credit card services to so-called auto warranty protection. We recently announced a case against a company offering allegedly bogus credit card interest rate reduction services.

If you get a robocall, hang up the phone. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it could lead to more robocalls.

Report your experience to the FTC online or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

This post was updated on December 18, 2017 with information on how to make a report to the FTC.

Tagged with: robocall, scam


It seems like with the technology available, the FTC could do a much better job of tracking down and filing charges against originators of robocalls, especially the ones claiming to be the IRS. Couldn't the FTC just call them back and track down the number?

Thanks for the information. Robocalls are a nuisance. And thanks for everything that the FTC does to protect American consumers.

We receive robo-calls daily. They outsmart our caller ID display. 1)call comes from a local number 2) caller uses a person's name or name similar to a local business.

With caller ID, unless we KNOW the caller, we don't answer the phone.....if it's something important, the caller will leave a message.....and we'll pick up at that time. Robocallers NEVER LEAVE A MESSAGE!!

You are correct .I have been using the same do not answer unless I know you system and it works for me. You can text me and identify yourself if you are a friend or have something I want and I will return your call.

Well, I've gotten messages left from 2 distinct robo callers. One is the "we are reporting you to the police for tax evasion" scam. Another simply says "goodbye".

I have a blocker and get these local number calls that do not register. Sneaky business!

thanku for the info !

I bought a wireless phone package of 4 cordless phones that provide an audible call id, I program the telephone number and name. When the phone rings it will identify the caller eg John Jones calling. If number isn't in directory it announces telephone number. Here I let answering machine pick-up and decide if I want the call. Many robots calls will disconnect immediately when answering machine picks up. This phone will also announce "called blocked" if it is on list. Each phone allows you to hear messages and delete it. Each phone works independently so if I a away from the base phone I can hear the verbal info on each phone and I can block a number without contacting my carrier The best $90 investment

Not only do they use fake numbers but legit ones too and the real owner has no idea their number is being used in a scam. Also the same first three digits after your area code is usually used to give you a sense of false security. I wouldn't be surprised if my own number is being used in this same manner...

Very true! All of the robocalls I get use the same area code and 3 digit prefix as my own phone number. This is a clever technique the scammers use. Best thing to do is never answer a call from a number you do not immediately recognize. If it's truly important, they will leave a voicemail.

Sly, that works. Don't you feel hostage by your own phone. You have to shy away from calls that "could" be from friends and neighbors because a few fraudsters are spoofing calls. Your phone, your paid service, shameful the carriers deliver those fake calls.

It's called spoofing. I've already had my own number call me on 3 different occasions. I answered the last time and it was a guy from India.

When you see your own name on the caller id coming in you are like wtw??!! Sick

My rule of thumb is, if I don't know them I don't answer. If no company name that I deal with, don't answer. If it shows Private Number, don't answer. You only answer the ones that you know.

My VOIP, Phonepower, allows me to block numbers with no extra charge.

This week alone, so far, I have received 11 SPAM phone calls on my cell phone. When are you going to start putting these people in jail. Maybe that will stop this.

Thank you for the information. I am going to contact Verizon Fios and Verizon Wireless and ask them how much would it cost to block these robo calls on my phones.

If you have any success with Verizon, please post back. I tried talking to them earlier but they said the number of calls would overrun their system so they had no such capability, not even as a paid service. I've been told AT&T are just as obstinate but other locations, like in Colorado where my daughter lives, they can make a call, key in their number and hang up. It MUST be before any other calls come in, or it won't work, but it does seem to block them.

A method I've found that does seem to work is to, the second your see the Caller ID and before the next ring, answer and then hang up immediately: Those calls do NOT re-occur almost 100% of the time! We're on Verizon.

The majority of scam, Robo, spam & spoofer calls in MD track to Verizon AND/or CELLCO, a sub company, doing business as Verizon. These carriers are making billions of dollars related to the above calls and until Congress and the FTC STEP UP and hold these carriers accountable for this crap the general public will continue to be hounded/harassed on a daily basis.?daily basis!! Word of caution, if a family members Obituary is published in the newspaper these calls multiple X 20!!

Do these scam artists ever/often get caught? Do they get much of a punishment? Is it becoming easier to catch? The FBI website describes some of the calls, so they are aware of them. But we still receive them. How do these scammers get away with it??

They get away with it because many of these calls originate in foreign countries. I have a cellphone only and I flat-out just don't answer calls from numbers that aren't on my contacts list. If the call is someone important who needs to talk to me, they'll leave a REAL message.

Great information, I will try anything to stop those calls.
Thank you

I think it's pretty hopeless, as these people change numbers each time they call, so how can one anticipate a number to block? We use our landline for our business so I have to answer each call, but if there's a pause after my greeting, I hang up.

It's inconvenient and it's a drag, but so is getting cancer. The robo call thing isn't going to kill me, though, so I'm grateful that's it's just a minor annoyance.

Sign up with a free membership to this website. nomorobo.com . Their great and block a good 90% of robo calls. If a robo call come,s in and nomorobo has that number on their server, your phone will ring just once and stop ringing.

Hey Big Foot, Thank you for the nomorobo suggestion. I just set up my phone with them. Didn't know about their free service before I read your comment, and it certainly can't hurt to sign up! Thanks for sharing that information. It's so much more helpful than reading about how many spoof calls people get a day!

Well, Bigfoot, it is much more peaceful in our house. I have received so many calls that ring once and that's all. Thanks to your suggestion, I haven't had to answer a single robo call. I hope others took heed of your knowledge - It's been great!

I get multiple calls a day. I block them on the cell but can do nothing on the home. Thanks for the info about the home phone and the app. The scammers are moe spoofing local business using our local prefixes on both the landline and cell.

Vonage lets you block numbers for free but they only allow 50 numbers per line. Problem is most of them just use different extensions for the same scammers so I think they should increase the amount of numbers you can block or make it unlimited.

These tips are helpful for some calls, however with caller-ID spoofing and unknown or blocked caller information, consumers are not able to block these types of calls with the methods mentioned. Please enact new regulations/legislation to prevent these types of harassing calls.

I was getting 6 to 9 per day on my cell. I notified all the people that call me to please use text messaging. I then forwarded ALL calls to my landline which I never use. I did this for a month & the calls stopped. Then @ night I would go through all the calls on my Landline & call back those that were important. There were tons of calls forwarded. I guess it worked

These options are not that great: I think FCC chair Ajit Pai got one that came from a prefix phone# only available to FCC. This upset the person so I think & hope something gets done.

If someone calls me from the IRS I simply ask their name and extension number and they hangup on their own.

Following the advice in this article is certainly more effective than waiting for telemarketers to suddenly become ethical.

If you think about it, the "No-Call List" is actually a boon to telemarketers (and they can get the list) because it provides them with a list of real people to contact.

I have an iPhone and I get these calls from the US as well as overseas, especially Russia. I let it continue to ring,I do not answer it and when the ringing stops, I enter the call into my "blocked caller" list. They can only call back with a new number.
Then I simply repeat the process.

Completely agree with all those who understand that there are too many available numbers that can be spoofed. Phone companies need to make it technically impossible to do. Once that's done, the mentioned tools will be useful.

I might have figured out how to almost stop the calls:

1. Ask your phone company to disable your voicemail. When somebody calls my phone they get a buzz or a recording saying I didn't set up the voicemail. I did this when I heard scammers can now inject messages into the voicemail without even ringing the phone, so there is really no point in the voicemail any more.

2. Turn the phone to silent.

3. Do not answer ANY call where you don't recognize the number. T-Mobile has a free "probable scam" caller ID function.

4. If you suspect a call may be legit, then either answer it or do a reverse lookup through something like intellius ($1 for first week).

After 3 or 4 weeks of not answering any suspicious calls they have almost stopped to a freequency of about 3/week (v. 3/hour).

I still think the best fix is to institute a nominal charge per initiated call ($.05 or $.10) in lieu of taxes. The problem with this idea is the scammers will just go down and pay off capitol hill.

Richard, You are correct. When the Govt. is scrambling for money, I do not see why that fees is not imposed. May be, first 30 (or any reasonable number) calls per month are free and then charge substantial amount per call. However, I do not know how the fee will be collected that originates from outside the country and from a a computer.

I turn off the ring tone on my phone but place it where I can see it if it flashes with an incoming call. If a call comes in I don't recognize and is not in my contact list, I press an "ignore" button, sending it to voicemail. Works every time! Thank you, FTC. I am a big fan of you guys!

Instead, why don't you change the ringtone of the people you want to talk with so you can hear the difference when they ring in?

I already have a major portion of my monthly budget going to one firm. TV is repeated old programs. Internet is filled with issues and my landline has a new feature that I must pay for. It's time to break up their monopoly and create a smaller company. The majority of their issues are outsources to different countries. They are trying to phase out landlines. FTC pulled them into a study and the outcome was an extra charge to cut back on ROBO calls.

I have a base phone and portable. Well, they are old and the base does not let me see the caller ID. So, I let all calls go to the answering service, and most the time before the message is up, there is a click and they opt out. I tell my family and friends or personal contacts to listen to message and say, Nancy are you there. My daughter screeches, PICK UP THE PHONE! I reply, have picked it up, now what? Those calls stop and I just don't answer the home phone at all unless someone says to pick it up. Having more trouble with the cell, think I will check out your info deeper. Thanks, Nancy

the problem comes in that most of the calls a fake phone numbers. the phone company should not let phone numbers that have been disconnected to be used or shown.

I'm disappointed by the FTC's approach to fixing this is on the back-end. All of your advice is reactive. One person defrauds 500 people; you want those 500 people to initiate blocking. Let’s block at the source.

How about we do this: the FTC should be working with the major carriers who "deliver" these robo-calls, they should never be delivered, which gives you time to eventually fix at source. How, you say?

Phone numbers or exchanges are "assigned.” In a digital world, the digital signature includes the "source and the destination." While you can "mask" or fake the caller-id, you have the technology to "see" if the call is originating from a block of assigned phone numbers. If a phone number (source) is transmitting a caller-id that is NOT within the assigned block of phone numbers/exchange authorized, block the call. Maybe the carriers have a different rationale for doing nothing, maybe because the carriers collect a fee for delivery?

The technology has been around since the 90s, yet the FTC, FCC, and the carriers ask the customer to fix a problem that only the carrier/FTC/FCC can fix. Let’s stop asking the customer to fix the problem when a phone number "from" a spoofed 708 exchange can be validated in process as not having originated in a 708 exchange, therefore "block.” Don't let technology get in the way from using the tools that have been available for 20 years.

I received a fake call and waited on the line. A man with a European accent wanted to tell me that he was from Microsoft and their security team had detected a virus coming from my computer. I had a laptop running windows, he said. Of course, I responded, eager for his help. How thoughtful for Microsoft to reach out from their busy day to call me. How could I say no?

After 30 seconds, I grew tired, and said I know this is a scam; you’re most likely on an automated dialer system that will only disconnect when the calling party hangs up. So, I’m going to waste your time by leaving this call up all day. The fraudster drops his act and says to me “you think you can waste my time, prove it.”???? I kept the line open for four hrs while I called the police, Verizon, ATT, FTC, and FCC, via a separate line, none of which would/could do anything. Verizon was the worst, can't help you without a court order, and I had the fraudster on the line. All did nothing. Each pointing to the other agency. It was sad. No deed goes unpunished, as the fake calls, fake emails from “.ru” increased about 100 fold for the next 30 days, what a rush of retaliation.

The FCC asked me if I had any spoofing numbers to report, and I had plenty. I push all spoofing calls to a contact marked “fake caller,” save the number, and then mark the call to block. I have hundreds of numbers, and the federal agent got tired after 20, and said, that’s enough.

Stop asking the customer to bear the burden of an issue, which should be resolved in transit. Even an IP call has a source, destination, and caller-id in the packet. Inspect the packet and deny the call in process. Don’t burden the 90-year-old person with “your” the FBI, IRS, or whomever, and a subpoena has been issued, or this is your last chance before an arrest warrant is secured. Stop this baloney, and fix at source. And if you want some help, I’m here as a volunteer.

It’s not like I’m an electrical engineer, network, telephony, white hat, or security aware person – or maybe I am.

John F

Good information! But, what about filling complaint on the "Do Not Call" list. Is that list any affective or good??? Unfortunately, it has not stopped our Robo calls.

It is helpful when you report unwanted calls to the Do Not Call list. When you report illegal calls, we will take the phone numbers you complain about and release them each business day. This helps telecommunications carriers and other industry partners that are working on call blocking solutions.

Many call blocking tools rely on blacklists. Those are databases of phone numbers that have been reported as the source of illegal calls. Companies will be able to use the information we release to help identify which calls should be blocked or flagged.

I must haave missed something. I was looking for ways to stop these calls, procedures or Apps. Help

Laws to prevent robocalls are hard to take action on which I realize, but the government judicial branch should go after them one at a time. Any Countries not taking action to stop should be censored to make all incoming and outgoing calls to the US or Allies very hard to get to go outside their country..In other words, start with one robocaller and put them in jail, then go after another, etc...The message inf intolerance needs to be clear to all who would abuse...

You should be insisting the cell phone providers give their customers call blocking etc for FREE because of all this. If we want it, we have to pay monthly for it. This isn't our fault, it's not something we should be charged to prevent. The 3rd party block apps... who knows if those are even legit, why wouldn't the FTC provide links to legit ones so we can download them knowing they are safe. These apps ask for your cell number... if they aren't legit apps, we could be giving our cell number to a company that does those calls! We get so many it's ridiculous and we block one but then it comes up 5 min. later on a similar number. We aren't even in that area code anymore and we get them continuously! And I'm on Do Not Call, I'm even registered for junk mail but get tons a day. It's all junk mail, we hardly get legit mail since we have gone paperless to avoid mail delivery. What a world!


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