Scams

How to Stop Getting Robo Calls

Technology has made those annoying recorded calls ubiquitous, and technology can help you fight back.

Your phone rings and a perky voice announces that she is “Heather from card services,” and she has important news for you. You know Heather is a recording and that the low interest rate she’s promoting is a scam. You hang up.

Robo calls that use sales pitches or scare tactics to siphon your money are on the rise. Unwanted calls have topped the Federal Communications Commission’s list of consumer complaints over the past several years. Many are against the law: Most robo calls to your smartphone are illegal, and robo sales calls to your home phone are illegal except in specific circumstances. And they are becoming trickier to spot. Robo callers are covering their tracks by “spoofing,” or falsifying their caller ID so it displays a fake number that appears to be local.The FCC recently announced that phone com­panies may proactively block calls that appear to be spoofed—a good step forward, says Margot Saunders, senior counsel to the National Consumer Law Center.

What You Can Do

Start by checking to see if you inadvertently gave permission to some callers to disturb your dinner. For example, you may have checked a box on a loan application consenting to reminders by any means. You’ll need to contact the company to revoke your consent.

Adding your number to the Do Not Call registry (www.donotcall.gov) will deflect live sales calls from legitimate telemarketers. However, it won’t stop scammers or calls for debt collection, surveys and more. Check your home-phone provider about blocking individual numbers or enabling Anonymous Call Rejection. If you get your home-phone service from an internet provider, such as Comcast Xfinity or Verizon Fios, try Nomorobo (www.nomorobo.com). (For other suggestions, go to www.ustelecom.org/issues/robocalls and click on “Sampling of Tools.”)

To prevent individual callers from reaching your cell phone, look up instructions at www.ctia.org/consumer-tips/robocalls. To further cover your bases, enable a blocking app on your smartphone. Some carriers are rolling out services that warn customers or intercept suspicious calls outright, including AT&T’s free Call Protect, T-Mobile’s free Scam ID and Scam Block, and Verizon’s Caller Name ID ($3 per month).Alternatively, a number of third-party apps will reveal caller ID; fend off known scammers automatically while allowing legal robo calls (such as appointment reminders) to get through; and let you customize your own blacklist. Some apps guard against spam texts, too, such as PrivacyStar and Truecaller for mobile phones. The YouMail app delivers an “out of service” message to discourage nefarious callers from contacting you in the future; RoboKiller ($3 per month or $25 per year, iOS only) plays a snarky prerecorded message of your choosing to flummox spam callers. Review an app’s privacy policy before downloading. For example, the Hiya app may access your phone number as well as your phone’s call and text logs and contacts.

Back to Basics

Whether or not you download an app, avoid answering calls from an unknown number—even if you recognize the area code or prefix. Check your voice mail afterward, or see if you can set up voice-mail transcription instead.

Most Popular

Refunds for $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break to Begin This Month
Coronavirus and Your Money

Refunds for $10,200 Unemployment Tax Break to Begin This Month

The IRS will start issuing automatic refunds sometime in May to people eligible for the unemployment benefit tax exemption.
May 1, 2021
Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs
Coronavirus and Your Money

Child Tax Credit 2021: Who Gets $3,600? Will I Get Monthly Payments? And Other FAQs

People have lots of questions about the new $3,000 or $3,600 child tax credit and the advance payments that the IRS will send to most families in 2021…
May 4, 2021
10 Dividend Growth Stocks You Can Count On
dividend stocks

10 Dividend Growth Stocks You Can Count On

What should investors prioritize in dividend growth stocks? A history of aggressive payout expansion, and the ability to generate enough cash to keep …
May 3, 2021

Recommended

13 Stocks Activist Investors Are Buying
investing

13 Stocks Activist Investors Are Buying

Poorly managed companies may not be on everyone's radar, but they're top picks for activist investors looking to boost shareholder value.
May 5, 2021
FREE SPECIAL REPORT: The Kiplinger Income 25
Special Report
Investing for Income

FREE SPECIAL REPORT: The Kiplinger Income 25

This Special Report includes exclusive investing insight and advice normally reserved for subscribers to Kiplinger's Investing for Income. The conten…
May 5, 2021
From Bitcoin to GameStop to SPACs: 8 Tips for Mania Investing
investing

From Bitcoin to GameStop to SPACs: 8 Tips for Mania Investing

It’s true, there is money to made (or lost!) in crazy stock trends, and it can be exciting. So, sometimes it’s OK to jump on the bandwagon … as long a…
May 5, 2021
Berkshire's Annual Meeting: What to Expect From Buffett & Co.
Warren Buffett

Berkshire's Annual Meeting: What to Expect From Buffett & Co.

Potential questions Buffett and Munger might face during Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting Saturday could include everything from bank stocks to Bit…
April 30, 2021