From the Blog

Silencing Phone Scams

Posted on October 17, 2019

Bills in Congress offer hope for an end to illegal robocalls. Apps and blocking tools can help in the meantime.

Robocalls – the spammy, scam-ridden kind – have become a constant nuisance for most Americans who own a phone. By some estimates, billions of robocalls are placed in the U.S. every day. That’s in part because they are lucrative for scheming criminals. Consumers lost $10.5 billion to phone scams in 2018, according to blocking and tracking firm Truecaller.

Thankfully, the government is taking action to cut the lines on con artists. In June, the Federal Communications Commission ruled that phone companies can take aggressive action to block unwanted calls for their customers by default. And in July, the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act won approval in the House, building on the TRACED Act passed by the Senate in May. The national legislation would strengthen regulators’ enforcement tools and require phone carriers to implement call identification technology. In the meantime, here are some apps and blocking tips that can help you keep robocalls from blowing up your phone.

Get help from your phone carrier

Major wireless and landline providers offer tools that either label or block suspicious robocalls, and some are free. Now that the FCC has given carriers free rein to block calls, these services may soon become an automatic, built-in feature. But until then, you can use tools available through your carrier to silence the spam.

Manually block cell calls

If you only want calls from people you know to ring through on your cellphone, the Do Not Disturb feature is your friend. On either an iPhone or an Android, turn on Do Not Disturb in settings and then select the option that only allows calls from your contacts. (Note that when a stranger you want to talk to calls, it will show up as a “missed call” and will not ring through.)

Try a third-party blocking app

If you go this route, be sure to download the app from the official Google Play or iOS App Store. Two of the most reputable are RoboKiller ($1 a month) and Nomorobo ($2 a month), which can help restore normalcy to your cellphone. Note that Nomorobo is free for customers of VoIP carriers, including AT&T U-verse, Verizon Fios, Comcast Xfinity and Cox. If you have an old landline on copper wire, there isn’t a lot you can do except screen your calls.

Next steps

  • Talk to your advisor about smart ways you can protect yourself from fraud in general.
  • Check in with elderly loved ones who might be receiving a flood of scam calls.
  • Consider adding safeguards like a trusted contact to help safeguard financial accounts.
Sources: Consumer Reports; Forbes; Wired magazine