How the phone companies can help end robocalls
We did the research and talked to the experts, and found phone companies can take steps RIGHT NOW to dramatically reduce robocalls:
- Landline phones: A free service currently available in Canada, Primus Telemarketing Guard has shown effective at blocking robocalls and is promising for U.S. customers. But phone companies here are not offering a similar service to customers with landlines.
- Internet-based phones (VOIP): Another free service, Nomorobo, is currently available only for customers with Internet-based phones like Comcast xFinity, Verizon FiOS, or AT&T U-verse. But the phone companies should offer Nomorobo or a similar free service directly to their customers.
- Smartphones: Call-blocking apps for smartphones are available online, but all the phone companies should offer this technology directly to all of their customers for free.
“Phone companies, please starting letting your customers request to have robocalls blocked.”
— Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
|Some protections wouldn’t cost much. Carriers would need to do a relatively inexpensive software upgrade to offer robocall-blocking solutions for their smartphone and Internet-based phone customers.|
|Landlines harder, but robocalls could be reduced. Protections for traditional landline users may be more difficult to provide, but phone companies do have the ability now to reduce call ‘spoofing’ – the practice of disguising the origin of robocallers. This would improve customers’ security and likely reduce the number of calls.|
What we can do together
How does call-blocking work?
The technology uses computer programs to check and block incoming phone numbers against a list of confirmed spammers, or it requires callers to confirm they are humans before giving you the choice to connect the call.
The free program Nomorobo is currently available for some American consumers who use the Internet for their phone calls (VoIP), but not for standard landlines. A second technology, Telemarketing Guard, works for standard landlines but is offered only in Canada.
Technology exists right now that can stop illegal robocalls before they reach you, but few consumers have access to it. And the major phone companies refuse to offer it to you.
But with your help, we can end robocalls once and for all.
The FCC has authorized phone companies to use blocking technologies. Now we’re harnessing your outrage to demand the phone companies offer free, effective call-blocking solutions. And we’ll fight every effort to expand the use of robocalls to cell phones.
Take action here and join other consumers who are pushing the major phone companies to offer free blocking technology!
What you can do now
Review your phone company’s call-blocking offerings. Several phone companies now offer advanced tools or apps to customers to help block robocalls. These tools can be effective, but may come with a hitch. Consider what kind of information you’re willing to disclose to prevent robocalls, and review the privacy policies before signing up for any of these services.
Nomorobo, a service offered by some telecom providers directly, and available to many home phone users as a third-party offering, may be a good option. It has received high ratings for call-blocking by our volunteer testers, and Nomorobo does not collect your contacts or sell your data (It does, however, collect a lot of information about home phone subscribers’ incoming calls.) If you subscribe, please give us feedback.
Phone companies typically also offer services that let you block numbers one-by-one, or that block all anonymous calls. Several of these services even allow you to block all calls except for select numbers that you specify. Be sure to check with your provider for complete details and pricing.
Consider a call-blocking device. If your telephone service does not support Nomorobo, you may want to consider purchasing a plug-in call-blocking device. Click here for Consumer Reports’ review of these devices.
Research mobile apps, but use caution. There are a number of apps available to consumers that can identify or even block unwanted calls. However, consumers should exercise caution before signing up for any of these tools. Some may share your data with third parties. Some may also upload all of your contacts into their database to help provide Caller ID information. Moreover, we haven’t tested any of the apps to evaluate their effectiveness at blocking calls.
Try your smartphone’s call-blocking capability. iPhone customers can use Apple’s call blocking feature. Some Android and home phones have these capabilities as well; check with your manufacturer.
Sign up for the Do Not Call list. Add your phone number to the list here or by calling 1-888-382-1222. This may reduce the number of telemarketing calls you receive from legitimate companies, though it is not likely to deter scammers who frequently violate telemarketing laws. Note that Do Not Call restrictions do not apply to non-sales calls, such as political campaigns, pollsters, and non-profits.