Aaron Foss of Nomorobo: We Have the Power to Block Robocalls Now!

Maureen Mahoney
Public Policy Fellow

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Robocalls aren’t just a fact of life that we have to accept. With pressure from consumers like you, we can get the phone companies to take control over robocalls.

One of the robocall-blocking options currently on the market is called Nomorobo. The creator, Aaron Foss, developed the software to compete in the Federal Trade Commission’s first Robocall Challenge to build an effective robocall blocker. There were approximately 800 eligible submissions – showing that if phone companies put their minds to it, they could develop real solutions to the robocall problem. Foss shared first place, winning a $25,000 prize. Last week, the End Robocalls team met Foss.

FTC Graphic

How does Nomorobo work? Foss blocks suspicious numbers that he identifies in several ways. These include numbers that have been reported to him or to the Federal Trade Commission, and those flagged by an algorithm that analyzes call patterns to locate suspicious calls.

Once a call is identified as suspicious, the caller has the chance to verify that it is a human, for example by dialing a number. If it cannot do so, the call is zapped. The phone will ring once, and if the consumer doesn’t hear another ring, the call has been blocked. According to Foss, Nomorobo stops an estimated 87% of unwanted robocalls.

If you’re concerned that legitimate robocalls will be blocked, Foss says that you can report those numbers directly to him so that they can be “whitelisted.” He claims his error rate for unjustly blocked numbers is currently .18%.

Because the phone carriers won’t work with Nomorobo, only a limited number of consumers have access to the service. Only subscribers of certain VoIP plans, like AT&T U-verse, Verizon FiOS Digital Voice, and Vonage – can now get Nomorobo.

We haven’t tested Nomorobo, and we don’t know whether it will work for you. There are a number of call-blocking devices on the market to block calls to your home phone, and free apps that will help protect your Android phone. Click here to learn more about some of these other options. Soon, with your help, we’ll be testing some of these call-blockers.  Still, we think phone companies are in the best position to address the robocall problem. Please sign our petition to the top phone companies to offer free tools that block robocalls!

We want to know what you think about the call-blocking services or devices on the market. If you’ve tried one, we’d love to hear about your experience!

Update: Consumers Union recommends that consumers closely evaluate what kind of information they’re willing to disclose to prevent robocalls, so review the privacy policy before signing up for any call-blocking app or service.

View all Campaign Updates

24 responses to “Aaron Foss of Nomorobo: We Have the Power to Block Robocalls Now!”

  1. Shirley Nemeth says:

    I started using Nomorobo a few years ago just as soon as I read about it. I am so happy I did it, even though the set-up was veery frustrating. I started it on-line and got stalled. I then called Comcast. The first technician I spoke with had never heard the word “nomorobo”. I was then transferred to a second person and got the same response, then to a third person who said he had heard of it but didn’t know anything about it. I then wrote a strong letter to Comcast which resulted in me getting a phone call from someone who was able to help me. With my old Panasonic phones, they did ring once. Recently got new Panasonics and they don’t ring even once. Just a flash on the phone screen if I happen to be looking at it. So, I think Nomorobo is the best thing since sliced bread!

    • Sue B says:

      Can you tell me what the model number of your new Panasonic is? I would like to get one like the one that doens’t even ring like you got. Thanks.

  2. Hallie says:

    My comcast account is suppused to support ADVANCED call forwarding ( I tried the regular call forwarding but it did not work for Nomorobo.) And when I log into my Comcast account there is no access to advanced call forwarding. I have read or been told that I have to have a smart phone and download to it the “xfinity connect” app available from googleplay or itunes, use it to activate “voice2go” on my account, and then access the advanced call forwarding and input Nomorobo’phone number. Problem is, I don’t have a smart phone that will take apps.

    Does anyone have a solution to these ridiculous gyrations? I think I’m about ready to ditch Comcast!

  3. Martha says:

    I set this up two months ago and it is WONDERFUL! We were having upwards of 7 calls per day of these calls. After we signed up the calls started slowing down to 1-2 per day, and now we’re lucky if we get even one call per week. It seems once the callers realize that my phone has Nomorobo they take me off their list. This is a great service – I only wish more people could take advantage of it. But I think Mr. Foss is doing his best to make that happen…

  4. Brilliant says:

    I set this up with Xfinity/Comcast. It works great. Thanks Aaron for making this happen. Its like finally getting a restraining order for Rachel from Cardholder Services.

  5. Dennis H says:

    Have Comcast triple play and I have tried multiple times to setup Nomorobo via the website and with voice and a Comcast CS agent. It will not setup. Should the Advanced Call Forwarding have both my home number and the Nomorrobo phone number provide for the Comcast service. Also when it does the test call it says wait for the color change. When it does the test call its in color, kinda salmon colored, I have tried both – letting it ring until it fails and, picking it up and hearing the message that the service is not working. I am stumped!

  6. Tom says:

    NOMOROBO is great. Just as I started to read this article the phone rang. It rang only once and stopped because nomorobo blocked a junk call. Not being interrupted is a real pleasure. It was easy to configure with Comcast, and has successfully filtered way over 90% of annoying junk calls.

  7. mike flood says:

    This (NOMOROBO) works.
    I love it and happily submit numbers that get thru.

  8. John Canata says:

    Thanks Trish for the help with blocking calls on my I phone.

  9. John C. says:

    Thank you, Trish.

  10. Bob Jeske says:

    When I get a number from a robo caller…….I try to dial the number displayed on my TV/phone. It comes back as an unknown number/caller…………so how can you block a number that is not a number??

  11. An effective way to block unwanted calls so that you are not disturbed is to filter incoming calls through an “allow-ring” list. Only phone numbers that are in your list will ring your phone. Other callers can leave a “silent” message in an “unknowns” call box if they want to. I’ve had such a setup on my land line for years, but I’m not aware of a cell phone application of this kind.

  12. Trish says:

    iPhone has a built-in feature to block numbers. Once the phone number is shown in your “Recents” list, tap the ‘i’ in the circle to the far right of the number then scroll down to “Block this Caller”. You can unblock if you make a mistake.

    • Pam says:

      I’ve used nomorobo for the last 3 months and it is a godsend. About 98% of the calls stopped and I can report the occasional few calls that do slip by and then they are gone too. I use it through xfinity (Comcast) and it was a little challenging getting it installed but just follow the instructions slowly – if you really get hung up, Comast can guide you through it, but most of us will be able to install alone. I have recommended this app to everyone I know. This is an excellent product, thank you for inventing it.

    • John says:

      Thank you, Trish.

    • Beth says:

      Trish – those callers get sent directly to voicemail. If you look in your voicemail, you’ll see a section that says “blocked voicemails”. However, if you have Google Voice, and use that for your voicemail then each voicemail debits a minute from your minute usage. So for those cell phone users that still aren’t on unlimited minutes, this isn’t a great option. Currently, the robo callers I’ve added to “blocked contacts” use almost 100 of my minutes a month. This is why I’m here looking at Nomorobo.

  13. Tina Steele says:

    Vonage now has a new, free feature that blocks up to 25 numbers. It’s great!

  14. Tina Steele says:

    Vonage now has a new, free feature that blocks up to 25 numbers. It’s great!

  15. Joe MX says:

    Comcast phone works superbly once configured, but configuration is difficult sometimes. Follow the Comcast instructions, but watch for new “features” Comcast has apparently added for the transfer feature used to implement Nomorobo.

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