Automated telemarketing calls, or robocalls, to our cell phones have become one of the biggest consumer complaints to the FTC this new year.
But, you now have more ways than ever to fight back.
Scammers moving to cell phones
Since so many people have dumped their land line, the shady marketers making those credit card and “free vacation” calls are now targeting our private cell phones.
In addition, the rise of VOIP (internet based) phone calls mean they can make millions of calls a day at no charge, where 10 years ago they would have to pay for each outgoing call.
Add to that the overseas scammers pretending to be FBI or IRS agents threatening us with arrest, and every call you answer now is a potential hassle.
Kim Jones says phony IRS agents, sheriff’s deputies, timeshare hawkers, and credit consolidators ring her iPhone every day.
“I can show you my call log, where the same number comes through 2 or 3 times a day,” the frustrated woman said. “But I’ve reported it, and I still keep getting this call.”
Billions of calls
It’s sometimes called cell phone spam, and the Federal Trade Commission estimates computerized robocallers made 4 billion of them last year.
Worse, many now spoof their number, making it appear the IRS, the White House, or even one of your neighbors is calling.
But the good news is that several apps will now block them.
Blocking apps with the highest ratings at the iTunes store or Google Play include:
- Privacy Star
- Mr Number
- Calls Blacklist
- True Caller
- AT&T Robocall Blocker (for AT&T smartphone customers)
If you have just an old-style landline, Amazon sells several Caller ID units that also claim to block marketing calls.
Most popular blocker
The most popular is NoMoRobo which works on internet-based landline phones as well as iPhones and Androids (unfortunately not for old-fashioned copper land lines)
Its founder recently testified before Congress, claiming the 10-year-old Do Not Call list no longer works, as it stops only legitimate companies, such as banks and insurance companies from calling
The $5 a month NoMoRobo service compares your incoming call with a list of millions of robo-callers and sends questionable calls to your voicemail, where most scammers will not leave a message.
Use temporary numbers
A somewhat different service is “Burner,” which gives you a temporary phone number to share with stores and businesses.
Burner founder Greg Cohn explained that for $5 a month you get a disposable phone number you can change whenever pesky sales people start calling you too much.
Cohn said “a great example is a time when that car salesperson is going to try to put you behind the wheel and they are going to try to get your contact information, and believe me they are going to call and text you!”
He says you give them your temporary number, then “dispose” of it and get a new number a month later. You still have your personal cell phone number, but you never share it except with family and friends.
Kim Jones is going try some of these services, because she—like a lot of us—is at her wit’s end.
“No matter how many times you tell them that you’re not interested, to remove your number, still they call,” she said.
Trying some of these apps on your internet-based (VOIP) cable landline or smartphone is smart, so you don’t waste your money.
“Don’t Waste Your Money” is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. (“Scripps”). John Matarese reports on deals and scams so you Don’t Waste Your Money.