9 Ways to Deal With Robocalls

May 5, 2017 by Mike Sauter

According to the Federal Communications Commission, 2.4 billion automated marketing calls are made every month, the equivalent of the more than seven for every American. These computerized marketing calls, or “robocalls,” are the most common source of complaints to the FCC.

These are not just inconvenient and annoying calls made by legitimate companies engaging in aggressive marketing. In fact, many robocalls are made by criminals looking to manipulate, lie, and steal from those on the other side of the line.

The Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group, has for some time tracked the evolution of practices and scams perpetrated by robocallers. The BBB and other groups have a number of suggestions — most of which are quite simple — for ways to handle and avoid these calls.

Click here to see nine ways to deal with robocalls.

Some of the solutions to robocalls are extremely simple. Not sharing your number with businesses unless absolutely necessary is one solution, and simply ignoring unknown or unlisted numbers is another.

The Federal Trade Commision established on June 27, 2003 the National Do Not Call Registry. Calling or going online and registering one’s phone number makes it illegal for businesses to make unsolicited calls to that number. As of the end of last year, there were more than 220 million American phone numbers registered.

While some are tempted to get revenge on telemarketers by giving misinformation or dragging the call out, these strategies accomplish very little, particularly in the case of robocalls. According to the BBB, speaking on the phone to a robocaller or pressing buttons can indicate that there is a person who picks up calls attached to your number, potentially increasing the volume of future calls.

These are the nine best ways of dealing with robocalls.

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1. Only share your number when necessary

Sharing your phone number when signing up for a service or account is not always mandatory. Companies will often explicitly state that they will not share your number with third parties, but this is not always the case. Even if a company doesn’t share your information with a third party, they can still call you directly.

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2. Ask companies not to call you

If a company you do business with has your number, they may be legally allowed to call you for marketing reasons. In these cases, contact the company directly and ask them not to call you with matters unrelated to your account.

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3. Hang up immediately

While you might be tempted to tell off whatever service is calling you at dinnertime, robocalls cannot be reasoned with. Further, new scams have emerged that record their target’s voice. The scams use robocalls to ask “can you hear me?” and then record the victims’ responses. Recordings of “yes” answers are used to book services. Scammers will then demand payment, threatening legal action. If you pick up the phone and discover an unwanted or unknown caller, you should hang up immediately.

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4. Never press buttons

According to the Better Business Bureau, while some robocalls may suggest that pressing the pound key or some other combination of buttons will place you on a do not call list, the fact is that pressing anything alerts scammers to the fact that you are picking up, which could increase the likelihood of calls in the future. Legally, no government body can ever call to solicit registration for the National Do Not Call Registry.

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5. Get on the National Do Not Call Registry

In 2003, the Federal Trade Commission established The National Do Not Call Registry to give Americans legal recourse to avoid robocallers and other telemarketers. As of the end of 2016, there were over 220 million phone numbers in the Registry. Those wishing to sign up can call 888-382-1222 or go to http://www.donotcall.gov to register there.

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6. File a complaint with the FTC

For those who have already added their telephone number to the National Do Not Call Registry and are still receiving unsolicited robocalls, it may be time to file a complaint with the Federal Trace Commission. Filing a complaint is relatively easy and can be done on the FTC website or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.

If you know the specific organization that is contacting you illegally, it is also worthwhile to report it to the Better Business Bureau. Telemarketers breaking the law can face penalties as high as $16,000 per call.

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7. Register for a robocall-blocking service

For those living in the United States, the Nomorobo application can help block robocalls. The app allows legitimate automated calls, such as those reporting school closings or pharmacy refill reminders, but blocks illegal calls. The app was developed as the entry for an FTC-sponsored contest to stop robocalls, which it won.

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8. Avoid calls from unrecognized numbers

If you are receiving a call from a number you do not recognize, your safest bet is to let it go through to your voicemail or answering machine. Chances are that anyone with legitimate business will leave a message with a callback number. Ending the call before it starts will filter out unwanted robocalls. This should be standard practice particularly when the number is restricted.

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9. Block numbers that repeatedly call you

One of the most effective solutions is also one of the simplest. Most mobile phones today have settings which allow users to add numbers to a block list. Calls from numbers on the blocked list will never come through. For those receiving robocalls on landlines, there are devices for sale that, once connected to the phone line, can block calls from certain numbers or only allow calls through from certain numbers.