Getting a spam phone call, robocall, or scam call every 10 minutes makes you a prisoner in your own home. Blocking those calls would be a real quality of life improvement. Phone companies aren’t terribly interested in helping you, though. But you have options. Here’s how to block robocalls on a landline phone.
Arguably, you have more options with your cell phone. But you can still make your landline more peaceful.
Why your phone company won’t help you
Most mobile phone providers will block some percentage of illegal robocalls for you. It may be an opt-in service or it may be automatic. Even if they don’t offer it, you can load an app like Hiya, which I’ve found to be rather effective. The only annoying calls I’ve received since loading Hiya were calls from political activists, which probably were coming from legitimate numbers. You won’t be able to do much about those.
The dirty secret is that AT&T and Verizon don’t want to be in the business of running copper phone lines anymore. They’re critical infrastructure, so it’s very difficult for them to get out of that business. There are devices like alarm systems that only work on copper, not fiber. But I think this is why AT&T and Verizon look the other way when it comes to illegal robocalls and spam calls on traditional landline phones. If life with a copper landline phone is unpleasant, they figure people are more likely to discontinue the service they no longer want to offer.
But their business model isn’t your problem. Landlines are more reliable in some ways, and you’re paying for the service. You have options to make the service tolerable, and you have a right to know them. Here are your options, roughly in order of effectiveness.
Order call blocking service
Phone companies generally offer call blocking service. It usually costs extra on copper landlines, but is included with VOIP plans. I have it and use it, because a high percentage of my unwanted calls were coming from a relatively small quantity of phone numbers.
But the problem with call blocking service is that you’re limited to around 100 numbers. The most persistent robocalls usually come from a different number. I’d quickly use up my hundred just blocking calls from Rachel from Card Member Services and Ann that scammy health insurance hawk.
Sign up for the state and national do not call registry
Your state and federal governments both operate a do not call list. Signing up on the Federal Trade Commission’s do not call list doesn’t cost anything. These efforts really did reduce the number of illegal robocalls I used to receive, for a time. The problem is that robocallers outsourced it to other countries.
I once pointed out to a Windows tech support scammer that his call was illegal under Missouri and U.S. law. He just laughed at me and said, “I don’t give a **** about your laws here in India.”
Signing up on your local and national do not call registry doesn’t cost anything and won’t hurt, but it won’t eliminate the illegal robocalls from overseas either. And of course political calls are exempt.
Solutions that work on VOIP
I know you’re thinking that’s nice, but I asked how to block robocalls on a landline, not VOIP. Hang in there with me. There are two VOIP solutions I want to cover, then I’ll cover my favorite landline trick, which also happens to work with VOIP too.
Use a whitelist
My AT&T VOIP service allows me to define a whitelist. The service rejects any incoming call from numbers not on that list. This works, but the whitelist isn’t unlimited, and it means any time I give my number out, I have to remember to whitelist whoever I gave it to.
This option may work for some people, but I can’t say I have time to maintain a list of people who are allowed to call me.
Enable something like Hiya or Nomorobo, if you can
My AT&T VOIP service also offers a Hiya-like service called Call Protect. It blocks certain known scammers automatically. It also gets around people who spoof caller ID or use an anonymous call service by labeling the call “telemarketer” or “possible scam” instead of showing “unavailable” or “out of area” on my caller ID. I’d rather it block the call but at least it alerts me before I pick it up.
My phone used to ring constantly during the day, to the point where working from home became difficult. Now instead of getting a call every hour, I get about one a day. That’s good, but it could be better. My philosophy is that if you’re not willing to have your name attached to your phone number, why should I be willing to accept a phone call from you? I think that’s perfectly reasonable.
The problem with Call Protect is that it can interfere with a call blocker device. Normally I like layered defenses, but if you buy a device, disable Call Protect.
Nomorobo is more effective than Call Protect, and it does work well in conjunction with a device. If it works with your phone service, I recommend it.
Get a call blocker device
If you really want to know how to block robocalls on a landline, here’s the ultimate solution that works regardless of whether you have VOIP or traditional landline phone service. This solution does require caller ID but doesn’t need any other service from the phone company.
It’s possible to buy an electronic device that plugs in like an answering machine or a caller ID box and hangs up on unwanted calls. The least expensive of these devices is called a CT-CID803 and it only costs around $20. The knock on the CT-CID803 is that it’s hard to set up and the manual is really poorly written, and the device tends to fail after 12-18 months.
The device I recommend is the V5000 Call Blocker. This device is a little bit bigger and more rugged, and easy to set up. It costs almost $60 but it’s worth it to me. You simply plug it in to your phone line, plug a phone into it, then dial star codes written on the back of the device to tell it to block certain types of numbers. The manufacturer even provides a great walkthrough. It also has a built-in list of 5,000 numbers that it blocks automatically. And if an unwanted call ever gets through, just push the big red button marked block. That adds the number to its list of 1,500 user-defined numbers to block. And if you ever accidentally block a number, just use the arrow keys on the device to pull up the number, then hit the delete button. It’s simple.
Want to know how to block robocalls on a landline phone? The V5000 Call Blocker is the best solution I’ve found.