Spam phone calls, robocalls, or scam calls aren’t quite as common on cell phones as they are on landlines, but they still happen way too often. When I posted advice on blocking robocalls on landlines, immediately people asked me about mobile phones. So here’s how to stop robocalls on my cell phone. And yours.
In May 2018, there were 4.1 billion robocalls in the United States. And it’s not slowing down. Robocallers won’t stop calling you on your own. So here are five things you can do, in order of increasing effectiveness. Many of them don’t cost you anything.
Use your call blocker
Smartphones allow you to create a contact and then block it. For a couple of years, I was able to get by just by call blocking a few numbers to prevent unwanted calls. Things would have been different if my cell had been getting 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.
In the runup to an election, a large percentage of unwanted calls are political advocacy or opinion surveys. You’ll always need technical methods to block those because the law isn’t going to stop them. Fortunately, we have ways to do that.
Enable Call Protect, if you can
AT&T offers a service called Call Protect. It blocks certain known scammers automatically. It also relabels calls to stop 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 your caller ID.
Many other providers flag calls as “Scam Likely” or “Telemarketer.” If nothing else, these services help you screen calls. I’d prefer the cell providers block spam calls and other incoming calls no one wants more aggressively than they do, but since they don’t, we have two other options.
I could almost say install Hiya and you’re done. Hiya is an automatic robocalling blocking app for Apple iPhones and Android.
I find the Hiya app works best if you enable a few options. I enable scam and fraud protection, spam protection, and neighbor scam protection. The last option blocks calls that appear to be coming from the same area code and phone exchange as you, a common tactic on cell phone robocalls. I also recommend you enable whitelist contacts. That way a contact can always call you, even if one of the other rules catches them. Blocking a contact overrides that option.
Hiya also has a convenient place to block individual phone numbers, which may be easier than using your phone’s native options. Hiya offers both free and paid plans. I find the free plan works extremely well.
If a number does get through Hiya’s defenses, block the number, then report it. That helps protect other people in the future. If we ruin the economics of robocalls, we’ll get fewer of them.
Nomorobo is another service that blocks scam calls and robocalls. On cell phones it costs $1.99 a month. If Hiya doesn’t do enough for you, you can install Nomorobo instead. I find Nomorobo is extremely effective on landlines so I would use it on my cell phone too, but Hiya works well for me and is cheaper.
How to stop robocalls on my cell phone: In conclusion
And that’s how to stop robocalls on my cell phone, or any other cell phone. It may take an app or two and a web form or two. Keep in mind your cell phone is for your convenience, not for telemarketers and scammers. So don’t feel bad at all about blocking unwanted calls. Enjoy the silence.