robocallRobocalls — arrggh!  (which is a politically correct way of saying something far more exasperated).   Telemarketers who call you are largely crooks calling from other countries and thus outside the reach of U.S. laws that prohibit telemarketing calls.   So even though you’ve signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry, you are still getting harassed by these callers.   It’s gotten so bad that the Federal Communications Commission, has directed the country’s biggest communications providers to offer robocall blocking services for free. However, fighting these robocalls made by unscrupulous telemarketers has never been easier — and it will get even easier in the future.   For now, it takes one of three steps:

1.  If you have landline, cable or Internet phone service, you can use a new web-based service called Nomorobo.   It is the winner of the FTC’s Robocall Challenge contest and claims to have stopped over 27 million calls……plus it is free and easy to set up.  Too good to be true?  Actually, it is true.   Nomorobo uses a service called “simultaneous ring” that is provided by most VoIP phone companies. This feature allows customers to have numerous phone lines ring at the same time.  If you have wireless phones only, there are blocking apps such as PrivacyStar, mrnumber, callcontrol and Blacklist Plus that do what Nomorobo does.

2.  Or, you can sign up for Google Voice.  We’ve used it for over 5 years and it works quite well.    You can sign upf for a free Google Voice number which receives all of your landline, VOIP and/or wireless calls.  The Google Voice calls are automatically answered, voicemails are transcribed into text, then emailed to you.   If you receive a robocall or any other unwanted call, you can block or “mark as Spam” that phone number and all future calls from that number of blocked…..you’ll never hear from that telemarketer again.

3. If you have an Android or Apple phone, you can block any call that you suspect is an unwanted call.  Simply go to “call history” and press down on the phone number that you never want to hear from again.   Once blocked, your smartphone will refuse to allow calls from that phone number.    Google has recently made it easier for Nexus or AndroidOne device owners to see if a call is spam and block it, thanks to an update to its phone app. If you have caller ID enabled on those devices, spam or robo-calls will pop up with a red screen and warning that says “suspected spam caller.” After taking or rejecting the call, you can either block the number or report that it’s legit if Google flagged it in error.  Samsung’s Galaxy S7 also caller ID and spam protection since February 2016 through an alliance with Whitepages.

Even if Google doesn’t mark a call as spam, you can report it as such from the “recent calls” screen and block it. Nexus devices already have caller ID that shows companies using Google My Business listings, and references directories to show caller info from work or school accounts. For those features to work, Google notes that “your phone may need to send information about your calls to Google,” presumably it can add the info to a database.

4.  Redirect your calls to a third-party company.  Among the most clever is the Jolly Roger Telephone Company.  It’s a rather ingenious concept:  when you get a call from a telemarketer you simply forward the call to the Jolly Roger phone number and they take it from there.   If revenge is sweet, then this service is sugar-plus.  They have automated systems that keep the telemarketers on the phone for minutes or hours by pretending to be you.  They record the call and then send it to you via email so that you can hear the telemarketer struggle to figure out WTF is going on.  For a fairly nominal fee, it is not only sending a message to telemarketers, but it’s even a source of entertainment…..albeit a perverse one.

All four of these strategies work for the majority of unwanted robocalls.   In case robocalls do get through to you, take these steps:

  • Never respond to a robocall. Don’t “press 1″ to speak to a live operator and don’t press any other number to get your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.” That’s because the company calling will now know it has reached a working number, or a “live” prospect.
  • Don’t give out personal information. If you do get an unsolicited call ftell them that you will not give them any more information until you verify the call is legitimate. If the caller claims to be from your bank, for example, tell them you will call them back at the phone number on the bank’s website and ask the caller for instructions to reach them through their extension.

Even more good news is on the horizon, as the FCC is beginning to crack down on the telemarketers.   The FCC’s latest declaratory rulings could make it much tougher for robocallers and robotexters to contact you.   The FCC clarified that consumers have the right to revoke the privilege of calling them at any time.   The hope is that these new “clarifications” will add an additional layer of protection against robocalls.

Then again, none of these protections are perfect.   However, until telcos start blocking them at the source as the FCC has requested, you’re still going to get spammed, even with Google and Samsung’s help.  So, if take these steps and still get pestered by a telemarketer, there is one other thing that you can do.   Just simply say “hold on, that’s the door”put the phone down still connected and leave their phone bill ticking up while you run some errands.  Not only will tick the telemarketer off, but you might get some procrastinated errands done around your house or business.  Or, if you have a little free time on your hands and all of your errands are done, think about suing the telemarketer in small claims court.  It isn’t as difficult as you’d think and you can make some pretty decent money.