Why won't it stop? Do you, like millions of other Americans, and that includes me, get bombarded with robocalls? I've experienced ones in English, Spanish, and recently, Chinese. And the tricks keep evolving. The latest trick is spoofing the calling number with your area code, so you think it is a local person calling you.

The Do Not Call registry is useless and frankly ignored by the Robocallers. Telling them not to call again is also ignored. While there is no perfect solution, there are some things you can do to reduce the number of robocalls.

What is a robocall and what do they want?

A robocall is a computer program that calls millions of different phone numbers. Their goals are:

  • Verify the number they called works and a real person is on the other end. By answering the phone and saying something, like Hello, the robocaller knows the number is valid and a real person is on the other end. They can then try this number again or re-sell it to other robocallers.
  • Get you to buy something. This is the less nefarious route, where they are merely trying to sell you something like vitamins.
  • More dastardly, the robocall is trying to steal your personal information. For example, some will say you need to verify your Social Security number or your payments will stop. Or they are from the IRS and need to verify your information. Never give our personal information on the phone.

What can you do?

If you have a landline, try getting a call blocker. The CPR V5000 Call Blocker has excellent Amazon reviews, and allows you to block 1500 different numbers. You can also only allow "whitelisted" numbers to come through, meaning only numbers on a predefined list. However, whitelisting “could present problems in emergency situations or when it comes to 'legitimate' robocalls (school snow days, product recalls, etc.),” says Tim Prugar, who sits on the Communication Fraud Control Association’s consumer education committee.

If you have a mobile phone there are two suggestions:

Manually Block Calls

If you get a robocall, hang up, and then manually block the number. It takes a few seconds after each call and you might need to do it a dozen times (the robocallers like to use different numbers), but I've found it an effective way to reduce calls.

  • On iOS, go to your recent calls, click on the ⓘ, and at the bottom of the screen is "Block this Caller".
  • On Android, you need to do "Call Rejection" and it requires a few more steps. Watch this YouTube video for instructions.

Automatically Block Calls

Install a blocker app like Hiya, available on Android and iOS. Often free, these apps keep a list of known spam numbers and autoblocks or tells you a the number calling is potentially spam. I've been using Hiya for about a year now and it definitely has prevented several calls.

photo courtesy of talkroute.com