Your guide to call blocking technology for landlines and smartphones: Internet Scambusters #795
Since scammers largely ignore the Do Not Call registry, you have to use your own call-blocking tactics to keep them and their pesky calls out of your home.
Fortunately, there are several ways of doing this, depending on your type of phone service and your particular priorities.
So where do you start? We have all the answers and links for you in this week's issue, together with details of a new fake tech support tactic you need to be on the lookout for.
Let's get started...
Use These Call Blocking Tactics to Halt Scammers
Nearly every single phone owner in the United States has received a nuisance telesales call during the past six months, according to latest research.
But an increasing number of them either don't know they were called or sidestepped the caller, thanks to rapidly advancing call-blocking technology.
Many of the calls are illegal robocalls, recorded messages that, in most cases, were outlawed a couple of years ago. These calls are almost certainly scams (except for permitted charity and political recorded messages).
Many other calls made by a real person are also scams or high-pressure sales campaigns.
And they arrive on our cell phones or landlines almost daily.
Let's face it, we don't want any of these calls. But as long as gullible people fall for them, the scammers and sales people will continue to call.
How you block these nuisance calls depends on the type of phone service you use but nearly all of the blocking services rely on a database of blacklisted numbers that they check against incoming calls, plus technology that can detect if the call is an automated robocall.
Block VOIP Nuisance Calls
VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and although you may never have heard of it, if you have a landline provided by an Internet company, such as a cable TV outfit, you're likely using a VOIP phone.
In simple terms, it uses the Internet to make calls and connections. That means you can also use the Internet to block unwanted calls.
The simplest way to do this is via a free service called Nomorobo. There's no equipment to buy. Just visit nomorobo.com, answer a few questions such as providing your zip code and service provider, and then it'll tell you how to activate Nomorobo.
The firm won the recent Robocall Challenge, organized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and claims to have blocked more than half a billion robocalls.
Block Regular Landline Calls
If your landline is not VOIP-connected, then you probably get your service from a regular telecom provider.
You can't use the Internet to block calls, although your service provider may offer some kind of blocking for certain types of calls. Check with them first.
Otherwise, there's now a whole array of fairly inexpensive (under $100) devices you can buy to help you eliminate the nuisance calls. You plug one of these into your phone outlet and then plug the phone into it.
You generally can also use these devices with VOIP phones as well, enabling you to double-down on the unwanted calls.
As mentioned earlier, they work chiefly by checking incoming calls against a list of blacklisted numbers. It stands to reason that the more numbers a manufacturer has in its database, the more effective its service, so check this out. Some have just a few hundred numbers while others have thousands.
The other feature you should be checking for with a call blocking device is the ability to add unwanted numbers with just the press of a button.
Examples of these devices include Digitone (various models), TeleZapper, LeeKer Landline, CPR (various models, usually well-rated), Tel-Lynx Guardian, and Sentry Screener.
Digitone's Call Blocker Plus was the highest-rated device in a test by Consumer Reports magazine.
Each device tends to have its own pros and cons, so it's worth knowing what's important to you and then researching to find which offers the features you want.
The technology knowledge website wiki-ezvid has some useful comparisons in their article The 6 Best Call Blockers.
Block Nuisance Cell Phone Calls
More than half of American homes are now totally Wi-Fi -- no landlines at all.
So, it's no surprise that cell phones are now the main target for robocall scammers as well as many telesales operators.
Both of the main cell phone technologies -- Android and Apple's iOS -- make it fairly simple to block calls after a first attempt by the caller.
With iPhones, simply go to the record of the phone call and click on "Block this Caller" at the bottom of the screen.
More detailed instructions here: Block phone numbers and contacts on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.
With Android phones, you can use Privacy Mode to allow only calls from your contacts or Call Rejection to forward calls directly to voicemail.
In the case of both operating systems, call blocking services may also be available from your network service provider, such as Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint. Check with them to learn about their call protection services.
In addition, there are now many mobile apps and monitoring services that promise to eliminate nuisance calls. These apps include TrueCaller, Hiya, Call Control, Call Blacklist, Safest Call Blocker, and Norton Security.
Some apps can be purchased for a one-off fee, while others make a monthly charge for their service -- so, again, it's important to do your research. Here's a good starting point: The 8 Top Call Blocking Apps For Smartphones.
"When you choose," the FTC advises, "consider the type of service and phone you have, how many unwanted calls you get, how much you want to share your personal information, and how much you're willing to pay."
As call blocking technology advances, aided by artificial intelligence, we can expect it to become more effective -- and it's worth remembering that each time you blacklist a call, you likely also help other consumers because the number you blocked may be added to your provider's blacklist for all customers.
Alert of the Week
Tech support scammers have come up with a new trick to connect with victims via on-screen pop-ups.
The latest pop-ups are actually automated dialers. If you click on them, your computer will call the fake support number, using your computer microphone and speakers to connect you with the crooks.
Never click on a tech-support pop-up. It's always a scam.
Time to conclude for today -- have a great week!