Even if you register your phone number in the National Do Not Call Registry with the FTC, chances are you'll still get unwanted calls and texts to your cell phone or landline. Robocallers are relentless and can not only seriously disrupt your day but also possibly scam you out of money if they gain your trust.
A Microsoft tech support scam, for example, makes people believe there's a software license issue with their computer, and could make the consumer give the hacker access to their computer. Malicious text messages, likewise, could cause people to click through to malicious sites or volunteer information best kept private (things like your address or other personally identifiable information). At the very least, these texts and phone calls are annoying and harassing. Here are a few ways you can stop them.
Android: Use a Call Blocking App
Android has a few call blocking apps to keep unwanted callers from bothering you again. I like PrivacyStar (free) for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry because it gives you control over calls and texts from not just individual numbers (e.g., that nutso ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend who won't leave you alone) but also numbers that are unknown or private. PrivacyStar's crowdsourced database of blocked numbers can also expand your blocked list to include the worst offenders, and you can file complaints with the government for calls and text messages that are spam. It's worth noting that PrivacyStar works best on Android; on iPhone, call and text blocking don't work (you do get reverse phone lookup and complaint filing, though) due to app restrictions.
iPhone: Use a "Do Not Answer" List
An alternative for iOS users is to create a distinct "do not answer" group in your contacts and set a specific or silent ringtone to it to just ignore these people (or robots) forever.
Landline: Block Specific or Unknown Numbers
If you still have a landline (regular) phone number from your phone company, you might have more robust blocking capabilities. For example, you might be able to log into your Verizon home phone account to enter specific phone numbers you want to block permanently. Verizon also has an option to bloc anonymous callers, but I haven't found that to be very reliable; "Unavailable" phone calls still come through. If worse comes to worst and you're being driven crazy by spammy robocallers, you could contact your phone company with the numbers on hand to have them blocked permanently.
Best Practices for Everyone
Annoyances aside, unwanted and anonymous calls can be as much of a security risk as they are simply aggravating. Avoid the worst that could happen by dealing with these threats wisely:
- Don't respond to unwanted calls, the FTC says--even if the call says you should press a number to opt-out of future messages. All that will do is verify to the spammer or scammer that your number is real.
- Similarly, don't respond to unwanted text messages--or click on any links. (This holds true for both text messages and emails, not to mention voicemails and phone calls.)
- Register your phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry.
- Don't enter your phone number in online or offline forms unless it's really necessary. Burner is a great privacy app for iPhone and Android that gives you disposable phone numbers so you can protect your privacy.
Hopefully we'll be able to solve this problem of robocallers and spammers soon, but since telemarketers have plagued us all since the dawn of the telephone, we probably all could stand to be proactive in preventing these from recurring. (Also, if the calls are ever life-threatening, notify the police right away.)