Tired of the psychological warfare being waged on you by call centers around the globe? Landlines and mobile phones alike were bombarded by robocalls, telemarketers, and would-be scammers. In the face of an unholy barrage of People Trying to Sell You Something, the FTC received 4.5 million complaints about such calls in 2017 — and those are just the people who bothered to lodge formal complaints. It’s an annoyance that virtually everyone in the country feels, and the debt reduction offers, fake calls about police looking for you, and transparent scams aimed at the elderly are only increasing in number.
Basically, it’s the one thing we can all agree on right now — we’re all tired of the phone going off several times a day with these calls, and we would all like them to go away forever. Well, they’re not going away forever anytime soon, and while there’s no way to eliminate them completely — blocking numbers is the most fruitless game of Whack-a-Mole ever — there are steps you can take to at least cut down on the volume. Here are some things you can try out to help restore your sanity.
Best solution? Just don’t answer the phone, ever. OK, maybe that’s not a possibility, but you can at least protect yourself by being selective about answering the phone. For mobile phones, you have more options that we’ll get into later, but for landlines, this is probably the best method to use. One good idea is to make sure you’ve got an answering machine set up — if you do, you can let every call go to answering machine after a couple rings, then pick up if the caller is actually someone you know. The irritation from the phone ringing incessantly won’t be solved, but at the very least, not interacting with robocallers won’t reinforce them. A lot of robocallers send out mass calls to randomly generated numbers — picking up and talking to one tells them that your number is one that belongs to a real human, and that means you’re guaranteed to keep getting a lot more calls from them.
For Android users, Should I Answer? is one of the most popular and well-loved apps for cutting down on spam. Generally, trying to block numbers by yourself is a fruitless endeavor — with spammers using throwaway numbers and number spoofing, you’ll never be able to block enough numbers to make a dent. Should I Answer? relies on crowdsourcing — app users can rate and review calls for phone numbers. Numbers that are being used purely for spam get tons of low ratings, which helps the app screen those out automatically. It can also block calls from foreign countries and hidden numbers. But, if you really want to cut down on spam calls, use the app’s whitelisting feature — by syncing the app with your contacts list, you’ll only receive calls from your approved contacts. That might not be practical for business lines, but it’s a sanity saver for personal numbers.
Nomorobo is a pretty sweet service for landlines, if you’ve got the right sort of landline. If you have a VoIP landline — something from a company like Vonage or a cable provider like AT&T U-Verse or Comcast Xfinity — you can sign up to have Nomorobo screen calls for your number with a one-time free setup. It won’t work for good old hardwired phone lines, unfortunately, but if you do have a VoIP number, Nomorobo should drastically cut down on the number of calls you get. It’s a professionally run blocking service that is constantly on the search for new numbers to block. They also differentiate between recorded spam calls and potentially important automated calls, like those used for school and emergency announcements. The same product is available for mobile numbers (iOS or Android) for $1.99 per month, although having to pay money to anyone to protect yourself against the deluge of unwanted calls is kind of an infuriating prospect.
Those previous suggestions are all terrific, but honestly, there’s nothing better to use against telemarketers than the Jolly Roger Telephone Company. It’ll take more effort on your part, but if you’re feeling so aggrieved by the aural assault of telemarketers, you’ll at least get some entertainment and satisfaction out of it. These heroes have created a bunch of bots that will turn the tables on telemarketers if you put them on the line, wasting the spammers’ time for a change. They’ve got one rambling old man, one overwhelmed mom with a crying baby in the background — you have your pick. The bots are programmed with responses designed to keep spam callers on the line for as long as possible, too! And, once the caller has finally given up, Jolly Roger will even send over a recording of the call for your listening pleasure.