How to block and reduce robocalls without using data-harvesting third-party apps
Robocalls are a menace to modern society. So you resort to a third-party app to block them and all’s well, right? Actually, no.
As it turns out, many popular robocall-blocking apps such as TrapCall and Truecaller don’t have your best interests in mind.
According to TechCrunch and Dan Hastings, a security researcher at NCC Group, many top robocall-blocking apps share your phone number with analytics firms and uploading device information such as device type and software version to companies like Facebook without your explicit consent,
And while some these apps released “fixes” after getting caught red-handed, the damage is already done. How can you even trust any of them anymore? You could go and read their lengthy privacy policies to see exactly what data they collect, or you can find another way to block and reduce robocalls without using third-party apps. Here’s how you can do that.
1. Register your number on the Do Not Call List
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), one of the simplest ways to block robocalls and telemarketers is to register your phone number on the Do Not Call List, which makes it illegal for them to call you.
It’s not foolproof. I added my phone number to the list over a decade ago and still get calls from telemarketers, but I’m sure I would get way more if I didn’t. Do yourself a solid and add your number.
Note: It takes 31 days for telemarketers to stop calling your number once it’s on the Do Not Call List. So be patient.
2. If you own a Pixel, use Call Screen
Originally available only on the Pixel 3 and 3XL, Google’s handy Call Screen feature now works on all Pixels, including the Pixel and Pixel XL, Pixel 2 and 2XL, Pixel 3 and 3XL, and Pixel 3a and 3a XL.
With Call Screen, the Google Assistant answers phone calls on your behalf and transcribes the conversation in real time.
In most cases sending a robocall to Call Screen is enough to get them to hang up immediately. Even if the robocall is persistent, at least you can see that it’s spam based on the transcription on your screen, and don’t pick up the call.
3. On iOS 13, send them to voicemail
iOS 13 won’t be releasing until September, but if you’ve already got the developer beta or public beta installed on your iPhone, you can send calls from unknown numbers directly to voicemail — perfect for robocalls.
The setting needs to be switched on in Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers but once you’ve got it set, your iPhone will only allow calls from phone numbers in your contacts, messages, and mail apps.
4. Use your carrier’s blocking tools
Check with your carrier to see if they have any tools that’ll let you block robocalls. Some carriers like AT&T have free apps like Call Protect, but because we’re trying to avoid robocall-blocking apps, you’ll have to turn to other options.
For example, Verizon has a “Call Filter” feature that costs $2.99 per month per line and provides the following: spam detection, spam filter, report numbers, caller ID, personal spam list, personal block list, risk meter, and spam lookup.
A free version of Call Filter is available to all postpaid Verizon customers (sorry prepaid people!) and only includes three features: spam detection, spam filter, and report numbers.
Sprint also offers a similar feature to Call Filter called “Premium Caller ID” for $2.99 a month; this service only identifies robocalls, but doesn’t block them. To do that, you’ll need to block them on manually (see below).
On T-Mobile, customers can turn on Scam ID and Scam Block. With Scam ID, if a phone number appears fishy, your phone will display “Scam Likely” so you know not to pick up. Scam Block lets you block these “Scam Likely” calls.
5. Block their numbers
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. If a robocall manages to get through to you, end the call and block the number ASAP. It’s old school, but it ensures the same spam number will never call you again.
On iOS, you can tap the little “i” icon next to the call in the phone app’s “Recents” section and then go down to “Block this caller”.
Same goes for Samsung phones running the latest One UI. In the “Recents” section of the phone app, tap on a number and then the “i” icon and then “Block.” You’ll be asked to confirm the number block and that’s it.
On Pixel phones, there’s a “Block/report spam” setting after you tap a phone number within the phone app’s “Recents” tab.
The setting might be located somewhere else on other Android phones, but most phones should have the ability to block phone numbers.