Stop calling, stop calling / I don't want to talk anymore
July 27, 2017 12:53 PM   Subscribe

How should I stop robots from constantly calling my mobile?

I get about three spam phone calls a day on my mobile with a recorded message. They claim to be for things like car warranties, Google Maps listings or loans. The recordings say to "press 1 to speak with someone," but when I press 1 I'm always hung up on--every time. I've tried option 2 ("to be removed from our list, press 2..."), but they keep right on calling me. This has been going on for a long time, something like six months. It was annoying at first, but maddening after the third or fourth month. Once or twice the recording was for an obvious scam ("This is the IRS, you owe us money, call us back or you're going to jail") but 95% of the time it's for a loan or something about my car warranty expiring.

I've been reporting them to and blocking all the numbers on my phone, but as the website says it's impossible for them to follow up on every call because frequently, they will spoof their caller ID. My theory is that this aren't valid businesses, but instead an automated system to search out valid phone numbers for the purpose of further scamming people. They have a few recordings ("your car's warranty might be about to expire! press 1 if you want to talk to someone about this, or press 2 to be removed from the list!" If you press either 1 or 2, your number is flagged as "valid number--definitely try to scam this person later or otherwise do something naughty with it."

I'm at the end of my tether and I'm seriously considering some kind of application that only allows incoming calls from people who are already in my contacts. Is there a mass block-number list, as in the famous HOSTS file that blocks advertisers' websites, but instead for phone numbers? Are the phone companies cooperating with users to halt this insanity? Should I change my phone number? Will that even make a difference? Should I let it ring so my number is (hopefully) removed? Is there possibly some kind of service, "Brian doesn't have your contact information handy and he isn't accepting phone calls from solicitors. If you are a real person, press '8' and we'll ring his phone. Otherwise, hang up, dirtbag." Is this a thing that people are doing now to avoid spam calls? Should it be? So many, many questions.

Hilariously, I called the last number back that called me this afternoon (781-202-3988) (second call of the day so far) and got a recording: "Hello, and thank you for calling. If you would like to be placed on a do-not-call list for the number that called you, please press 1 now." I pressed 1 and the recording said it was sorry for any inconvenience and to allow up to 48 hours to be removed from the list.
posted by ostranenie to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
What mobile provider do you have? On T-Mobile in the US, you can dial #662# on your phone to activate Scam Block, which is supposed to automatically block calls like that. I only just learned about this the other day and activated it, so I can't vouch for how well it works yet. Perhaps your carrier has a similar program if you're not on T-Mobile?
posted by Grither at 1:00 PM on July 27, 2017 [11 favorites]

AT&T. I'll call and ask if they have anything like that. Thanks for the tip.
posted by ostranenie at 1:00 PM on July 27, 2017

Usually you are better off not interacting with those numbers because then they know it's a legit number that someone occasionally answers. I pretty much ignore any numbers I don't know (if they are real they will leave a message).
posted by Captain_Science at 1:07 PM on July 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

I never answer calls that are from unknown numbers (either blocked numbers or numbers not already in my contacts list). On the rare occasions when it's someone I know, they leave a message. I don't know if this is that One Weird Trick, but I get very, very few spam calls. Hope I didn't just jinx myself.
posted by rtha at 1:08 PM on July 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

> Usually you are better off not interacting with those numbers
> I never answer calls that are from unknown numbers

Neither do I, but the problem is my phone rings unnecessarily almost 100 times a month and there seems to be nothing I can do to stop it.

> dial #662# on your phone to activate Scam Block

AT&T has no such service by the way. I just called to ask.
posted by ostranenie at 1:10 PM on July 27, 2017

I have installed Hiya on my phone, which is an app that cross-checks incoming numbers against a black-list of known spammers. It's not perfect, and sometimes it's a little slow, but it helps some.

I also recommend just not picking up for an unknown number, particularly if it's a number that uses your own area code and exchange -- that's usually a spoof to fool you into thinking it's a neighbor, or your garage, or whatever. If they are legit, they'll leave a message. I assume you know that anything that comes in with a caller ID that says IRS or [Local Power Company] is also a scammer: they spoof those numbers as well.

There doesn't seem to be a solid way to block these calls at an individual level, though: the telecoms don't really want to take action, and the government won't make them. In the meantime, many elderly and ill-informed are getting taken to the cleaners by these assholes.
posted by suelac at 1:20 PM on July 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

There are apps that try to block robocalls. Here's lists for Android and iOS (requires iOS 10 or, when it exists, newer). The only one I've tried is Nomorobo, which is not 100%, but it blocks a lot of them.
posted by aubilenon at 1:22 PM on July 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I've had great luck with an app called Mr. Number on my Android phone. It blocks known spam callers using a community-based blacklist; most of them ring once and are blocked with no input from me whatsoever. It's cut my junk call irritations by about 95%.
posted by peakcomm at 1:24 PM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you have a compatible Android or iOS smartphone, AT&T has an app called Call Protect. It does seem a bit hit-or-miss, but there does not seem to be a downside — if it can’t clarify that the caller is spam or fraud, it just rings like normal. Link: AT&T Security Apps
posted by shanewtravel at 1:29 PM on July 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

I use Hiya on Android to block spam calls. It blocks about 99% of them. The app itself is not scammy, which cannot be said for many of the other apps which purport to do the same job.
posted by Mo Nickels at 1:37 PM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was just getting ready to tell you about Call Protect from AT&T but shanewtravel beat me to it. I will add that it seems it's only for Android. I tried to find info on the AT&T site, but was only able to see this in relation to Android. I have your EXACT problem and it's about to drive me crazy. I know I can just ignore the call, but like you, get daily calls. I may call AT&T to see if this app can be used on iPhones. I'll update if I get clarification.
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 1:51 PM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm at the end of my tether and I'm seriously considering some kind of application that only allows incoming calls from people who are already in my contacts.

If you're on Apple iOS, no application is needed.

You can do this by turning on "Do Not Disturb" in Settings, then setting "Allow Calls From" to "All Contacts", or some other subset of contacts that you build via contact groups. Anyone not on the list gets voicemail.

This whitelist will work a bit better than Hiya (which I find to be a bit unreliable), but nothing is foolproof it seems.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:36 PM on July 27, 2017 [9 favorites]

Thanks so much for the answers. I don't know how I never was aware of all these blocking apps. I thought I'd searched for something like this before but...whatever, I'm going to try Hiya and see if that curbs the spamminess. Thanks again.
posted by ostranenie at 2:52 PM on July 27, 2017

" Are the phone companies cooperating with users to halt this insanity? Should I change my phone number? Will that even make a difference? "

No, and that's the problem. And no, and no.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:39 PM on July 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

And to make matters even more fun for everyone, I have recently read where they have the technology to send spam messages to your voice mail. Your phone won't even ring. Hence, they can get around any "do not call" blocking because they aren't calling.
posted by jtexman1 at 4:57 PM on July 27, 2017

In recent months I've found that the robodials targeting me tend to spoof numbers in my local exchange (e.g. my number is 503-555-1212, and they spoof a caller ID of 503-555-6789). I just let any call from my own exchange just go to voicemail, assuming that humans will leave messages and bots won't. So far, no messages.
posted by mumkin at 5:13 PM on July 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

Stop answering calls from unknown numbers. Every time you answer, you've identified yourself as someone who answers the phone.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 7:25 AM on July 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

You have confirmed, multiple times, that yours is a working number with a human at the end of it. Your current phone number can't be rescued from that pit, so I would go through the (extreme) hassle of changing your phone number so you can start with a fresh slate.

Don't ever help spammers by choosing an "opt-out" option on phone trees, calling them back, et cetera. They don't play fair and they don't honor such requests. What you do, when you do that, is you are telling them that there is a live, breathing human being at the end of that number. That makes that number more profitable to sell.

AT&T Call Protect is an iPhone app as well. AT&T has a support article recommending the previously-mentioned Nomorobo.
posted by WCityMike at 2:29 PM on July 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

I downloaded AT&T Call Protect for Android which says it's powered by Hiya. Thanks for all the responses.
posted by ostranenie at 6:50 AM on August 22, 2017

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