Friends, believe it or not it was just five months ago that I ranted about robocalls. I remember thinking it couldn’t get much worse. And yet, it has gotten worse. Looking back at my call history, I have been averaging about 9 robocalls A DAY in the last two weeks. That doesn’t even count numbers I’ve manually blocked, although I don’t know if it would have been higher.
The problem is getting worse, no question about it. Even the folks at The Verge talked about it recently in a longform piece. None of the previous steps have been effective, but it’s looking like there is at least something you can do.
How we got here
The problem with robocalls is that they’re so darn easy and cheap. It could cost no more than a penny or two to make a call, so the odds are on the scammer’s side. Even if only one in 10,000 calls gets any sort of results, it’s still probably worth the scammer’s time.
The national Do Not Call list is a joke folks, let’s just admit it. It doesn’t do any good. Why? Because in order for it to succeed you have to file a complaint. You have to notify someone and it’s not easy and not effective and I have no confidence that anyone in the government is going to even listen.
The rules put in place in 2013 about requiring opt-in are similarly useless. They don’t apply if you have an unlimited calling plan, only if you’re still paying per minute. So that might have been fine back five years ago but today that’s pretty much a non-issue. I don’t even know if you can still get a metered calling plan.
Could this help?
AT&T has an app called “Call Protect.” You can get the Android version here, and the iOS version here. Once you install it, you’ll get two things: known Telemarketers will be identified as “Telemarketer” on screen, and known fraudsters will be completely blocked.
It’s not much but it’s a first step. I’ve been using the app for about a month and while I’m still getting 9 robocalls a day at least I know that at least 6 of them are telemarketers.
If you truly want to make things better, you can report robocalls as they happen, and when you report them you have the option to block the number. The process of reporting is pretty simple. It does require that you launch the app, because Apple doesn’t allow access to their dialer app from third parties. (The Android version would allow a third-party dialer app but the two versions are identical.) Once you launch the app you will find it’s very easy to report and block a call and even describe why you’re doing it.
Crowdsourced data has been very helpful in things like mapping. Waze is proof that people’s individual data can be aggregated anonymously and used to help create a better traffic management system. GMail’s spam management system has made as much difference as anything else in the fight against spam. So too I hope this app helps. I hope that more people use this app and help create a database of scammers that’s so good that the scammers just decide it’s not worth their time.
One more thing
When you install this app you will be prompted to upgrade to a paid version that includes enhanced caller ID and other features. You do not have to upgrade if you don’t want to. You can still use the app in free mode and it won’t nag you to upgrade all the time.