RESEARCH: Blocking robocalls on iPhone

Once upon a time, cell phones seemed relatively immune to robocalls.  Maybe there were even rules against it?  Anyway, that time is long gone and I get far too many junk calls.

Googling “block robocalls iPhone” I find the following:

Rules, regulations, and interesting information about robocalls and telemarketing calls:

  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations prohibit telemarketers from using automated dialers to call cell phone numbers without prior consent. Automated dialers are standard in the industry, so most telemarketers are barred from calling consumers’ cell phones without their consent.  
  • Charities, political groups, debt collectors and surveys are still allowed to call you.  Also “informational calls”.  So a lot of companies could re-define what they’re doing and still call you.
  • The FTC has sponsored competitions to try to develop techniques to track down and stop robocallers.  Hasn’t had one since 2015, though.  
  • Given the laws, the companies that spoof their caller ID numbers (so they won’t get caught) and call you anyway are more likely to be scams than legitimate businesses.

Notes about things to do to avoid calls (and letters and emails in some cases):

  • Register on the National Do Not Call Registry – https://donotcall.gov.  (Verified I’ve been registered since 2008 for all the good that’s done me)
  • There’s also a registry through the Consumer Credit Reporting Industry web page that lets you opt out of pre-screened credit offers (mail or phone).  https://www.optoutprescreen.com/?rf=t  It was recommended by the FTC web page which makes it somewhat legit.  You can do a 5-year request online; if you want it to be a permanent opt-out, you have to print and mail a form to them.  I didn’t bother to mail the form, since I figure it’s not that hard to re-register every 5 years and I’m lazy.  
  • And there’s a registry from the Direct Marketing Association http://www.dmachoice.org/ that lets you opt out of direct mail solicitations for five years.  
    • It works by having you register for an account, after which you can manage your preferences by removing your name from “prospect” (not already a customer) lists that are provided to companies, in four categories (Catalogs, Magazine offers, Other mail offers, Credit offers – which actually just points to the CCRI page above).  In each category you can opt out of the whole category or individual companies.
    • I had to consider on this one if it might create more risk than benefit – I mean, these people make their living by giving my address to mail marketers.  What if they actually collect my info and then use it to add me to more lists?  Ultimately I decided that it’s worth the experiment because I’m probably on all the lists already, so it’s unlikely to get worse. 
    • So I put in the info to set up an account.  According to several older things I saw on the web, they did not ask me to pay anything to register online.  Decided not to opt out of catalogs because I rather enjoy catalogs sometimes.  
  • DMA.org also has a sign-up to opt out of email solicitations, which you can link to on their Home page.  I doubt this will do much but I went ahead and registered to see what would happen.  Looks like this will expire after 6 years.
  • Then there’s https://www.catalogchoice.org which lets you decide which catalogs you want to get and which you don’t.  I’m not really bothered by catalogs at this point so not much point there.

When you receive a call:

  • Don’t interact since that may verify it’s a real number.
  • It probably doesn’t help much to report or block numbers because companies do “caller ID spoofing” where the phone shows you a number that isn’t real. 
  • On the iPhone you can block individual numbers.  Worth doing given that most are probably spoofed caller IDs?

Apps and services to deal with Robocalls automatically:

  • NoMoRobo is free for VOIP landlines but costs $2 per month for mobile phones.  
  • Several reverse-lookup services exist for iPhone; all of them have fees similar to NoMoRobo.  

References:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0108-national-do-not-call-registry
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0025-robocalls
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0262-stopping-unsolicited-mail-phone-calls-and-email
http://cyberguy.com/appearances/3-smart-ways-to-block-robocalls/

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