Junk calls and robocalls are completely out of control. If you’re looking for ways to stop them, we’ve got some options for you.
Free and pay services to stop robocalls
For a number of years, junk calls were not a big hassle for most people. The National Do Not Call Registry worked well for a while. Legitimate companies were generally very compliant and the violations that did occur were rare. Those that did violate the law were subject to heavy fines.
Then suddenly, in the last couple of years, the number of junk calls started climbing. Nearly 48 billion robocalls went out in 2018, according to the YouMail Robocall Index. And that number is ever-growing.
Today, it’s gotten to the point that you need every advantage you can get to keep the robocallers at bay. So we’re going to take a look at what’s out there to help you.
- AT&T: Call Protect
- Sprint: Premium Caller ID
- T-Mobile: Scam ID, Scam Block and Name ID
- Verizon: Call Filter
- Free third-party apps: Nomorobo, Youmail and Hiya
- A look at the tech behind robocall blocking
Comparing the Big 4 carriers on robocall blocking
Chances are your wireless carrier makes a free product available to help cut down on robocalls.
Fortunately, if they don’t, there are a number of free apps you can use. More on that in a moment.
But for now, here’s how the Big 4 wireless carriers stack up against each other for robocall blocking…
|Carrier||Product and price|
|AT&T||Call Protect (free)|
|Sprint||Premium Caller ID ($2.99/month)|
AT&T Call Protect
In an effort to fight back against robocalls and other unwanted phone calls customers often receive, AT&T created this “analytics-based blocking program” — a system that allows the company to determine whether an incoming call is legitimate or part of a scam or other robocall scheme.
“[The program] examines more than 1.5 billion calls each day for patterns that indicate robocallers,” according to a press release.
“It then drills down on suspicious activity that may be illegal or forbidden. One example is multiple short-duration calls to numbers on the National Do Not Call list.”
Meanwhile, AT&T and Comcast (Xfinity Voice) recently synced their networks up to verify authenticated calls and crack down on robocalls between their respective services. It’s believed to be the first time two competing voice networks have cooperated in such a way.
Sprint’s Premium Caller ID
Sprint is the only of the Big 4 wireless carriers that persists in charging customers for its robocall-blocking capabilities. Premium Caller ID runs $2.99/month.
“The Sprint Premium Caller ID app displays robocallers’ category and fraud risk level — there are three categories and three different risk levels of low, medium and high,” according to a press release.
“You will see displayed on your handset if an incoming call is from robocallers, spammers, or Caller ID spoofers. Then, the decision about whether to answer calls is in your hands.”
T-Mobile’s Scam ID, Scam Block and Name ID
The Un-carrier actually has a suite of three tools, both free and paid to help you block spam calls.
On the free front, we have Scam ID and Scam Block.
Scam ID alerts you when calls come in from known scammers. Scam Block, meanwhile, lets you block known scammers so they can’t get through to you.
A third service called Name ID lets you identify a caller’s name and location, block calls and more.
Unlike Scam ID and Scam Block, Name ID comes with a price tag of $4/month — though it is included for free on all T-Mobile ONE Plus plans.
Verizon’s Call Filter
Verizon offers both free and pay options to reduce unwanted robocalls in your life.
On the free side, the Call Filter service helps to identify and block robocalls. Verizon customers get alerts when a spam call is suspected and they can report unsolicited numbers. In addition, the Call Filter service will automatically block robocalls based on your preferred level of risk.
The pay version of Call Filter — which is $2.99 a month, per line — is one step beyond the free version.
In addition to just spam detection, blocking and reporting, Call Filter’s pay version lets you create a personal robocall block list and gives you access to a robocall risk meter and spam number lookup feature, among other things.
You can learn more about both the free and pay options and sign up here.
Free third-party apps: Nomorobo, Youmail and Hiya
What if your wireless carrier doesn’t offer free robocall blocking for you? There are several free third-party services and apps you should check out.
Nomorobo is a free service for voice over Internet protocol (VoiP) landlines that boasts of having stopped nearly 1 billion robocalls. There’s also a mobile version for iOS and Android, but that costs $1.99/month.
The latter uses an algorithm that determines if there is a phone number making thousands of brief phone calls. Additionally, app users can submit a community report that warns others if a certain phone number is fraudulent.
A look at the tech behind robocall blocking: SHAKEN and STIR-red
Curious about how all this robocall-blocking technology works? We’ll do our best to explain it in simple language.
Right now, we’re in the midst of a robust push back against phony calls that you’ll see continue to roll out throughout 2019, according to USA Today. Two technologies in particular will be at play going forward.
Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs (SHAKEN) and Secure Telephone Identity Revisited (STIR) are dual tech efforts that aim to prove a given call originates from the number that it says it does.
Key to this effort is the use of token technology (aka creating a digital signature) as a stamp of approval when a call originates.
Unfortunately, the two technologies won’t out-and-out block robocalls when used in concert. What they will do is show some mark of verification on your phone to indicate that a call is legitimately coming from the number you see displayed.
Money expert Clark Howard says that if you’re in the habit of answering suspicious or unknown calls, it’s easy to fall prey to phone scams.
“[Recently], I had a phone call come in that said it was from Bank of America,” Clark said on a recent podcast.
“I don’t do business with Bank of America, so I knew it was a pretexting call, a fake call. But what if I was a customer of BOA and I see that come up on caller ID, I might be more apt to answer it, right?”
“Consider following my rule,” the consumer champ continues. “It’s a simple rule: If I don’t recognize the number as being from someone I know, I do not answer the call.”
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