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. Read on for the latest news…
Free and Paid 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, over the last couple of years, the number of junk calls started climbing. Nearly 59 billion robocalls went out in 2019, 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.
Thankfully, the FCC has issued a new mandate for all voice service providers to have the robocall-fighting “STIR/SHAKEN” technology in place by no later than June 30, 2021, according to a press release. We’ll explain in a bit exactly what that means.
But until that future date, we’re going to take a look at what’s out there to help you with ending robocalls in your life right now.
Table of Contents
- 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 (basic version is free)|
|Sprint||Call Screener (free) and Call Screener Plus ($2.99/month)|
AT&T recently expanded the scope of Call Protect to include automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam-call alerts.
According to a recent press release, all new AT&T mobility customers will automatically get the expanded anti-robocall capabilities when they activate a voice line. Existing customers will find the new features up and running shortly.
As an “analytics-based blocking program,” Call Protect 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,” the company says.
“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.”
AT&T has been a leader working across networks to verify authenticated calls and stop robocalls. Their initial partnership with Comcast (Xfinity Voice) announced in March 2019 was an industry first. That was followed several months later in August by a T-Mobile partnership to the same effect.
Basically, this means that the carriers are checking calls coming from customers of other carriers and blocking calls they suspect to be robocalls.
Sprint offers two versions of protection: The basic Call Screener for free and the premium Call Screener Plus for $2.99/month.
Here’s what Basic offers:
- Identifies only the highest-risk spam calls and displays “Spam Caller” on incoming call screen
- Ability to block only the highest-risk spam calls
- Complaint reporting by phone number
- Business caller ID
Meanwhile, Call Screener Plus offers all that and more. Additional features include displaying caller name and city/state, displaying texter name (Android only) and identifying calls history, among others.
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 Magenta Plus and T-Mobile ONE Plus plans.
Verizon offers both free and paid 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.
Meanwhile, Call Filter Plus is a paid version of Call Filter for $2.99/month for one line or $7.99/month for three or more lines.
In addition to just spam detection, blocking and reporting, Call Filter’s paid 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 paid 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 2020, 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.
“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.”