General Question

Yellowdog's avatar

What can be done about excessive robocalls and spam calls?

Asked by Yellowdog (12208points) March 10th, 2021
24 responses
“Great Question” (9points)

My mother has had the same telephone number for over fifty years.

In recent months, there have been as many as 30 robocalls a day. About a year ago, there were maybe 8–15 per day. Even that is far too many. We never answer unknown calls.

I’ve blocked some of the more persistent ones, but it still rings once and the caller ID says ‘Caller Blocked’—but we still get the harassing ring. And there are still 20–30 a day. Her telephone has literally become a tool of harassment.

Some numbers are spoofed. Do Not Call lists do not work.

Is there any way to REALLY block calls, or is there some device that can detect probable unsolicited calls?

The ringing phone is a constant, harassing problem. We are getting quite desperate.

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Jeruba's avatar

I’m guessing she has a land line, with no easy way to block calls. So have I, and it is a persistent, annoying problem. It disturbs my peace, breaks my train of thought, intrudes on my attention, and makes me feel like a victim. I often get a dozen or more such calls in a day.

Here’s a pertinent article that I read yesterday. The problem is that trying to block those calls is like playing Whack-a-Mole: they pop up faster than you can bash them down.

I stubbornly keep the land line (a) because I still want people to be able to reach the household and not just an individual and (b) because I don’t feel like being forced to commit to a technology that follows me everywhere I go. If I can’t answer the house phone, chances are I’m someplace where I don’t want to take a call—driving, for example, or grocery shopping or waiting to pick up a prescription. In none of those situations do I want to be receiving a personal phone call unless it’s an emergency. Call me on my land line and I’ll answer when I’m there or get your message when I get home.

It’s getting harder for me to jump and run when the phone rings, and so much more vexing when it’s an empty line, or a little bloop sound and then a voice from half a world away warning me that my Google account has been compromised.

If anyone has a good answer to this, I’d like to know it too.

Making matters worse is the fact that some legitimate calls come the same way (the bot confirming a medical appointment, for instance), and the people who program them do not make sure that the voice recording starts with a clear statement of who is calling and why.

I do have a cellphone, but I keep it mostly for family use and rarely give out the number. Even when I do get spam calls and block them, new variants keep coming in. What used to be a tool we paid for to serve us has instead become a harassing nuisance.

Why hasn’t someone figured out how to charge the spammers and phone advertisers for their use, as is done in other media, instead of billing me for service on a device that is mostly used by entities that just want to part me from my money?

elbanditoroso's avatar

Quick answer: not a damn thing.

Yes, there are a couple of laws. But the bad guys don’t follow them; they ignore registrations and laws anyway.

There are a few services (nomorobo comes to mind) but they are half-effective at best.

No good way.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Talk with your local telephone company.
They have codes to trace, ring back and alert the local police of harassments.
( at least in Canada we I had to do that in 1980’s on landline…a letter from Local authorities sent to the harasser to desist or lose their phone. I never found out who it was as that information is not disclosed).

gorillapaws's avatar

I don’t understand why the FBI/CIA isn’t running sting operations on these guys. They could play the victim, trace the money and follow the chain of control up to the leaders to lock them up. Not as high a priority as counterterrorism, and other things, but they can walk and chew gum at the same time. A minor inconvenience repeated hundreds of millions of times does add up to a serious issue.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Nothing, they don’t follow laws or regulations, some are from countries that are attempting to over throw this country. Disconnect the ringer so she can make outgoing calls !

Jeruba's avatar

And as far as I’m concerned, one spam call is excessive.

flutherother's avatar

The biggest danger is that your mother gets a call that sounds plausible to her and she gets conned out of money. There is no way to reliably stop these calls. The best thing is not to answer as to answer is to let the dialler know the line is in use. They are a menace and I was plagued by them myself a few months ago but they have now almost stopped. I have no idea why.

Jeruba's avatar

The other biggest danger is that she fails to recognize and accept a call that is genuine and in fact important to her.

si3tech's avatar

@Yellowdog My phone is a landline. Century Link is my provider. They have an “update center”
where I call each morning. I dial the number and enter my security code and choose “no
solicitation”. Then from 8am to about 9pm callers get a message say not to continue if soliciting. This service cost between 6 and 7 dollars/month. Well worth it for me. Do they not have such a service/application for cell phones? If not why not? Definitely needed.

gondwanalon's avatar

My wife and I gave up our land line last December. The constant calls from people who want donations or from sellers and scammers was too much. No more frequent ringing. So peaceful now. Should have gotten rid of the land line years ago.

Jeruba's avatar

@gondwanalon, for just that reason, you’d think the land line providers would have the biggest interest in doing something about this, but maybe by now the trend has just totally gotten away from them. I expect any day to read that residential land lines are just going away, like newspapers. Maybe the business lines will stick around longer.

And, as with newspapers, I think we’re going to regret letting it happen. But no one will ever build that infrastructure back. Gone is gone.

jca2's avatar

When I block calls on my cell phone, it doesn’t ring at all. Nothing happens on my end.

I almost never answer unknown calls and if I get a voicemail from a spam caller, I immediately block that number. On the rare occasion that I might answer a call from an unknown caller, if it’s some kind of spam call, I immediately block it.

@Yellowdog: Maybe your mom should change her number? That might work. Then, if she does, she shouldn’t answer the phone ever if she doesn’t know who’s calling.

gorillapaws's avatar

@jca2 “Maybe your mom should change her number? That might work.”

I don’t think it will. It is my understanding that these numbers are being called randomly. They start with a known area code, followed by a known 3-digit prefix and then call every one of the 9999 possible combinations. In my area there’s a (804) 747-xxxx pattern. It’s trivial for software to pump through all possible numbers:

(804) 747–0001,
(804) 747–0002,
(804) 747–9999,

kritiper's avatar

Put the numbers of concern on a “NO CALL” list. And get a answering machine with caller ID so you can see who is calling without picking up. I have a caller ID display right next to my chair in the living room so I don’t have to get up to see who is calling.

Jeruba's avatar

Cellphone solutions don’t work for land lines. And letting a call go unanswered does not prevent the disturbance of hearing the ringing. Part of the annoyance is the sense of being subjected to a demand. It’s almost never convenient.

It seems so odd to me that we spent a good portion of a century figuring out more and more ways to facilitate intrusions into our lives, and now in this one we’re working on ways to shut them out. What made us think all this stuff was such a good idea?

JLeslie's avatar

It’s so annoying for all the reasons already stated above. Interesting that Century Link has a service to help prevent such calls, my phone is Century Link. I might look into it.

I need to answer all calls now that come in on my cell, because I’m expecting a lot of call backs that are important. I never give my home phone number to doctors, or anyone important anymore. Not at all. I’ve learned that if a doctor has two numbers they often choose to call the local one, even if you tell them to call the other number first. My cell number is outside of the area.

I use my home phone to call out, and my friends and family have my home and cell number, so if I don’t answer at home they can still reach me. Basically, if I don’t answer the home phone it doesn’t matter.

I wondered the same as @gorillapaws; why hasn’t the government shut this garbage down!

elbanditoroso's avatar

Why hasn’t the government shut this down?

Two reasons:

1) A ton of spammers have taken the government to court saying that stopping robocalls was in some way abridging their right to free speech, guaranteed by the first amendment. Article and then the Supreme Court ruled it illegal “here”: but the spammers do it anyway.

2) there’s not much they can do – it is easy to hide the source of the call. Billions of them come from overseas. And no law enforcement agency is going to take the effort to do the work finding the bad guys.

It will never happen.These calls are with us forever.

gorillapaws's avatar

@elbanditoroso “it is easy to hide the source of the call”

True, but the government does have techniques to do so, and they can also trace the money instead of phones. I really don’t think it would take a huge investment in resources to make a large impact on the issue.

jca2's avatar

@Yellowdog: If she can’t change her number, and she’s getting 30 calls a day, and the phone is ringing once even for blocked numbers, which, understandably would be very annoying, my suggestion is unplug the home phone and get her a cell. With the home phone unplugged, no more ringing.

If she has a cell already, then she’s good to go. Tell her not to answer any calls from unsaved numbers, meaning calls from people or numbers she does not know. If she doesn’t have a cell, get her one with a cheap service like Cricket, ($30 per month).

Yes, it’s sad to pay for a home phone that she is not using, but if she wants to keep the number for sentimental reasons and also to have the line available in case of power outage or other emergency, then pay it, unplug it and she can use the cell.

Caravanfan's avatar

Hire Jolly Roger Telephone Company for 99 cents a month to deal with it for you.

Check out their examples. They’re hilarious.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Jeruba's avatar

The more protections we have to devise and pay for, the more vulnerable we feel. That’s because we are. No safeguard is really going to keep a dedicated intruder out for long.

kritiper's avatar


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