JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Chances are, your phone rings at least once a day with a call you didn't want and didn't ask for, with someone trying to sell you something or otherwise separate you from your money. Some three billion of those calls are made every month. Many, if not most, of those calls come from computers dialing at random and stopping people in their tracks to offer credit cards, vacations, or even threats.
The Federal Trade Commission set up a "Do Not Call" registry for numbers that are supposed to be off-limits.
"But that doesn't seem to help," says Randy Price of Brandon. He submitted his and his wife's numbers, and things got a bit more quiet, but then the calls started again so he came up with his own plan.
"Each time I get a call that is unrecognizable or something that I have seen in the past, then I just save the contact to an existing contact name, which is 'Do Not Answer,'" he explains. "It just announces, 'Do no answer,' and I know that it's one of the calls that has been previously put on my 'Do Not Answer' list."
Price's idea works, but only if he gets another call from the same number.
The problem now, however, is spoofing. Some spam-callers use software that makes any number they choose appear on your Caller ID, so the call appears to be more legitimate. The number often has the same area code and even prefix as your own, adding to its appearance of authenticity and increasing your likelihood of answering.
It probably is someone's real number, but it's not the caller's.
The Federal Trade Commission says on its website that the agency is using technology to try and pursue spoofers, but technology is what makes automated, bogus phone calls possible in the first place.
Most wireless providers offer apps to fight unwanted calls:
- AT&T's free "Call Protect" app is designed to detect and block calls it believes are from telemarketers or are fraudulent. It also enables you to manually report and block unwanted calls. For $3.99 per month, you can upgrade to "Call Protect PLUS," which displays a caller's name, offers reverse-number lookup, and gives you additional options for handling suspected spam calls.
- Verizon's "Caller Name ID" alerts you to incoming spam calls and also lets you report and block them. It also displays the caller's name, city and state. It costs $2.99 per month.
- T-Mobile's free "Scam ID" identifies what it believes are scam calls and lets you block them. For $4.00 per month, you can upgrade to "Name ID," which displays a caller's name. It also offers blocking services and reverse-number lookup.
- Sprint's "Premium Caller ID" displays the caller's name and offers additional options for dealing with spam calls. It costs $2.99 per month.
Each of these services was evaluated in an independent study. To see how they performed, click here.
You might be able to ease some of your frustration over unwanted calls with an app called Robokiller. When it detects what it believes is a spam caller, it answers the call for you with a pre-programmed voice that gives the caller the run-around, assuming the caller is an actual person. The app lets you choose which "Answer Bot" to assign to spam callers, and it takes things from there. Robokiller also uses technology it says can identify junk calls even if they're spoofing another number.
You can try it for free, but it costs about $2.50 per month after that.
The "Do Not Call" registry does still work for legitimate companies that follow the rules, so it can't hurt to register all your numbers. You can do so here.