JOPLIN, Mo. — The majority of calls I receive on my phone aren’t from my friends, family, or coworkers (and I work in a newsroom — which speaks to the daily volume of unsolicited calls and texts).

Now, the majority of my incoming calls are from scammers and telemarketers, notifying me that “my computer has a virus, and only the caller can fix it.” I even get calls from “John Smith,” who’s obviously pretending to be the IRS and threatening me to pay up.

The calls that I believe are the most ridiculous: “Congratulations, you’ve won the lottery… (followed by)… can we have all of your personal information and the information of your closest friends and relatives before processing your winnings?”

Calls like these are why I don’t pick up any phone number I don’t easily recognize, even if it might actually be important because I’m scarred by the sheer amount of spam calls I get every single day.

As a reporter, this can be a tricky balance. A lot of my calls are also legitimate, whether it be a source for a news story, or someone calling to report a news tip.

Unfortunately, these unsolicited calls are only increasing. This year alone, Americans are expected to get over 52 billion robocalls, which breaks down to approximately 1 billion calls every week (according to YouMail, a company that specializes in blocking them).

These calls come in all shapes and sizes. More recently, these attacks have moved over to SMS, where there are phishing text messages that come from your own phone number.

The do not disturb feature only goes so far in helping, because the fact is, robocallers are never going to stop trying to reach you. Their schemes bring in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars annually. In one survey of 4,000 people, more than 90% reported that robocalls are becoming more frequent.

No matter what the calls or text messages say, one thing is certain — for this reporter’s sanity, they need to stop! Follow these proven steps to help pull the plug on those annoying callers.

Sign Up For The National Do Not Call Registry

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Your first move: Join the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National “Do Not Call Registry.” You can get on the list by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. If you have multiple numbers to input, register them, HERE.

To date, the agency has taken 51 legal actions against companies and telemarketers, recovering $112 million. It will take about a month for your registration to take effect. You can register both landline and mobile phone numbers. You’ll find more information on the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, HERE.

Sign Up For Your State’s Do Not Call Registry

In the Four State region, Missouri and Oklahoma are the only states that have their own state-funded/operated Do Not Call List. The Do Not Call List Registry for Both Kansas and Arkansas will direct you to the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry.

You can register for the Missouri No Call List, HERE. In Oklahoma, you can register with the state’s No Call List, HERE. Both states’ No Call Law applies to residential (landline) or personal cell phone numbers owned by private individuals only.

Use Spam-Filtering Apps And Tech

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The National Do Not Call Registry, especially combined with an individual state’s No Call List Registry (if available), will prevent a lot of unwanted calls, but it won’t stop all of them.

A spam-filtering app can give you a second layer of protection and is a good add-on to your overall smartphone security. The makers of the app, “Mr. Number Lookup and Call Block” maintain a large database of user-reported robocalls.

When one of those numbers dials you, the app blocks the phone from ringing and informs you the call is spam.

  • Mr. Number: Available in the Apple App store and on the Google Play store, this app can block calls from an entire area code or even a whole country. You can also report spam calls to warn other users.
  • AT&T Call Protect: A free service for AT&T customers, this app has a fraudulent-call-blocking system that weeds out scammers before the phone even rings. It’s available in the App Store and on Google Play.
  • Verizon Call Filter: In 2021, Verizon rolled out a service called the “Neighborhood Filter” for its customers. It identifies likely scam calls based on the number and area code. Similar phone numbers are blocked from calling you, cutting down on a tactic called spoofing.
  • U.S. Cellular Protections: Customers have access to this carrier’s specific solutions, but also has apps that you can download, such as “Call Guardian,” which displays “Potential Spam” on caller ID, based on known offenders. This free app also displays “Spam Caller” on caller ID, based on a consumer’s personal spam list.
  • Block The Caller: Although this is not an app, blocking a particular number(s) is a good way to prevent the same caller from getting through to you day-after-day. Learn how to block a number on both an iPhone and an Android device, HERE. And don’t worry about blocking the wrong number, it’s easy to unblock a number too.

Give Spam Calls The Brush-Off

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It’s so tempting to pick up the phone and yell in frustration, “Don’t call me again!” But here’s a more effective way to stop spam calls: Don’t answer at all.

According to experts, the robocallers will view the number as inactive and be less likely to try again. By the way, you should never call back an unknown number — it makes you vulnerable to future scams.

Conclusion

Unfortunately, robocalls aren’t going to stop completely. But if you take the advice mentioned above, you can help prevent most unsolicited calls and text messages from ever reaching your phone. You’ll find more information and tips on stopping unwanted calls and texts, HERE.

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