This week is National Consumer Protection Week which makes this the perfect time to talk about ways to protect yourself from those annoying automated telemarketing calls, known as Robocalls, which have long been a landline nuisance and now are the bane of cellphone users. With consumers discontinuing use of landlines, those shady marketers are making those same calls to our private cell phones/smartphones. The FTC says it is the number one consumer complaint the agency receives. Not only are the calls a nuisance, Consumer Reports that deceptive marketers use robocalls to commit fraud and rip off vulnerable consumers to the tune of an estimated $350 million every year.
With VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) or in more common terms, phone service over the internet, marketers, scammers, and phony agents can make millions of calls a day at no charge. The DO NOT CALL Registry does not stop VOIP calls. Making it worse, is that these fraudsters can spoof their number to make it appear as a call from your neighbor, family, FBI, IRS, or any other legitimate source.
While the cell phone companies say they are working on the problem, they do not agree on an immediate solution to solving the problem even though the technology exists to bring it to an end. Therefore, it is up to the consumer to protect themselves.
There are ways to fight back and the good news is that there are several apps that will block these calls. As always, only use apps provided by your phone manufacturer such as the ITunes store or Google Play. CITA (Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Assn, a Washington DC, non-profit, advocacy group representing the wireless communications industry that enables Americans to lead a 21st century connected life) offers a listing of apps for Android, Blackberry, iOS (Apple) and Windows. Some top rated apps from these services include:
Hiya (formerly Whitepages)
Before downloading/installing an app to your research. Be sure to read carefully to understand how the app works, make sure it meets your needs, understand costs, if any, and know what personal information may be requested from your phone.
Trying one of these apps on your smartphone may well add more ‘smartness’ to your phone.