Have you been getting a lot of robocalls lately? Yeah, join the club.
You know what I mean. These are unsolicited calls made to your cell phone. They come in waves - sometimes ten or eleven in a row, particularly if you don't pick them up. Sometimes they identify themselves as "robocaller" but not often. Usually, the calls "spoof" another local number so you think it may be a friend, a customer, a client or - worse - a prospect that wants to talk with you. When you pick up the call, sometimes you hear nothing at all. Other times it's a recording that's trying to sell health insurance, a free vacation or some other type of nonsense. Who's buying these things? Apparently someone.
Robocalls are a huge problem. According to this USA Today report from last week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gets about 200,000 complaints every year and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) logged in 4.5 million complaints in 2017 alone. Mind you, this is based on just the people that actually take the time to report this annoyance to the government. Most of us don't. We just get angry.
The anger is warranted. Robocalls are not only annoying, they're extremely distracting, unproductive and expensive. The FTC says that the cost of all of these unwanted calls is about $9.5 billion annually. So what to do? There's no silver bullet to fix this problem. But I've found a solution that has reduced my robocall problem by about 95 percent.
First, let me share with you what NOT to do. Don't answer the call. When you do this you're essentially announcing to the computer on the other line that hey, here's a live one! Once a call is answered with a human voice, your number is then logged into the "good" column and then repeatedly sold to telemarketers for future harassment. Also, go ahead and sign up your number with the FTC's do-not-call registry but just know that it's mostly ineffective - the government is stepping up its efforts to combat this nuisance through increased fines, better coordination with phone companies and more accurate data tracking, but they're still far behind the eight ball.
My Samsung Galaxy S8 gives me the option to individually block numbers but I have to do this for each incoming call. Not only does this take a few seconds but the action just sends all remaining calls to voicemail, which is not a great solution because then I get multiple notifications with multiple empty voicemail messages. More recent versions of the iPhone and Android (as well as paid and/or free options at Verizon, T-Mobile and other carriers) can allow you to block all calls from people not on your contact list, but that's not optimal either - what if a prospect is calling? Doing this could cost me business.
I have found something that mostly works: a third party app. I've tried a few of them and the best one is called Nomorobo. The app, created by Long Island developer Aaron Foss, works about 95 percent of the time and for someone who's in the technology business, that's about as good as I can expect from any software program. Here's the deal on this.
You can get it from the iTunes or Google Play store. It costs $20 a year for the mobile version. It also works with landlines - so much so that services like Xfinity have adopted it for their own phone customers. Nomorobo installed quickly on my phone and then immediately began intercepting all suspect robocalls. It compares the caller ID against its vast and dynamic database of phony phone numbers. If a match is made I never see the call. I can also report individual numbers that make it through.
And some do make it through. The solution is by no means 100 percent. But I've found it to be very effective nonetheless. Where I was at one time receiving anywhere between 3-5 robocalls a day with each calling me 5-10 times (argh!) I now rarely receive a robocall - maybe a couple times a week at most. I can live with that. One final note: Nomorobo isn't the only game in town. There are other good apps like Hiya and Robokiller that I've also tried that have also received very positive reviews from their users - you should test them out too. It's just that I've personally found Nomorobo to be the best. For me, the $20 a year is worth it.