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Robocalls are a problem: here’s how you can stop them

Person holding a phone receiving a call from “robocaller”

Robocalls aren’t just annoying, they’re potentially dangerous and are only becoming more of a problem. 

In 2019 alone, Americans received around 58.5 billion robocalls, a 22% increase from 2018. Unfortunately, it’s not looking like things will be improving much in 2020, with over 3.6 billion robocalls being reported in July alone.

Rather than just being an annoyance, however, there are some pretty serious risks associated with the proliferation of robocalls. Scams, which make up a large proportion of robocalls, fool around one in 10 people, with a combined annual cost that’s in the billions. 

But what are robocalls? Why are they such a problem? Is there any way to stop them? 

A person holding a phone displaying an incoming call that says "scam likely" and they are probably wondering how to stop robocalls like these.

What are robocalls? 

Robocalls are phone calls, made by an autodialer, that deliver pre-recorded messages. They are often associated with telemarketing and, more nefariously, scammers.

Even in the case of telemarketing, the chances are that the call you are receiving is being made illegally, since companies are only allowed to call you in this manner if you have given them written permission to do so. 

Some types of robocalls are legal, like calls from charities asking for donations, calls from some healthcare providers or political calls about candidates running for office. However, these legitimate calls are few and far between. 

Why are robocalls such a problem?

Well, first and foremost, robocalls are problematic because they’re super annoying. More importantly, though, they’ve fundamentally changed the way that we use our phones. 

Be honest, these days, how often do you pick up a call from a number that you don’t recognize? Not very frequently, right?

While this may not seem like a big deal, it actually can be.

Not only could you miss a call from a friend trying to reach you from a new number or using a stranger’s phone in the case of an emergency, but you could be missing a much more important call.

Some medical professionals bemoan the fact that robocalls have made it much harder to reach their patients. With robocalls being such a widespread problem, it’s completely understandable that people are averse to answering the phone when they don’t recognize the number. That said, people’s apprehensiveness leads to medical professionals wasting time, resources and, more importantly, leads to patients missing important appointments.

On top of this, charities, churches and political campaigns that rely on cold-calling are really feeling the effects of people’s hesitancy to answer the phone. With fewer people picking up the phone, a lot of great causes are missing out on the donations that these calls used to bring them. 

Scams

As we’ve mentioned above, there’s also a serious problem with robocalls as they relate to scams. 

Scammers will use robocalls to target potential victims as they are cheap and easy to carry out, and can be done on a mass scale. Criminals will often record messages pretending to be from an institution that the call recipient may know and trust, such as their bank or cable provider. The fraudsters will then attempt to trick their victim into providing them with personal information, such as confidential financial information. 

The scammers are then able to use the information they ascertain for a vast number of different purposes, some of which have potential disastrous consequences for the individual they have called.

You may be thinking “Who falls for that? Surely this never works”.

But unfortunately, you’d be mistaken. Millions of Americans fall for such scams every year, to an annual cost of around $9.5 billion

Remember, since robocalling can be done at such a mass scale, scammers can target almost anyone. This means that vulnerable people, who are perhaps less well-versed with technology and its potential dangers, such as the elderly, are the most at risk of being deceived.

How to stop robocalls

One of the best and most reliable ways to stop robocalls is to download a third-party robocall blocking app.

At Ting Mobile, we recommend YouMail, because it’s free (at its basic level) and they’ve got great customer service. You can download it on both Android and iOS.

We should also just remind you that, as with any free app, we recommend you review the privacy policy and make sure you’re comfortable with the permissions you’re granting to the app.

How does YouMail work

YouMail works by accessing a feature on your phone called conditional call forwarding. This forwards unanswered calls to YouMail so the app can handle your voicemail and call blocking. 

YouMail uses “audio fingerprints” to flag scams and robocalls when they leave a voicemail. YouMail identifies these bad messages and blocks them in the future, no matter what number they come from.

The app will also play the out of service tone when they have detected a bad number is calling. This means scammers and robocalls will take your number off their list, assuming your number is no longer in service. 

Try YouMail ad-free

Ting Mobile customers can get the free YouMail app without ads. All you have to do is download the app and follow the prompts. YouMail will recognize Ting Mobile as your provider and give you an ad-free experience. 

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