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Here’s everything you can do to stop robocalls

Tired of receiving calls about how much you owe the IRS and how many trips you've won? Read this.

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Answering a phone call only to have some random stranger yelling and threatening you because you supposedly owe the IRS money is confusing and frustrating. Robocalls aren't only annoying, but they ultimately scam people who don't know any better out of money.

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While it's not possible to entirely end robocalls from reaching your phone, there are some steps you can take to reduce the number of calls you receive.

We've covered how to prevent robocalls in the past, but it's worth a revisit.

What kind of calls are allowed?

It's logical to think that all soliciting calls, be it from a campaign or a charity, fall under the umbrella of unwanted robocalls and therefore are illegal. Unfortunately, that's not the case.

Calls from political campaigns, debt collectors and charities are all permissible. What's not allowed are the calls from the fake IRS agents or the companies that claim you won a free vacation to the Bahamas.

Best practices

According to the FCC, there are some easy steps you can take to help reduce robocalls:

  • Don't answer calls from blocked or unknown numbers.
  • Don't answer calls from numbers you don't recognize.
  • If someone calls you and claims to be with XYZ company, hang up and call the company yourself. Use the company's website to find an official number.
  • If you do answer a call and hear a recording such as "Hello, can you hear me?", just hang up.
  • The same goes for a call where you're asked to press a number before being connected to a representative.

When you answer a call and interact with the voice prompt or by pressing a number, it lets the spammer know your number is real. They can then sell your number to another company, or begin targeting your number more frequently.

If you find yourself receiving a lot of spam text messages, you can forward the message to the number 7726 (spells SPAM). It won't block the number from texting you right away, but it will allow your carrier to look into where it came from and put an end to it.

Check with your provider

Phone companies know how frustrating robocalls are for their customers and have taken steps to help users block the annoying calls on their systems. For example, AT&T's Call Protect app is available for Android and iOS users. When the app is installed and set up, AT&T will automatically block fraudulent calls, warn of suspected spam calls, and allow you to block unwanted calls from a specific number for free. The AT&T app has more advanced call monitoring features, such as reverse number lookup, but those require a monthly subscription. 

Verizon offers a similar service for its Fios customers.

Check with your service provider to see if similar functions are available.

Use an app!

If your provider doesn't offer an app or service to cut back on robocalls, or it's just too expensive, there are plenty of third-party apps available.

You want to find an app that works on your device, offers automatic call blocking and spam alerts for suspicious calls, and has the ability to easily report a number if a call slips through.

Hiya is a free app I have used on Android and iOS for some time now with success. It's the same company that powers AT&T's Call Protect app, as well as Samsung's built-in call block and spam protection service. Samsung Galaxy users can enable the built-in service in the Phone app under Settings > Caller ID and Spam Protection. Setup is painless, and it offers an easy way to report a number.

Nomorobo is the service that Verizon users for its Fios users, but it also has a phone app. The service is free for VoIP users and costs $1.99 per month for mobile users. Additional services that offer similar capabilities include YouMail and RoboKiller.

Between being proactive with unknown calls to your number, and using a service (paid or free), you can reduce the number of unwanted calls and spam you receive on your phone.

Why am I getting so many robocalls?

FCC gets tough on robocalls