My fight against robocallers and telemarketers

There are many, many call blocker apps. This is the logo to look for.

(Note: If you use an iPhone, this probably won’t help you.)

I doubt there’s a single person among my readers who hasn’t been annoyed by robocallers, telemarketers, scammers, etc., who use our own phones (that we pay for) against us. And the state and federal “do not call” lists are a joke, obviously doing no good at all.

I endured such calls for years, contemplating total abandonment of my landline (which I keep for security reasons and because I can have extensions all over the house), or getting a new, unlisted number that I’d have to remember to distribute to everyone who needs it. And being unlisted doesn’t help when robodialers dial every conceivable number combination until they hit live ones.

Screening landline calls was no solution. I still had to put up with the ringing every time a call came in, and if I let it go to voicemail, the minimum number of rings on my particular phone is four.

I considered buying a separate call blocker device, but they are not inexpensive, sound complicated to set up, and most still ring at least once before a blocked caller is silenced. Robocallers will just spoof a different number and keep coming back. That was the problem with the new phone I bought. It could block something like 900 numbers, and every time an unwanted call came in, I had the distinct satisfaction of blocking the number. But, as I just noted, the callers will just spoof a different number next time.

I tried routing all calls to voice mail on Google voice because there I could set up custom answers for each group on my contact list, and one for unknown callers — and get emails advising me of all calls. But that meant forwarding all my calls to voice mail, even those I might want to answer; the forwarding happened too fast for me to pick up first.

I could abandon the landline and stick to the smartphone, with all its assorted call blocker apps, but again, I wanted to keep the landline. The smartphone call blocker apps still required that I enter numbers and/or area codes I wanted to block. Otherwise, they would ring through.

You can imagine my frustration when, according to my own call logs, I get anywhere from two to seven (2-7!) unwanted calls every day.

And then, a few months ago, came the light. My son suggested I try the call blocker app that he uses. It uses my contacts as a whitelist, and blocks everything else. But, you ask, what if it’s somebody who needs to reach me who isn’t in my contacts? Simple. The app sends all blocked calls to voicemail. Legitimate callers can then leave a message if they need to. Spammers, etc., almost always hang up without saying anything. I now forward all my landline calls to the cell phone, where the handy dandy blocker app deals with them. (Fortunately I can set my landline phone to not ring at all when it is call forwarding. As a result, the only ringing phone I ever hear is my smartphone, and then only when it’s someone on my contact list.)

Admittedly this puts me into the situation I really wanted to avoid — having to keep my smart phone nearby to answer incoming calls. But I’m slowly training myself to take it with me when I move from living area to bedroom or back; I don’t want to have to run to answer a call in the other end of the house. (There’s no rule that says I have to answer a ringing phone, but it’s a very long-standing habit and I doubt I’ll ever break it.)

The app is Blacklist Plus PRO by Vlad Lee. (There’s also a free version.) Sadly, as I was taking screen shots for this post, I realized it’s an Android app apparently not available on iPhones. I apologize for that. Surely there’s something similar for iPhones, a call blocker that works by whitelisting your contacts.

It’s worth looking into. The peace and quiet is absolutely amazing.



Categories: Sci/Tech

15 replies

  1. My phone has a built-in “Block” feature. So when a call comes in with a number, I can select to block it from any further calls. Problems are, though, these junk callers will switch numbers or do not display their number. Some use old cell phone numbers that are no longer active. Plus, I’ve had some that will even get numbers within the same area code. When I see any calls from 505, I almost always answer them. If there’s no number, or “private”, I send it to voice mail. Occasionally it is a legit call from one of my clients and they usually leave a message. I’ll call them right back.

    I do use an app that records all phone calls. I love it! After the call ends, I have it set to prompt me to either save or delete the recording. 9 times out of 10, I delete it. But it’s those 1 out of 10 calls that makes me glad I have the recorder. Most needed and used app I have.

    • My phone has the same blocking feature, which is pretty useless when the unwanted callers keep changing numbers. Many spoof my area code, so that’s no guarantee, and a few have even tried using my number (yes, the number they dialed).

      I assume your app tells callers that they are being recorded (I think it’s illegal not to). I’ve often called businesses and heard something like “Your call is being recorded so that we can better serve you” before somene or some machine answers.

      My bottom line is simply that ringing phones are intrusive and stress me out. I finally found a set-up where the only rings I hear are guaranteed to be people I know (and I can add them to a blocked list if I want to). I answered enough annoying calls when I was working and had no choice. Retirement is no alarms and no annoying phone calls.

      • Not sure about the legality. Probably illegal if I were to send or use the recordings elsewhere and did not have the callers approval. But I use it completely for my personal use. Most are deleted right away. I just keep business calls where there is a lot in info about a website so I can go back and reference it. And also when I schedule appts over the phone. I’m usually pretty good at adding them into my calendar, but sometimes I forget.

  2. I get probably get two or three robocalls a month on average these days, so it’s not a big problem for me. You’ve got me wondering why the big difference? My first thought was that perhaps your land-line number appears in phone books? I had mine removed several years ago and the robocalls have since gradually diminished. I found that this can be done with one call to the phone provider. My iPhone number is the same as my former land-line number.)

    When I do get a call from someone not in my contacts list, which I keep up to date, I just send it to voice mail. They usually don’t bother to leave one.

    • I’ve had the same landline number since 2005, when I moved here. And at the time it never occurred to me to have it unlisted. I had it unlisted last year, but it’s been out there so long, I doubt unlisting will make any difference. And I don’t think that’s where most of the callers got the number, in any case. Callers peddling products and services for the elderly, or for cancer patients, etc., must have gotten the number from other sources. And timeshares. For some reason, a lot of those callers think I have a timeshare I want to manage or sell. Never had or wanted one. The random calls could be robodialers. And a fair percent of the calls now come straight to my cell phone, a number I’ve never given to anyone but family.
      But since I’ve blocked them all now, I don’t know why they are calling. They never leave a message.

      Aha, there was one just now. The phone lights up but doesn’t ring. It was, supposedly, from Alabama.

      And would you believe, another one right behind it! From somewhere in Colorado.

      Anyway, you see the problem.

  3. Pied, you and I must both be on the same lists.

  4. Just for the record, it’s almost 8 pm here and so far today my call blocker has intercepted seven (7!) calls from unknown out-of-state numbers. Although all were forwarded to voicemail, none left a message. The last one came in at 7:30 pm.

  5. I don’t know whether I’m just lucky or not; but I’ve rarely received calls like this, the only calls I get are from listed recognized charities such as The Salvoes or Surf lifesaving,

    If I recall correctly, some years ago our socialist government of the day arranged some type of set up that we could opt out of taking unwanted calls, and it obviously still works.

    I selected the opt out and I can’t recall the last unwanted call I ever received.

“I cannot be an optimist but I am a prisoner of hope.” ~ Cornel West

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