Do you get annoying robocalls? It's a stupid question, because almost everyone in America does.
Some of the tricks these callers use are pretty crafty, and the fraud callers who threaten you can be seriously menacing.
Protect yourself from being taken advantage of and stop the calls for good by following these seven tips.
1. Join the Do Not Call registry
You can sign your home and mobile phone numbers up for the FTC's Do Not Call Registry.
The registry automatically blocks thousands of numbers connected to scams and frauds, including the most aggressive and well-known schemes.
But it will take a month to kick in for your numbers, and some callers will still get through.
Charities, political groups, debt collectors and surveys are not blocked by the list.
Never fill out a form or robocall to update your DNC Registry membership. This is a scam, since you automatically stay registered forever.
2. Do not answer numbers you don't recognize
Our parents taught us this old-fashioned safety tip, but it still works today.
More and more scammers are using high-tech tricks that make it seem like they have local area codes, but if you don't recognize the number don't pick up.
Callers track your reactions to their phone calls. If their calls go straight to voicemail a few times in a row, they just might take your name off the list.
On the other hand, if you recognize that a business you dealt with or a charity you gave your information to is calling you, you need to answer and politely ask them to stop calling.
3. Don't say a word
If you do pick up the phone and find you've answered a telemarketer, spam caller or robocall, hang up immediately.
It can be tempting to curse out the caller, but that just tells them someone is home.
Everything you do or say is noted by callers as "callback information" so they can reach you again.
That includes pressing buttons for robocalls too. If you pick up a bad call, hang up straight away.
Some scams need just one word to get you in serious trouble.
4. Follow these guides for block pesky numbers
Most home phone providers offer a free service to block small groups of numbers that regularly harass you.
Savvy scammers might change their number, but there's a chance blocking them will send a strong message to leave you alone for good.
It's even easier to block numbers on your cellphone.
5. Download a special number-blocking app
The Do Not Call registry is just one list of unwanted numbers. You can block more from calling you by downloading certain cellphone apps.
YouMail, Hiya, Nomorobo and Robokiller will all block numbers from their massive databases of scam callers.
Be aware that most of these apps require a monthly or annual subscription, but some offer a free trial.
Certain apps even work on landlines if they're bundled with your internet service provider.
6. Get protection from your carrier
For one more layer of protection from scammers, you can sign up for call-blocking services from your phone carrier.
Some offer free telemarketer blocking programs, while some make you pay extra. But all the systems will block or identify fraud, spam, and robocall numbers so you can avoid their calls.
A few of the programs are AT&T's Call Protect phone app, Sprint Premium Caller ID (which costs extra), T-Mobile Scam ID and Scam Block, and Verizon's Caller Name ID.
7. Do not disturb mode
This is a very harsh step, and it only works on a cell phone, but I can say from personal experience it works wonders.
All cell phones have a setting called Do Not Disturb that blocks calls from anyone who is not in your Contacts list.
Unknown numbers go straight to your voicemail, and you can add them to your contacts later if you like.
Anything and everything unknown is blocked, so you're guaranteed to get some peace and quiet.
Here is more helpful advice about technology:
- 27 apps that will change your life without costing a penny.
- The 5 things you must do to protect your privacy on Facebook.
- 10 simple solutions to your most common tech problems.