On Computing

Tips on Dealing with Robocalls …

Joel Howell

Article by Joel Howell Newsletter Editorial Board


Bet you thought the Do Not Call Registry was the end of your problems. Then you started getting spam calls on your cell phone, and, perhaps worse, spam texts. With thanks to Kim Komando and the usual Internet sources, here are some hints you may find helpful.

Robocalls are the telemarketers of the twenty-first century, and they act not only as annoying advertisers but also as solicitors of your private information. These automated calls are aided by the technologies of today that allow them to make more calls at a faster rate than ever before. This begs the question: how do you know when you are talking to an automated caller or indeed, avoid them altogether? Like all things, there’s an app for that, and here are a few.

Nomorobo iOS Android View Site

Nomorobo, available at the App Store or Google Play, for iOS or Android, ($1.99 a month), is one of the most popular. Your phone need only ring once before the app intercepts it and determines whether or not you’re dealing with a robocaller, in which case, it graciously hangs up your phone for you. In addition, it dips into a database of known illegal callers and blocks them from your phone. Before signing up, make sure it’s supported by your phone’s carrier.

TrueCaller iOS Android View Site

Any phone with caller ID can tell you if you’re about to answer a call from an unknown number, and it’s at your discretion whether you decide to brave the possibility of an automated telemarketer. However, that seems a little inconvenient when you realize you might not have every number you’ve ever called saved into your phone. That’s where TrueCaller comes in. It lets you search for an unknown number in its database and warns you when it knows you’re getting a spam call. From there you simply have to block the caller, and even better, it’s all free. Note, however, that to do so, it will access your contacts and even share them, so a thorough reading of the app’s privacy policy is in order.

Hiya View Site

Another app that’s free of charge is Hiya. It does the job of the other two apps combined. You can ID and block robocalls and search their numbers to find out exactly who just called you. A nice feature for a free app is the lack of ads. Note, though, that it adds your contacts to its database. While it promises not to sell them to third parties, it’s safer to read the privacy policy to make sure.

Text Message Blocking

These apps all apply to unwanted callers, but what about unwanted texters? Blocking a call doesn’t always mean blocking the source’s ability to text you, as well, so here are a few ways to do both:

How to Block on Apple Products:

There are ways to block text messages inherent to Apple products. First, open the Messages app on your phone and select the conversation from the number you would like to block, then click Details. Once there, select the Info page, marked by a small circle with the letter “i” in it; then select Block this Caller.

You can also block texts in iOS manually. Open the Settings app on your phone and tap Messages in the listing. Next, select Blocked under SMS/MMS then Add New, and type the number or contact you wish to block. No matter which way you choose to block a text in iOS, it will also automatically prevent you from receiving calls or FaceTime requests from the blocked number.

If you want to get Apple involved, you can always report junk messages you receive. When you receive a message from an unknown number, a “Report Junk” link appears in the conversation. If you click this link, it will send the messenger’s information and unwanted message to Apple, who should be able keep the contact from reaching you again. Unfortunately, this only works with iMessage and not SMS and MMS. For those junk messages, you’ll have to contact your phone’s carrier, who should have a number for you to report spam to.

How do these methods apply to unknown or private numbers? These are trickier, since you won’t have a number to add to your block list. A way to do this is to go to Messages in your Settings and select Filter Unknown Senders. If you receive a text from an unknown number, it shows up in a different tab in your Messages App, and your phone won’t show you a notification for it.

How to block on Android Devices:

If you have an Android phone, there are several ways to block junk texts.

If you’re using a Google phone, there are two ways to block numbers from within the Messenger app. Open the conversation of the number you want to block and click the three vertical dots in the corner of the screen. Then, tap People & Options, and select Block. Another way to block numbers in the Messenger App is to click and hold down the conversation from the unwanted number. A list of options should appear; select Block, then Ok.

Like a Google phone, Samsung makes blocking a conversation in its app as easy as Messages > More > Block number. However, like an iPhone, you can also choose to do it manually. Go to Messages Settings and select Block messages from the list. From there, you have your choice of blocking messages, numbers, and even certain phrases in incoming texts. The Block numbers feature prevents a number from reaching you via call or text and lets you look at a comprehensive list of the numbers you’ve blocked.

The methods for blocking numbers on LG and HTC phones are nearly identical and both operate within the Messages App. On an LG phone, select the text you want to block, click on the three dots that appear on the screen, and select the Block number option. As for an HTC phone, click and hold the undesired text until Message options is displayed on the screen and select Block contact.

Carrier-Based Blocking

In addition to these built-in methods for blocking unwanted messages, phone carriers offer additional help when it comes to mobile spamming. Here are URLs for blocking help from the four largest cellular carriers:

Questions or comments? Drop me an email: jwh3@mindspring.com