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Eliminating those annoying Robocalls!

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robohand150x120I’ll bet you get them too – those unsolicited marketing calls from automated systems set up to dial numbers from a database at all hours of the day and night!  If you and your family still use a standard landline or VoIP carrier for your home phone or small business, chances are pretty high that you’re receiving these annoying calls.  The FTC regulates against most of this type of intrusion into our personal lives, it just hasn’t been very effective because much of the illegal activity is off-shore and out of reach for prosecution.  And of course, in these situations, being on the ‘Do Not Call’ list (https://www.donotcall.gov/) doesn’t provide much relief, either (though we still recommend that you register).

 Even if you’ve moved completely to mobile for your business and personal phone needs, you may still get these calls, but the FCC is also involved here, along with the FTC, and penalties are more substantial because, in this case, the illegal callers are potentially now costing YOU money!  While ‘landline’ type phone users (in the USA) are not charged for incoming calls, that may not be true for mobile users.  Depending on your carrier and plan, you may be footing the bill for these incoming calls. Robocallers tend to be more careful where mobile is concerned to avoid tougher legal actions.

We’ve been close to ‘cutting the cord’, but just haven’t done it yet, unwilling to go through the pain of updating schools, doctors, other service providers, creditors, family, friends, etc..  Maybe we’re getting more comfortable with that decision, but until then, we put up with literally several calls a day, including Saturday and Sunday, and even after 9:00 PM.  Every time the phone rings, my wife and I look at each other and cringe – most likely it’s a call we do not want.

Over the years, we’ve tried various ‘wannabe’ solutions.  The DoNotCall registry was pretty effective several years back, but as I mentioned, not so much anymore.  Probably the most effective solution, and one that we’re still using today, is a ‘Number Block’ feature on a set of DECT 6.0 wireless phones we’ve owned for a couple of years now.  More and more consumer ‘landline-type’ phones are available with that feature these days.  Some carriers now offer it as a service feature, as well.  The downside for phones offering that feature is that they have limited capacity.  Our DECT phone, for instance, is limited to only 30 numbers in the ‘Blocked Number’ list.  I say “only 30” and you might think, wow, that should be plenty.  But we’ve used all 30 and it’s pretty effective for a while, but robocallers tend to change the numbers they use once they see their success rates dropping off.  So we end up trying to figure out which numbers in our list can be replaced with the new numbers calling.  It would be easier if the technology allowed for something like a “first in, first out” stack, so the oldest gets removed when new numbers are added.  But, alas, that’s not the case.

By now, you’re probably wondering, “where the heck is this going?”.  Well, I recently heard about another solution that really got my attention.  And I think it’s so great, yet so simple, that I wanted to share it with as many people as I can!

The solution is called NOMOROBO (pronounced “no more robo”,  http://www.nomorobo.com/).  It’s an absolutely FREE service and really does work.  I’d like to provide some brief background, so please stick with me just a little longer.

nomorobo400x300

The FTC is so plagued with consumer complaints about robocalls it has become a huge problem and priority for the agency.  Looking for a solution, the FTC publically launched the ROBOCALL Challenge earlier this year, with a $50,000 prize going to the most innovative and effective solution (http://robocall.challengepost.com/).  In April, two developers tied for and split the first place prize money.  $25,000 was awarded to Aaron Foss, a software programmer from Long Island who says he hates robocallers “as much as you do!”.  Since that time, nomorobo.com has been under development and went live just over one month ago on September 30th.

Nomorobo is a cloud based service and it’s very easy to sign up and enroll your phone number(s).  The only requirement is that your carrier supports a feature called ‘simultaneous ring’, which is typically used to ring multiple places whenever a call comes in, such as maybe also ringing your mobile phone while you’re out, so you don’t miss calls at home.  If your carrier supports ‘simultaneous ring’ you will be allowed to enter multiple phone numbers.  During signup and setup, Nomorobo will provide a phone number that you’ll need to add to your ‘simultaneous ring’ list.  Instructions for your specific carrier are provided.  If your carrier isn’t supported, Nomorobo knows that and provides a phone number you can call and request that the feature be added to your service; the idea being that the more people who call, the faster it will be done.

Nomorobo works by checking known robocaller phone numbers against a database, automatically answering and hanging up if the number is found.  This happens quickly and, depending on your carrier and phone equipment, you may or may not hear only one ring or a quick partial ring whenever a robocall is handled.

As I said, the service is 100% free, no strings and it’s effective.  We set up the service for our home phone a couple of weeks ago.  Now we’re using Nomorobo to filter out all of those ‘known’ robocallers and we have started using the ‘number block’ feature within the phone itself for calls that slip through and/or for those additional calls (political, etc.) that we also do not want.  And, if you do feel illegal calls have slipped through, you can report them at nomorobo.com.  If they’re legitimately against regulations, they’ll be added to the database, which already contains over 1.2 million known, illegal robocaller numbers.  Fantastic!

There are a number of other very good reviews of the new service on the homepage at nomorobo.com, so be sure to check them out as well.  If you do decide to give it a try, drop us a comment here on the blog and let us know what you think.  As always, thanks for reading!

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