Why robocalls have taken over your phone

“By 2009, Chris Hughson was fed up. The Portland area realtor was getting bombarded with spam texts and calls, as many as 10 a day, despite having his number on the Do Not Call Registry. He assumed his phone number had made it to some list, but he wasn’t sure what else he could do. “There’s got to be a way to strike back,” he thought,” Colin Lecher reports for The Verge. “Since then, Hughson, who studied law but never practiced, has filed dozens of lawsuits under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law that lets consumers take callers to court if they’re called while on the Do Not Call Registry.”

“Hughson is stepping into a system that’s already left many Americans frustrated,” Lecher reports. “Washington has tried several tactics to stem the tide of automated calls, from passing the TCPA in 1991 to establishing the Do Not Call Registry in 2003. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regularly hands down multimillion-dollar penalties against individual robocallers. But the calls keep coming, and the problem has only gotten worse, leaving targets like Hughson with no choice but to take matters into their own hands.”

“The issue is the ease of becoming a robocaller. Anyone with a minor amount of technical ability can run their own system by downloading the relevant software,” Lecher reports. “The Do Not Call Registry was meant to preemptively stop calls, but if marketers are already breaking the rules, it’s unlikely the list will stop them… Ajit Pai, as chairman of the FCC, the other agency in charge of tackling robocalls, has said the issue is a cornerstone of his tenure. In one major move, the agency recently announced an $82 million fine against a caller. According to the agency, the marketer used spoofing technology to fake caller IDs, then made more than 21 million calls to sell health insurance. The FCC noted it was one of the largest forfeitures ever imposed by the agency.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: With iOS, you can block contacts and phone numbers on your device.

When you block a phone number or contact, they can still leave a voicemail, but you won’t get a notification. Messages that are sent or received won’t be delivered. Also, the contact won’t get a notification that the call or message was blocked.

To see the phone numbers and contacts that you’ve blocked from Phone, FaceTime, or Messages:

• Phone: Go to Settings > Phone > Call Blocking & Identification.
• FaceTime: Go to Settings > FaceTime > Blocked.
• Messages: Go to Settings > Messages > Blocked.

From these screens, you can add or unblock contacts or unblock phone numbers.

To add a contact from Phone, go to Settings > Phone > Call Blocking & Identification > Block Contact. Then tap the contact that you want to block. To add a contact from Messages or FaceTime, go to Settings > Messages or Settings > FaceTime, scroll down and tap Blocked, tap Add New, then select the contact that you want to block. To unblock a contact or phone number, swipe left over the number, then tap Unblock.


    1. What you say is true, but read my post below. My method has cut my robocalls by about 2/3rds as near as I can tell.

      The only real solution is for EVERYONE to NEVER give money to cold callers. NEVER,EVER.

      1. Let me be clearer:

        if the first contact you have with a business is a spoofed caller ID and in violation of the do not call list, DO NOT GIVE THEM ANY MONEY EVER!

        Why would you? The first contact you have with them is them LYING to you and BREAKING THE LAW. Think.

  1. I have blocked over 340 numbers on my iPhone using the method MDN shows above.

    One favorite thing of robocallers is to “spoof” caller ID with the first 6 digits of your ten digit phone number. I have blocked over 180 of these numbers which is almost 2% of the 10,000 possible numbers. I have to answer my phone because I use it for business and I can determine that it is a robocall and block it within about 3 seconds. (if you are a business relation of mine, as soon as you call me once, I create a contact for you.)

    Even with this I STILL get about 25 robocalls a month.

    PS: I have NEVER given ANY money to a “cold calling” business in my life. I’ve had a phone in my name for over 40 years. If it seems like a worthy charity I say “I do not accept telephone solicitations but you are welcome to mail me anything you’d like”. Click. I’ve received just two things in the mail in my life. Very few worthy charities will cold call you on the phone. Give elsewhere.

    1. I’m astonished that you’ve needed to block 340 numbers. If you’re on a DNC registry ( do not call ), then it’s clearly a massive regulatory and enforcement failure.

      Here in the UK, I can’t remember the last time I had such a call. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t had a single one this year and very few in the last three or four years. My cellphone is my primary way for clients to contact me and I’ve had the same number since 1989, I opted for my my landline number not to be listed in the telephone directory and both numbers are on the DNC register.

      There was a time when I used to regularly get marketing calls, often at inconsiderate times and frequently repeated, but the regulations here have been tightened and there are now significant penalties for offenders. Unsolicited marketing calls have largely disappeared for me.

      It’s also noticeable how little spam I get sent now that we have the GDPR laws to stop that sort of abuse. The combination of GDPR regulations, e-mail filtering and always checking the box to decile marketing efforts means that I scarily ever see any spam in my in-box.

      It’s obviously possible for regulations to work. If you don’t have effective regulations to stop unsolicited communications then it’s because your politicians have chosen to protect somebody else’s interests ( businesses ) rather than protect your interests.

  2. I WISH I could do a while card block, blocking any number where the first six digits were the same as my phone number. That would cut my robocalls in half. Virtually no robocaller ever leaves a message. So if someone left a message (because it was a real call) and I could still retrieve it, I would call them back and whitelist their number. A better system would be that the telcos could verify that the number presented for Caller ID was actually the number the call was placed from. As understand it, this is technically possible but they don’t want to expend resources to do it. I’m sure if I’m wrong about that, someone will correct me.

    1. Caller-ID spoofing is legal so that people who are, for example, victims of stalkers or domestic violence can make calls without giving away their identity or location. This is why the telcos do not prohibit the practice, not due to any laziness or technical issues.

      1. You can make a call with caller ID set to “private”, this is very different than sending a false number.

        Telcos could detect this difference simply by the quantity of calls going out. In my view, they could block robocalls at the source. It is my understanding that they cannot do that because of “call completion” rules. Those rules need to change. There should be special rules about telemarketing calls for Telcos namely 1) all cold call telemarking calls must originate from inside the US and 2) Caller ID must not be spoofed and must reflect the actual business location.

  3. I block and block and block. I sometimes wish for the Wild Card blocking also. I find that the more I contribute to charities, the worse it gets. I give to veterans charities and every police agency in the city calls.(Those are really sketch.) I give to DonorsChoose.org and education charities start calling. My father died and now I constantly get calls for his widow. No matter whether people say they will keep your name private, who you give to somehow gets around.

    1. My fiancée is an immigrant about to become a citizen. When she arrived they advised her to enroll on ObamaCare so now that it is open enrollment she gets at least one call every 20 minutes, from 9 am till 9 pm.

      Thanks ObamaCare!!

  4. My biggest beef isn’t even with the numbers similar to my own, because I can ignore or block those. It’s with the numbers that spoof legitimate local businesses which might actually have a reason to call me. I’ve gotten robocalls attributable to my doctor’s office and a garage I service my car at. I can’t block those…

    1. Yeah, those calls may be legitimate. The only thing you can really do about those is to ‘filter’ your calls by setting your voice mail message to one that tells them to leave a message that you will return promptly and not answer any calls immediately.

    2. Agreed, it is an impossible situation.

      And for crazy spoofs, I got a call from myself(!) last week.

      And it wasn’t one of my other numbers – it was the exact same number that I was receiving the call on.

    1. I use Mr. Number. It doesn’t have wild card blocking but it does have a shared database of ‘suspected spam’ and identified ‘scam and fraud’ calls reported by other users of Mr. Number. I’ve cut my ‘spam’ calls down to about 2 out of 100. If it had a wild card block too I might be able to reduce that slightly too. 😀 You can also whitelist calls from people in your contacts and private numbers you select.

  5. 1st I don’t give my cell phone to ANYONE.
    2nd, I still have a home phone I use for everything else.
    3rd, signed up for NO MORE ROBO.

    That handles well over 90% of Robo calls.

    With NOMOREROBO Iet 1 ring on the phone, which is annoying, but at least it goes away after 1 ring.

  6. I don’t answer unless the person starts talking first AND I can identify the person as desirable. All others can talk and talk to waste their resources. Easy. No problem.

    And do not ever put your number on the Do Not Call List because it’s compromised; It merely tells the offending Robocaller that your number is live and exploitable. Do not give your number to a POS person when she or he asks. Just say no because that’s an aggressive act and give them a mean stare. Do not donate over the phone. Donate to a physical charity with cash.

  7. I’ve been using Hiya to try and identify these callers. I’ve blocked them through Hiya AND my iPhone. So far, I have close to 1,000 blocked phone numbers.

    They just never stop.

  8. There is SW that allows you to whitelist incoming calls- block everything not on your contact list. That would be an answer for some.

    I handle it differently:

    1- I give my iPhone number to very few people. Any call that comes in without caller ID or on my list gets blocked and is not answered. Do not answer- if you answer, they know it is a working phone.
    2- I have a Skype number and use that for sales people and such. They get that number and I never look at it unless I am expecting something to be there, like a price quote.

    It seems to have done the trick. I used to use TruPhone’s VoIP app for the second number, but they discontinued the service- forcing me to Skype.

  9. This may get a little technical, so if you’re not interested, stop reading here.

    The problem with robocalling is that the system is INHERENTLY BIASED TOWARD ROBOCALLS.


    Because when a call is set up, the receiving node ACCEPTS WITHOUT QUESTION the information sent by the sending node, doing nothing at all to verify it.

    What needs to change is a backwards authentication – in other words, the receiving node should set up an independent back-connection to the sending node, using the information sent by the sending node, to ensure that they are talking to the same node. This means that the receiver has UNQUESTIONABLE identification of the sender, and if they are a spam source they can be blocked by their (registered) ID, and thus lose access to the network for calls. (IP address won’t do it, btw – they’re too easy to change.)

    But the current SIP protocols do not have this incorporated into them, and the changeover would be very expensive, so it’s unlikely we’ll see this change anytime soon.

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