robocalls

Stop the Robocalls! How to Help Silence Your Phone

“The economics of robocalling is that it's so cheap to make a million calls, you don’t need very many people to respond to make a profit," said Quilici. 

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If you get robocalls every day, you’re not alone. Those pesky calls keep coming through, even though the government has tried to stop them. But there are some steps you can take to help silence your phone. 

It’s estimated that four billion robocalls hit our phones every year. Many of them are dialing for dollars – fraudsters trying to trick us into turning over our money. Daniel Unger lost $11,000 after a robocaller spoofed his bank’s phone number, duping him into thinking his bank was calling and asking him to reset his password. 

“It’s embarrassing to realize that all you had to do was hang up the phone or not answer the phone,” said Unger. “But the way they spoofed it, the way they mimicked the phone call, I never got over that in my head, so mentally they had me.”

Alex Quilici, the CEO of YouMail, has been battling robocalls for years. 

“The economics of robocalling is that it's so cheap to make a million calls, you don’t need very many people to respond to make a profit," said Quilici. 

He says the federal government has tried to help – last summer it started requiring cell phone carriers to block calls from spoofed numbers. Quilici says it’s working, but it’s not entirely fixing the problem. 

“If I’m a bad guy, I can just go get a million real phone numbers that some carrier will say, ‘Yep that’s really my number,’” he explained. “We already see that happening at scale. So the bad guys actually look like a good guy.”

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But Quilici says there are things you can do to help reduce robocalls. First, if an unknown number pops up on your phone, don’t answer it. If they leave a voicemail, don’t return the call. 

And if you answer a number you recognize, maybe from your bank, make sure the number hasn't been spoofed. 

“Just because it says it’s Citibank doesn't mean it’s Citibank,” said Quilici. “Go to the website, look at your credit card, call that number and say, ‘Hey I just got a call from you guys, is that really you?’”

Finally, install an app designed to block robocalls. Quilici’s company, YouMail, has one you can download for free. There are others on the market too, like Robokiller and Nomorobo. Quilici says YouMail stops about 80% of bad calls. 

And there’s a collective perk to using an app: it’s helping put robocallers out of business. Companies like YouMail report to law enforcement all the robocall numbers it collects. 

“So the more consumers who have apps like ours, the faster the bad guys get shut down,” said Quilici. 

Quilici thinks we’ll see a significant decline in robocalls over the next few years. But he expects we’ll see an uptick in spam texts. His hope is that spam detection will soon be built into smartphones, so we won’t even see the calls or texts. Instead, they’ll be automatically blocked, like most spam emails. 

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