We all know robocalls – those annoying automated phone calls with pre-recorded messages.

They range from the annoying (“Hi, this is Rachel from card services calling about your credit card account…”) to the dubious (“We are calling to tell you that the IRS has issued a warrant for your arrest…”).

Robocalls have increased exponentially in recent years because technology has made it cheaper and easier for robocallers to make calls from anywhere in the world. Meanwhile, the robocallers are able to hide their identities by displaying fake Caller ID information, a practice known as spoofing.

The problem is quite widespread—according to a new survey from Clutch, more than 50% of respondents receive at least one robocall per day. But what can be done to stop the flow of automated calls that flood our phone lines?

This article will discuss a number of effective (and not-so-effective) methods that we can use to stop these intrusive unwanted calls.

Throw a “Block Party”

Both Android and iOS devices give you the option to block calls from any number.

Call blocking is also available on landlines through carriers like Comcast and Verizon.

This handy feature is simple and can be effective, but it has its limitations.

First, the call blocking feature only works after you have received a call from the number you wish to block. So, you will have to answer the call and verify that it is a robocall in order to block the number.

Second, some devices or carriers may have a limit on the number of blocks you can place. Verizon Fios, for example, sets a limit of 100 blocked numbers.

Third, with spoofing technology so advanced, robocallers have an almost unlimited supply of numbers at their disposal, so blocking them all would be an arduous, never-ending task.

Get on “The List”

Back in 2003, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created the National Do Not Call Registry. Consumers were able to add their phone numbers, both landline and cellular, to the Do Not Call list, letting businesses know that the number(s) should not be used for telemarketing purposes.

The registry was met by numerous legal challenges from the telemarketing industry, which claimed irreparable damages if telemarketing calls were forced to cease.

By implementing the Do Not Call list, the FTC became the “telemarketing police”—if a telemarketer called a number on the list, the consumer could report the telemarketer, which would face fines and other forms of punishment depending upon the number and seriousness of the violations. For example, in 2014, Sprint was fined a record $7.5 million for continuing to call people whose numbers appeared on the Do Not Call list.

Today’s robocallers, though, have little to no fear of the FTC. For one, because the numbers are most likely spoofed, there is little chance that the robocaller will be caught. Instead, innocent people whose numbers were spoofed find themselves on the receiving end of threatening letters from the FTC, even though they have never called anyone.

With technology having taken the teeth out of the FTC’s punitive measures relating to the Do Not Call list, adding one’s numbers to the list is no longer guaranteed to reduce the number of robocalls. In fact, according to Clutch’s survey, nearly half of the people who signed up for the registry reported that the number of robocalls receive has remained the same.

Fight Tech with Tech

Just as technology has empowered the robocaller to push unwanted calls through to our phones, technology is available to keep robocalls at bay.

Third-party screening tools have become popular with many consumers. About 25% of respondents to the Clutch survey said they have implemented a tool, with most doing so through their cellular provider.

One of the more popular screening tools is Nomorobo, which claims to block almost 1.25 million robocallers.

Nomorobo is available for both landlines (free) and cellular devices ($1.99 per device per month).

Another popular service is YouMail, which replaces your phone’s voicemail with a visual voicemail platform that can also screen calls and block robocalls.

YouMail’s paid platform ranges from $5 to $10 per month, depending upon the features desired.

The third-party screening tools and apps use both adaptive learning (i.e., blocking spoofed calls that use the same area code and exchange as your phone number) and user-provided information (e.g., numbers that other users have blocked) to try and stay one step ahead of the robocallers.

Meanwhile, certain service providers are also getting in on the act. In 2016, AT&T launched AT&T Call Protect, a free service that automatically blocks fraud calls and gives screen alerts for suspected incoming spam calls. The service is available to eligible AT&T wireless customers with HD Voice.

Businesses who are concerned about robocalls effecting their company may wish to invest in an answering service or virtual assistant that can screen out robocalls.

Lawmakers Push Back

In response to public sentiment, lawmakers and law enforcers continue to make a push for more control over number spoofing, especially since it makes robocalling easier and less traceable.

In October 2018, 35 state attorneys general issued a joint letter urging the federal government to step up efforts to fight illegal robocalls. The joint letter requested that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) further strengthen rules to allow service providers to block certain categories of robocalls, specifically spoofed calls.

Meanwhile, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have introduced and passed legislation giving the FCC more authority to combat the robocall epidemic.

In a published response, the FCC said it “is considering taking additional action to empower service providers to block illegal robocalls.” But that is hardly a guarantee of action, particularly since the FCC last approved new rules in November 2017 to protect consumers from unwanted robocalls, allowing phone companies to proactively block calls that are likely to be fraudulent because they come from certain types of phone numbers.

Take Action … and More Action

It’s ironic that the public demand for number portability—the ability to move one’s phone number from carrier to carrier—also allowed for number spoofing and increased robocalling. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for…”

With that said, there are a number of ways that consumers can significantly reduce the number of robocalls that plague both the landline and cellular phone networks. Legislators are trying to stem the tide of robocalls, but those efforts can take years to make any significant difference.

In the meantime, you can employ any (or all) of the other available options. The best way to combat robocallers is to employ a variety of strategies—individual call blocking, “do not call” lists, paid third-party apps, and free service provider platforms.

While some work better than others, and no single method is guaranteed to completely rid your phone line of unwanted robocalls, a combined approach may significantly reduce the number of unwanted calls that find their way to your phone each day.

This article was written by David Oragui and Riley Panko.