Why an app may be your best bet for blocking unwanted calls

Local

It’s the number one consumer complaint in America – unwanted scam and robocalls.

Now, after years of trying to find a fix, the top federal agency in charge of protecting consumers has a recommendation:  to stop unwanted calls on your mobile phone, you need to download an app.

That’s what Gary Stanfill did.   He’s the manager of Champion Windows and Siding in Johnson City, and he says his mobile phone is a big part of his business.   But the number of unwanted scam and robocalls got the point he had to take action.

Gary Stanfill found success with the app "Mr. Number."  

“It was continuous, maybe 10 a day or even more,” Stanfill said.  “I didn’t know if it was a customer or who it may be.”

And he’s not alone.

The Federal Trade Commission says the most common consumer complaint in America is unwanted calls.

“None of us will defeat this scourge alone,” said Ajit Pai, Chairman FCC.   “Here at the FCC, defeating unwanted robocalls is our top consumer protection priority.”

So last month, the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communication Commission organized a joint forum with the goal of stopping unwanted calls.

The agencies say that, 15 years after the creation of the “Do Not Call Registry” which gives businesses notice when someone doesn’t want to be contacted by phone, unwanted phone calls are more common than ever.

“The calls keep coming,” said Terrell McSweeny, Commissioner FTC.

At the forum, top players in the communications industry called for phone carriers to do more to stop spoofing, the scammers’ way of masquerading as a local number to get past your caller ID.

But until that happens, the FTC and the FCC advice the public to download an app for their mobile phones.

“Consumers need tools to block the calls, and they need meaningful choices that work best for them,” said McSweeny.

The FTC was so anxious to encourage the creation of call blocking apps, the agency held a contest.  The winner was NoMoRoBo.

“The basic idea of a call blocking app is to decide when a caller is a bad guy and not ring,” said Alex Quilici, Chief Executive Officer of YouMail. 


How do they work?

Call blocking apps can be found in your phone’s app store.  It’s a normal download.  Some can be customized to your preferences.

Back at Champion Windows, Gary Stanfill chose the app “Mr. Number.”  

Now when his phone rings,   Stanfill can use the app to look up a number.  Known scam calls are labeled and blocked.  Ones that get through can be reported under a variety of categories.

“It’s made a remarkable difference with this phone ringing,” Stanfill said.   “I’m going from probably ten to a dozen a day to zero a day.”

We asked two WJHL staff members to try out other apps.

One downloaded “True Caller.”  The other downloaded the app called “Hiya”

Both reported no problems with the setup, and they noticed a reduction in unwanted calls.

And after all, that’s the ultimate goal for mobile phone users.

The FTC and FCC advise customers to register all phones on the Do Not Call Registry and to report scam calls to the federal government.   

Click HERE to sign up for the Do Not Call Registry and to report an unwanted calls.

Click HERE for apps and tips for blocking calls on iOS devices.

Click HERE for apps and tips for blocking calls on Android.

Click HERE for apps and tips for blocking calls on Windows.

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Recently, News Channel 11’s Washington DC Correspondent reported on a national symposium of government and private businesses that featured new technology for call blocking landline phones.

Federal officials and private companies want the annoying calls to stop.

The Federal Communications Commission says billions of robocalls are made each month.  But there are ways to block them

Brad Pittmon’s company VTECH communications developed phones that use automated messages to stop robocalls before they ring to you.  Every unknown caller gets a message.

“That outgoing message says this number does not accept unsolicited calls if you are a telemarketer please hang up and if you are not press pound,” said Brad Pittman, VTECH Communications.

The FCC says it receives nearly 200,000 complaints each year, and the majority of them deal with robocalls. Now, vendors along with lawmakers are working on ways to better protect consumers.

“There are these 3rd party app developers and phone companies that are providing these services already and we wants consumers to know about them,” said Patrick Webre, FCC Spokesman.  

Most of the scamming is coming from cell phones  Bill Sasso says his system uses caller id to determine if a call should go through or automatically hung up. 

“If it is a valid phone number, it is going to ring through if it’s been blocked it will be stopped immediately,” said Bill Sasso, Digitone.

While private companies continue to develop call blockers, the FCC is working with Congress to block the callers by increasing fines,  strengthening laws and tracking down illegal robocallers

“Be able to trace that call back to the originator in order to enforce the law If we find they are breaking the law in that manner,” Webre said. 

While the technology is not perfect, the FCC and developers are working on ways to make the nonstop ringing
 

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