Robocalling: It’s Truly an Epidemic

by Chris Bjorklund

One estimate claims that about one-­third of all phone calls are now robocalls. Photo: CC0 Creative Commons ©2019

Robocalls are out of control at my house. First, the landline rings. I don’t answer because I have Caller ID and don’t recognize the number. Then my cellphone rings with a similar number, and within a few minutes, my cable telephone line also rings. Did I mention my husband often gets a call on his cellphone around the same time? Calls to my landline sometimes start before 7am and continue as late as 10pm. We’ve had as many as 15 calls in a day. I’m not surprised by one estimate that says about one-third of all phone calls are now robocalls and scams.

I’ve done everything that’s recommended. I use the call-blocking feature on my iPhone after getting a spam call. I don’t ever answer calls from unrecognized numbers. I’ve registered my cell and landline numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry ( Last month, I called my carrier, AT&T, to see what could be done. They have extra protection called “Call Protect” which includes automatic fraud blocking. The mildly sympathetic agent also recommended the Do Not Call Registry, which I haven’t found to be very effective.

Some people are turning to apps like RoboKiller to fight back. For $3.99 per month, suspicious calls are forwarded to a recording that fools the scammers into thinking they’re talking to a real person. The idea is to waste the robocallers’ time and frustrate them so much that they’ll hang up and never call back. “Spoofing calls,” where the number looks like it’s from your area, are also blocked. RoboKiller’s website ( claims you’ll see a 90 percent reduction in spam calls within 30 days. I’ve read articles about other free or low-cost call blockers (Truecaller, Nomorobo and Hiya), but I haven’t tried any of these apps yet. If you have, let me know if they’ve worked for you.

There is some good news. According to Consumer Reports, some phone companies will soon be introducing new technology that blocks robocalls. It’s called “STIR and SHAKEN” (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs), which works with both landlines and mobile phones. It doesn’t prevent the calls, but it would make your Caller ID trustworthy again by marking suspicious calls as potentially fraudulent. But don’t expect the unwanted calls to stop overnight—the telecom industry is still working out the details of the program. Some carriers will have to upgrade their networks before the technology can be fully implemented.