How To Deal With Robocalls On Your iPhone

Spam robocalls are getting more and more common. They can be quite a nuisance. Some of the methods that people use to deal with these, such as blocking and reporting, are ineffective because the caller ID is fake. However, ignoring them, using custom ringtones, or using services from your mobile network can help alleviate the problem.

Video Transcript
So let's talk about something that I think affects every iPhone user. It's robocalls. There have been a lot of reports that robocalls have been getting worse and my personal experience has been that this is true. They are getting worse. Robocalls are a specific type of spam phone call you get that's done automatically through a machine, a computer. There's no person on the other end or maybe there's not a person until you actually engage with the robocall. So there can be a computer out there that just makes hundreds, thousands, or millions of these things very easily.

I hear lots of advice from people about how to prevent robocalls or stop robocalls or deal with them. A lot of it is just wrong advice that won't help and may actually make things worse. So I thought I'd do some research and figure out what the best way to deal with it is. So what doesn't work?

The first thing is blocking the number. So here's the thing. That caller ID that you get, that's faked. That could be faked just as easily as a return address on an envelope that somebody mails to you. Right. They can put anything they want there. They shouldn't be able to fake it and phone companies are reportedly working on a system for years in the future that will prevent this, but right now they can put any number they want.

The current technique is to actually use your area code and even your prefix, the next three digits after the area code, to make it look like a local number or maybe even a number that somehow triggers a memory that, I think this is somebody I know. So that number is faked. So blocking it isn't going to do anything because it's going to be different every time. You're going to end up with a huge list of blocked phone numbers and the phone call never actually came from those numbers. In the worst case scenario you may actually end up blocking somebody you know or maybe in the future you might know. So it's just a waste of time to try to do this. It's not actually going to stop the robocalls. So blocking doesn't work in this case.

Reporting is also something that's not going to work. This is not a real caller ID number so reporting this as getting a call from somebody here isn't going to help. What's worse is that the phone number could very well be from a real person. Last week, myself, I actually got a text from somebody saying, hey, stop trying to call me. Of course I hadn't been trying to call anybody let alone this person and I had to go and send him a polite message back saying I haven't called anybody. This is probably a spoofed, faked caller ID number and I'm getting them too. So getting mad at the person with that actual number is probably not going to help. Reporting it, whether it's to the phone company or some other service, you know some online site where you can list numbers that are doing spam calls, that's not help either and may actually hurt somebody whose number is being randomly used for this.

Here's another thing that doesn't work. The Do Not Call Registry. There are various do not call registries for different countries and of course in the United States. Putting your number on that will cut down on the number of legitimate calls you get. Legitimate marketing calls from companies. But all of these robocalls, they're breaking the law anyway by spoofing the caller ID, the anti-robocall laws, and all of this. They're not obeying the law so at that point they're not going to go and look on the registry and not call you for that. So that's a waste of time too. If you want to put your number on that anyway just to stop some legitimate marketing calls then sure, go ahead. But it's not going to help this.

So let's talk about what does work. The first thing you should do if you don't recognize the number is Don't Answer. It's a waste of your time to answer if you don't know who the person is on the other side. You've probably realized by now it's almost certainly a robocall. You can let it go to voicemail. If it is somebody legitimately trying to get in touch with you, maybe you didn't recognize the number, then they can leave a voicemail. But answering actually may make things worse as then they can put a checkmark next to it in the program there saying, hey somebody answers this number. Send them more calls.

Here's another thing people don't do. Hang Up! If you answer and you hear it's a robocall or whatever on the other end just immediately hang up. You don't need to wait around. You don't need to listen for an option or say something polite or any of that. Just hang up. These people are taking up your time and you shouldn't waste a second. Just hang up immediately.

Here's something I've seen people do and I have tried it in the past too. You can set custom ringtones for contacts on your iPhone. So you can go into Contacts and add some data to that contact. You know Edit the contact and Add a Field. One of those fields you can add is a Custom Ringtone. Now if you have, say, ten people that call you then you can set a custom ringtone for each of those people. You can set the same one or different ones for each one of them. Then you can go in and set a ringtone that's in Settings, Sounds as your general ringtone that's a very quiet, quick little ringtone. You know if you hear that ringtone that that's somebody that's not one of those ten people that usually call you and you can probably just ignore it. Not even take the phone out of your pocket.

So if you do see, on your phone, that it's a number you don't recognize and you want to ignore it you don't even have to listen to the ringtone. You can press the Sleep/Wake button on your phone and the person or robot on the other side will continue to hear the rings until the normal amount of rings goes through and then it goes to voicemail. If you want to actually send it directly to voicemail, by the way, you can press the Sleep/Wake button twice and it does that. But I kind of feel that that's almost sending a signal, in some way, that there is somebody actually at the other end. So you can use once for a suspected robocall and twice for somebody you actually know but you can't pick up the phone at the moment.

Now another things that does work is Provider Services. So these phone calls are coming in from AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, or whatever provider you have. That's the service that's providing your phone connectivity. Not Apple, not your iPhone's hardware. So it's really up to these companies to actually block these. They do actually provide some services. If you go onto their websites and search around you usually find some settings or something for these.

I'm on AT&T and AT&T actually has an app called AT&T Call Protect. This claims to do a better job identifying phone calls, blocking robocallers, things like that. So I'm giving this a try now. I'm not sure how well it works. Other services have the same thing. Some of these services charge extra for it. I think Verizon and Sprint currently charge a few dollars a month extra for these services. So, some of them are apps and some of them are things you need to setup in your account on the website for that service. So give that a try. Look through the Help information and if you can't find anything call and talk to your provider and see what they have. Maybe they'll even be able to tell you what they may have coming in the future. Here's what the AT&T Call Protect app kind of looks like so I'm hoping that I get a little better information when a call comes in.

Now, another thing you may want to try to look at are Third-Party apps. Until pretty recently third party apps couldn't do anything because they didn't have the ability to intercept phone calls. That was kind of a security issue. But now apparently there can be somethings they can do. One app I hear a lot of good things about is Hiya. There are a bunch of other ones in the App Store. I haven't tried any of these. I'd love to hear, in the Comments, if you have tried them and how successful they have been for you.

Comments: 30 Responses to “How To Deal With Robocalls On Your iPhone”

    Joan Rudloff
    7/23/18 @ 6:25 pm

    Hiya works well for me. It almost notified me of suspected spam call

    Joan Rudloff
    7/23/18 @ 6:26 pm

    Hiya works well for me. It almost notified me of suspected spam call. Highly recommend this free app.

    7/24/18 @ 8:59 am

    Downloaded the AT&T app, it says it partners with hiya to control spam calls. I just thought it was interesting you didn’t mention that since you said you were looking at the AT&T app as well as hiya. Maybe not as in-depth of coverage as I have been led to believe.

    7/24/18 @ 12:25 pm

    Mark: I hadn’t noticed that. Or, maybe it is new. Sorry about not being as in-depth as you hoped. I am just a guy that makes tutorials to try to help people out.

    7/25/18 @ 12:21 pm

    I LOVE Hiya. I have been using for about a year now.

    Mark Campagna
    7/26/18 @ 8:19 am

    Thank you for addressing this topic.

    Will Jenkyns Voices
    7/26/18 @ 8:38 am

    I use TrueCaller app, which does seem to intercept a number of these calls, preventing them from interrupting my working day, esp. if I’m in the studio. You can also add other numbers to the database to help others.

    Bob Riley
    7/26/18 @ 9:20 am

    Thank you very much, Gary, for this timely tutorial. My coworkers and I were discussing this topic the other day, and no one had a clue about handling this. Now, I’ve got some information that I can share with them. And, as always, your website :)

    David Peters
    7/26/18 @ 10:32 am

    I too use truecaller. It works very well for me. Been using it for about 3-4 yrs now

    Brian Kim
    7/26/18 @ 10:37 am

    Hiya App didn’t work, RoboKiller App works really well! Combine using phone providers I.D. Blocker will help much much better.

    Jan Landy
    7/26/18 @ 11:22 am

    I have been using True Caller, T-Mobile and YouMail. YouMail sees to be the best solution for me.

    John Lozes
    7/26/18 @ 11:31 am

    I am very happy with the Nomorobo App (subscription) and home service (free on most voice providers).

    Beverly Pevarnick
    7/26/18 @ 11:55 am

    Hiya works well for me. Thank you, Gary for all of your tips!!

    Rocky Berlier
    7/26/18 @ 12:03 pm

    I use TrueCaller as well. It seems to do a decent job, although I do still get a lot of robo calls with spoofed numbers (my area code and prefix). It’s a merry-go-round; I block the number, they change the number. I NEVER answer numbers I don’t know and press the sleep button immediately. Thanks for looking into this, Gary.

    7/26/18 @ 12:23 pm

    Are use the do not disturb button on my iPhone and no need to get calls from those on my contact list the other calls don’t rain through but I have to delete them

    7/26/18 @ 3:57 pm

    Since everyone in my address book/contact list is someone I would want to hear from, is there a way to set one ringtone for all of those? That way the default tone will alert me to a call from someone NOT in my address book.

    7/26/18 @ 4:41 pm

    I should clarify earlier question…is there a way to set one ringtone for all contacts at once (i.e. NOT have to go to each contact and manually change for each). Also, I do think there is some merit in blocking calls. Assuming they use your area code and first three-digits of your phone number, that leaves 4 numbers, which is a total of 10,000 combinations. Eventually you can block every conceivable choice making ID’ing a robocall easier.

    Joe Kozuh
    7/26/18 @ 8:26 pm

    Where the HELL is the federal government on the issue of Robocalls … ???
    Robocalls are interrupting MILLIONS of productive people every day … !!!
    The Federal gov must DECLARE WAR on Robocalls asap.
    Champion this cause with the Federal gov and we will follow you … !!!

    7/27/18 @ 1:58 am

    Donald: No, you have to set it for each one. But if you use Do Not Disturb then you can turn on Allow Calls From and “Favorites” and simply add all of them to your favorites list.

    7/27/18 @ 2:04 am

    Joe: The federal government long ago passed a law against spoofing phone numbers and robo calls. It really isn’t something they can do much about after passing the law. The solution has to come from the tech companies and they are working on it. But there are so many small telecoms and the phone system is an open system so it is a difficult problem.

    7/27/18 @ 3:57 pm

    I’ve been using Hiya with good success. Worth trying.

    Sharon Wetherby
    7/28/18 @ 6:31 pm

    Thanks for the information. AT&T is my provider too, but I didn’t know they have an app for our iPhones. Their NoMoRobo works well on our landline.

    Sharon Wetherby
    7/28/18 @ 6:54 pm

    Gary, I looked at the app details. There’s a $3.99 monthly fee. Not free. I now remember AT&T’s advertising a paid call blocker version for our cell phones when they launched the free NoMoRobo for our landline. We use AT&T mobile, internet, TV, & landline. Wouldn’t you think they could include this robo protection on a no-fee basis? Jerks!

    7/28/18 @ 7:20 pm

    Excellent video. Not only do these scumbags spoof their caller ID but they called me with MY NAME in the caller ID field, twice within a couple of minutes. I read somewhere that they use VOIP phone services so the Big Boys can’t catch them and shut ’em down. The VOIP services have no interest in asking for help to stop the scammers at it is their bread and butter. Thanks for your service to the Apple community, Gary.

    7/29/18 @ 1:13 am

    Sharon: There are actually two levels, a free one and a paid one. I’m using the free one and it is blocking some calls. I haven’t tried the paid one to see the difference. But yes, I agree that whatever it is, it should be included with your service.

    Mike Uram
    7/31/18 @ 9:29 am

    Thanks Gary, very helpful. A habit that I have tried to develop amongst family and friends is to first send a text that says “was going to call you, is this a good time?” This does two things, it let’s them know it’s really you and it avoids calling at inconvenient times. If I get a call without a preceding text I don’t answer, real callers will leave a voicemail.

    8/3/18 @ 5:48 am

    Should we use only one app? Is there a problem using both the ATT app and HIYA.

    8/3/18 @ 7:28 am

    Marjorie: Ot sounds like both may do the same thing, but try it and see.

    8/25/18 @ 10:23 pm

    Why don’t the politicians tax all callers $.05 or so for initiating a call? They don’t have any reservations of taxing us for everything else.

    jay burner
    8/26/18 @ 10:47 am

    How robo-callers outwitted the government and completely wrecked the Do Not Call list
    The Washington Post

Comments Closed.