They are the bane of human civilization. By now you have all had hundreds of them if you have a telephone which is ever turned on. Many services are out there trying to make a fast buck blocking various numbers for you. Almost all of the scammers are using some kind of VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone system which allows them to mask their caller ID. Not just mask it, to physically change the number and it seems they use a new number to call you from each and every day.

This is Windows Company calling about a virus we’ve detected on your computer. We need you to give us access to remove it . . .

This is the IRS calling to let you know there is an arrest warrant issued for you unless you pay . . .

Apple technical support calling about your . . .

Hello, is Brandon there?

The Apple technical support scam seems to be directed at senior citizens and somehow they’ve managed to get onto the AARP new member advertisers alert list. At least until I joined AARP I had never heard of that scam. Then they started calling multiple times per day.

You know, we shouldn’t have to pay AT&T, Verizon, etc. to block these callers. We shouldn’t have to pay or sign up for a service like nomorobo.com. In fact, we didn’t have to until Google (maker of the Android OS) and phone makers decided they wanted to cash in on this revenue stream. Now, many/most phones allow you to block X numbers. A totally useless feature given the robo call scams are rotating the displayed phone number ever so many hours. So what if your phone lets you block 25 numbers and your carrier, for a fee, will let you block a 100? If your phone number is published anywhere, like your resume posted on a job board, phone scammers can chew through that many numbers in a few days. It also over looks the fact you have to get interrupted at least once to find out the caller is a pile of shit, then you have to take the time to block it.

Guess what? We never had to endure this.

Long ago I bought a Sonim XP Bolt on eBay for around $50 delivered to my door. It’s a military grade rugged phone. It survives drops well above that pathetic “2 meters” most worthless phones hawking themselves as rugged claim to survive. I’ve dropped this baby onto concrete working out in the shop many times, it still works fine. Try that with your $1000 iDiot phone.

Calling Restrictions

I do hope you can see that Calls menu. Call History, Call Settings, and finally Calling Restrictions. That last menu is really awesome. I played the blocking numbers game for a long time and the scam calls just kept getting more frequent. Now, absolutely none get through.

You read that correctly, none get through.

If the phone is sitting on my desk I see the screen light up telling me there is a new missed call, but that’s it. When I sit it on the cabinet beside me I see nothing. Most importantly I hear nothing. Only people I wish to speak with get through. Everyone else goes to voice mail.

Guess what? Scam callers don’t bother with voice mail. Oh sure. Many of the non-English speaking pimps leave a voice mail about a $40/hr IT contract in California, New York, etc. but they are learning to seek a terrorist elsewhere. Only an illegal alien would take a software consulting contract at that rate. Starting IT salaries are around $150K plus bonus and bennies so, yeah, everybody turns these contracts down except illegal aliens.

So far the only other problem with this solution has been the BT45-TOY I had installed in my Toyota Avalon. Given all of the laws about hands free and the fact I keep misplacing earpieces, I bit the bullet and had an after market Bluetooth system installed. It works great and lets me answer/reject calls using the up/down tuning arrows on the steering wheel. If I choose I can even play music through it. Sadly, when the screen lights up to inform me of a missed call, the BT45-TOY takes over the radio expecting a call and doesn’t return to what it was previously doing. So far that’s the only real annoyance with this solution.

Ah yes, the solution.

allow contactsNobody should buy a phone which doesn’t have this feature. The default setting is “Allow all.” “Block reject-list” routes only the numbers on the built in reject list to voice mail. “Block all” sends everyone to voice mail.

The sweet spot is “Allow contacts.” Only a call from a number in your contacts list gets through. Everybody else gets told to leave a message without the phone even ringing. How sweet is that?

Enabling this has the added benefit of educating scammers about your number. While I got scam calls every day of the week, multiple times per day, Thursdays used to be a no-work day. Every time I tried to focus on anything I would be interrupted by yet another phone scam. The Do Not Call list is a ()&*)(*&ing joke. Scammers seem to use it just to get valid phone numbers to call.

After however many weeks of having this turned on, I’m down to three, maybe four callers which go to voice mail and don’t leave a message. Some percentage of them are illegal alien recruiters. I know this because when I’m bored I Google search the phone numbers. A legitimate pimp will leave a voice mail if they’ve read your resume and are shopping around a contract actually paying market rate instead of some token dollar amount the firm thinks they can get away with.

I love this feature. Don’t buy a phone which doesn’t have the feature.

I’m serious. Your life gets way better. You don’t have to fork over additional money to your carrier or some service or anything like that. Sadly, not every phone has this feature.

stick phonesCase in point would be the Sonim XP5700 I bought for around $50 because I figured this 3G Bolt would stop working when the 3G towers all get shut down in 2020. I ass-u-med Sonim was using actual software engineering instead of that absolutely worthless AGILE scam. Ha! More fool me! Hacking on the fly by any other name is still hacking on the fly.

Does the newer supposedly better XP5700 have this feature? Nooooo. I contact Sonim customer support and ask which phone has this feature. Only the latest and greatest XP8 with a massive price tag.

That’s right. A feature which existed on a rugged phone I bought for $50 a long time ago got lost via AGILE and didn’t make it back into the product line until the XP8.

The first question you need to ask anyone hawking you a phone.

Can I restrict incoming calls and messages to only numbers found in my contact list?

No add-on services. No extra fees. No “install an app.” The phone must let you do this out of the box. If not, buy a different phone.

This isn’t a high tech solution. It’s not rocket science. This really was the original idea behind caller ID.

One Reply to “Eliminate Robo Calls by Choosing the Right Phone”

  1. Roland – Excellent article. I especially enjoyed the connection between cellular carriers and the quest to expose the pitfalls of AGILE.

    I freely admit I’m an iPhone (idiot phone) user and have for some time been trying to reconfigure settings to avoid the constant interruptions and theft of my time to block. I also received those “Who the F are you?” texts after I’ve been driving without the phone plugged into the car’s system (my idiot phone is set up to automatically send a text if I’m driving and the phone isn’t plugged in). I’ve since learned that the latest Apple software allows settings that will only ring if the calling number is in your contact list (hassle to set up but worth the trouble).

    All said, I’m intrigued about switching to an XP8 since I need its rugged survivability and don’t need any of the fluff that accompanies the other touch screen models.

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