There is no ignoring the fact that robocalls are on the rise, and seem to want to drive the unsuspecting consumer mad. How mad? Well, in October 2019, Americans received around 5.7 billion spam calls during the month, which amounts to around 2,115 calls being placed per second. More than enough to drive anyone crazy.
Since the robocall scourge seems to be here to stay for a while, consumers need ways to protect themselves, their sanity, and their wallets, from robocalling and scams.
Robocalls on iPhone
The way this feature works is fairly simple: if your iPhone receives a call from an unknown number, that call will be silenced and sent to voicemail, along with showing up in your missed calls list. The premise is, if the call is legitimate, the person will leave a voicemail for you to hear, or you can call them back as you wish from the missed calls list.
To help sort your calls, Apple promises to not silence calls that have originated from a number you have exchanged texts with, or shows up in an email or in Siri Suggestions. Those calls will still get through.
A final caveat: if you place an emergency call, your phone will ring all calls for 24 hours so you can be reached via any means.
Seems like the answer to our prayers, right?
Unfortunately, not quite. A fact Apple even acknowledges in their guide for the feature. Let’s look at where this may fall short.
Some people just can’t silence calls
Remember, a key premise to this feature is that it silences all unknown calls that the phone has no familiarity with. Those calls are then sent to voicemail and leave a ‘missed calls’ note.
Well, if you work in sales, own a business, are responsible for customer satisfaction, work with a large number of people, etc., etc., then silencing unknown numbers is simply not an option. Each one of those important calls would go into the same list of missed calls as true robocalls, and there would be no way to sort that list, short of calling each one back. ProTip: do not call unknown numbers back.
What about the voicemail option? If it’s really someone trying to reach you they’ll leave a voicemail right? Unfortunately, no.
Voicemail is Dead
Once touted as a luxury feature that you had to pay extra for, voicemail has achieved its height of popularity and has since fallen hard. Voicemail is a dying feature that should not be relied upon to screen your calls for you.
Well, it’s no secret that our attention span is getting shorter and shorter thanks to the speed of the Internet, and that attention span will be severely tested by waiting for four rings, then the voicemail to answer, listening to your greeting, and leaving a message at the beep. Realistically, people are far more likely to just hang up when the voicemail answers.
This should come as no surprise since a majority of us don’t even check our voicemails even if we see we have unread ones. A recent study found that only 18% of people even listen to voicemails from numbers they do not recognize.
So if we’re honest with ourselves, sending calls to voicemail may as well be just hanging up on them from the start. It essentially means the same thing to us.
Blanket call blocks also block calls you want
Say you have no real reason to not block calls. You aren’t in sales or own a business, and for all intents and purposes, you are a regular person that just uses your phone to call friends and watch cat videos. Regular folk.
Well, the Silence Unknown Calls feature will do exactly that, whether you want to hear from that person or not. Friend got a new phone? Not getting through. Your friend needs bail money? Going to voicemail. Sorry friend.
Apple acknowledges this limitation openly, and tells consumers that they should make every effort to add numbers to their phonebook so the calls will go through. Great in theory but, if you miss this step or it’s the first time you are interacting with this phone number, then you’re back to square one of a missed call with no idea who it is.
What if the spammers call you from a number you know?
While we’re on this topic, let’s briefly touch on the fact that spammers can call you from a number you recognize. They can even call you from your own phone number and you will answer that call on the phone that number is assigned to.
This nefarious amount of trickery is called phone spoofing and it essentially involves the scammers sending bogus caller-ID information along with their scam call. So you look down at your phone and see that Aunt Mary is calling, only to be greeted by “I’m calling about your vehicle warranty…” And because Aunt Mary is in your contact list, that call sails right through.
Unfortunately, Silence Unknown Calls is a stop-gap feature that may address the concern of robocalls, but does so in a way that isn’t the most effective.
How to block robocalls on an iPhone with an app
As with most problems in the digital world: there’s an app for that. Referencing that Apple feature document again, the second suggestion to block robocalls on iPhones is to literally download an app. That’s straight from Apple.
Here we would be remiss if we didn’t humbly mention that this blog happens to belong to Spam Fighter, an app that helps block spam calls without blocking the people you actually want to hear from.
Here’s how Spam Fighter works: when a call arrives at your phone it is screened by Spam Fighter. During that screening, we compare the number to a database of known spam numbers, and will outright block calls we know are spam. Also, Spam Fighter can quickly determine if the incoming call may be part of a phone spoofing scam, and will flag it.
Finally, in the event that a spam call does get through, you can easily add it to your very own custom spam block list so that will be the last time that call gets through.
Instead of taking the blanket approach to attempting to thwart spam, Spam Fighter takes the targeted approach to blocking spam calls specifically.
Trust us, that’s going to be really good news to your buddy who needs that bail money.