How to stop those annoying, endless robocalls to your smartphone

Have you noticed an uptick in those super annoying robocalls, telemarketers, and scams hitting up your smartphone all hours of the day and night? I have, and it’s driving me nuts.

Last month, I had a bogus call to lower my electricity bill. A few weeks ago, it was a pause after I said hello, then a woman saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’m adjusting my headset,” before launching into a sales pitch of some sort. And then there’s the daily deluge of numbers that look legit — like my daughter’s school calling, or a media outlet from Manhattan — only to end up being an obvious scam. “This is George Michael,” says a male caller with a heavy accent, “calling from your online pharmacy with your diet medication.” Talk about adding insult to injury.

Robocall rage

According to the Federal Communications Commission, there are nearly 2.4 billion robocalls made every month. That’s more than 7 calls per person, according to new research from the YouMail Robocall Index.

At best, the calls are frustrating. At worst, they’re robbing us blind. So what can we do about it once and for all?

#1 Google your own smartphone number

Let’s start with a little self-education. How the heck are these criminal-callers getting our cell numbers in the first place? If you don’t post it publicly across social media, use it on shady shopping sites, or shout it out to every telemarketer who calls — how is it getting out there? The Better Business Bureau recommends Googling your own number. Do it. I’ll wait.

Was it there? Mine was. It might not be alongside your name, but chances are it’s there, collected by a “people search” company like Nuwber that aggregates information from “White Pages listings, Public Records and Social Network Information.” Thanks to modern technology, these lists are now easy for cyber scammers to scrape. And that’s how the the robo-games begin.

#2 Add your number to the Do No Call list

robocallsIf you haven’t already, add your cell number to the National Do Not Call list. I just went there to verify that I’m on the list and sure enough, I’ve been registered since February 2006. So much for that. Obviously, it doesn’t fix the issue all the way around, but it does help keep legitimate companies from cold-calling you. Sadly for us, the bad-guys have easy workarounds (like #1).

If you’re already on the Do Not Call Registry and still get hit up, report the calls to the FTC, which compiles the reports and hands out the fines. You can also block them right from your smartphone and block any spammy texts too.

 

#3 Blocking calls and texts

iPhone

On iPhones, tap the green phone icon on your home screen, select the “Recents” tab on the bottom of the screen, then tap the blue “i” information icon next to the phone number you want to block. A screen pops up with a bunch of options and at the very bottom you’ll find “Block This Caller.” Tap it and then when the verification screen appears, confirm your decision.

On most Androids, there are two easy ways to block numbers. If you’re on the standard version of Android 6.0 you can go into your call log and long-press on the number you want to block, then select “Block number” from the pop-up menu.

If you’re using a version of Android other than the stock version (or if you don’t know which version you’re actually using) you can select “Settings” and then “Call blocking,” then tap “Add number” and type in the number you want to block.

#4 Bring in the big guns

Nomorobo

 

There are a handful of apps that promise enough anti-spam ammo to stop annoying calls for good. They all require a bit of set-up, but the toughest part of that so far for me has just been remembering my AT&T password. (You’ll need the provider password for some of them.)

Nomorobo – (iOS)

 

 

This is my best of these apps I’ve reviewed to date — so it’s no surprise that it won a competition by the FTC. After you download the app onto your device, you can sign up for a free trial for 30-days, or commit right away to either $1.99 per month or $19.99 per year. (If you don’t remember to cancel your sign-up, you’ll be auto-billed.)

After you install the app, it prompts go into your iPhone’s settings, select “Phone” then tap “Call Blocking & Identification” and tap Nomorobo to enable it. Back in the Nomorobo app, it asks you to enter your phone number for verification (to make sure you’re not a robocaller yourself). After that — you’re done.

You can send yourself a test robocall to see exactly how it all works. When a sketchy telemarketer hits up your phone number, your call screen shows a big red dot and a note that says “Robocaller” so you know to avoid it. There’s even an option in the app to block these calls automatically, before they even reach your smartphone screen.

Nomorobo swears it doesn’t block legitimate calls from pharmacies, schools, or other important institutions — because it “analyzes millions of calls made to hundreds of thousands of phone lines every single day.” While it doesn’t want to say much more about its secret sauce than that, I’m using it and it seems to be working well.

Truecaller – This paid app (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone) reports that it’s collected more than 3-billion phone numbers and relies on information from users to filter out the scams. When the app identifies a specific phone number as robocall or scam, it lets you know with an alert on the call screen. The website says it gets its information from a central database that is constantly being updated with new phone numbers.

Set up is similar to NoMoRobo. Download the app, follow the prompts. I like that you get link it to Facebook to auto-fill and there’s an animated screen that shows you the entire set-up process. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

There are several pricing options, but you end up paying about $1.50 per month for the full suite of features. Because Truecaller queries a central database for information on each number, the app requires a data connection to identify new callers, so keep that in mind if you often find yourself in places without 3G or 4G available.

Enough is enough!

smartphone

 

I posted a message on this topic in my Facebook feed, and dozens of people chimed in. Other people have good things to say about similar apps such as PrivacyStar, Mr. Number, Hiya, and YouMail. We’ll try those and deliver an updated anti-spam round-up with the next few weeks.

Have you found a clever way to outsmart robocalls? Be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

Manchester United should keep new formation vs Chelsea

Man Utd vs Chelsea produced maybe the best tactical performance yet from Jose Mourinho and it could be the defining moment in his tenure.

Mourinho should keep back three formation

The personnel was questionable but the formation wasn’t. Unlike Louis van Gaal’s dicey start, Jose Mourinho’s United have the players to make a back three formation a success and it was testament to their belief in their manager they beat Chelsea without their three most prolific players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Juan Mata.

United players’ focus was immaculate and it was patent from the first few moments, when Ander Herrera was onto his teammates, that the set-up was a perfect fit to counter the Premier League leaders. Every starter knew his cue and United were so comfortable in the system you might have thought they had played in it since August.

The arrangements were tailored to counter Chelsea but United were fluid and intense. Marcus Rashford played with Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba when he was aged just 12 and the trio’s telepathy unnerved a Chelsea side who expected to handle Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s muscularity.

United might be better without Ibrahimovic

When the number 19 flashed up Mourinho turned to the south stand, raised his arms aloft, nodded his head emphatically and put his hands together as Rashford strolled towards the touchline.

United’s best performance of the season came without their player of the season. Ibrahimovic will doubtless plant the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year trophy onto his packed mantlepiece but he might have sat uncomfortably as his exuberant teammates flourished without him.

The attack was more energetic and more mobile without the Swedish figurehead. Rashford epitomised it with his willing running did not wane even after the excellent Lingard, a worthy foil, was withdrawn.

It is just one performance, of course, but United chose the best team in the league to prove they can thrive without their top scorer and Ibrahimovic should not be guaranteed a return to the line-up against Anderlecht on Thursday.

Darmian saves best for Conte

Rashford had the game of his life for United and so did Matteo Darmian. He was an unsung hero during Mourinho’s masterclass and the Italian’s performance might have flown under the radar had his manager not singled him out for praise during his press conference.

Darmian has performed consistently poorly this season but against his former Italy coach Antonio Conte he displayed a defensive nous United fans expect to see from a player nurtured on a diet of catenaccio at AC Milan.

The versatile full-back was unspectacular but disciplined as he helped maintain United’s balance even when Mourinho tweaked the formation in the second-half.

Pogba bosses Kante

The hysterical hype surrounding N’Golo Kante evidently piqued Paul Pogba. The United midfielder boasted before the game he had scored more goals than his compatriot and, unlike on previous occasions, that cocksure brashness was transferred onto the pitch.

Kante’s PFA Player of the Year recognition provoked Pogba into producing the kind of performance United supporters expected more regularly. His committed first-half tackle on Diego Costa set the tone for a bullish team performance.

Perhaps, like Darmian, Pogba was also spurred by his old mentor Conte’s presence in the dugout. Pogba was abysmal in both of United’s Stamford Bridge defeats and responded with verve and vibrancy to force Conte into a midfield change that did not disturb United.

Getty

Herrera has to be United’s next captain

Ashley Young was tremendous and tireless with the armband strapped to his bicep but, just like at Anfield in October, it was apparent Herrera is Mourinho’s on-pitch lieutenant.

He exemplified it best not through his incisive pass for Rashford’s opener or the second-half clincher, but by punting the ball into touch. Herrera followed up his clearance by sprinting as energetically as the Battery Bunny before hollering at Fellaini to push higher up.
Whatever the changes to United’s squad next season, the Basque will be staying.

Credit: usatoday.com

After having breakfast at first traffic signal, Bengaluru man eats his lunch at 2nd signal

Bengaluru: Sripad M, a techie, working for a reputed MNC in Whitefield area follows his doctor’s advice of eating meals on time. Colleagues travelling with Sripad in office cab have seen him completing his breakfast at first signal, by the time they reach second signal, it would be lunch time for him.
“One day while having routine blood test found my sugar levels were high. I was in pre-diabetic condition. Doctors advised me unless I do lifestyle corrections like eating on time, regular exercise, I will struggle being a diabetic forever,” said Sripad while speaking to us.

“First correction I did was to shift little near to office. Instead of earlier six hours, now it takes about four hours in one way. Normally I will get in to my office cab around 8 AM in morning. By 8:15 AM, I will be having my breakfast peacefully sitting somewhere on the last row,” said Sripad.

Sripad added, “To reach office we need to cross two major signals, one at silk board junction during breakfast time, if everything goes right, Kundalahalli gate by lunch time. Our office cab driver is a smart guy. He knows how to avoid traffic signals, for that if he has to travel fifty kilometers extra that is fine. He would take some inside roads, as vehicles would be moving, nice breeze coming in, no one minds the extra nap inside cabs. More often than not, before noon I would be at the second signal to have my lunch.”

Bangalore

When we asked Sripad, eating is ok, what about exercise, he said, “We keep kits inside cab as we play tennis ball cricket matches on the way. At Silk Board junction one can play 10 overs a side match and in Kundalahalli Gate we get time to play one 5 overs match in nearby vacant government land. Techies from other office cabs, BMTC commuters including drivers, conductors join us as everyone knows traffic will not move for an hour at least. Looking at the demand we are planning to organize a tournament near these two signals.”

“When I started my career here in Bengaluru, it was 2 hours in traffic and 8 hours in office, now it is reverse. One has to adapt,” said Sripad before getting down.

Credit: Firstpost.com

‘Survivor’s’ Jeff Varner says he was fired after outing trans contestant


After Survivor: Game Changers contestant Jeff Varner outed fellow castaway Zeke Smith as transgender, Varner faced public backlash. Now, he’s dealing with professional repercussions.

Jeff Varner

“I was devastated (and not) given the chance to explain or right the wrong,” he said about being let go from Allen Tate Real Estate. “I didn’t even find out from my company. Suddenly, my real estate license was inactive and my current clients (were) left in the dark. It took hours after my press junket (for Survivor) to get anyone with the company on the phone to tell me personally, and even longer to calm my clients. … My former boss told me that I was in a news story they wanted nothing to do with.”

‘Survivor’ contestant outed as trans in tense, enlightening episode
Varner, a former local news anchor who has competed three times on Survivor, says he’s talking to other real estate firms and preparing to bring his former clients “with me to my new firm.”
Since outing Smith during tribal council in the episode that aired last Wednesday, Varner has apologized, calling the outing “the worst decision of my life.” Smith has written about the experience of being outed by someone in a column for The Hollywood Reporter.
Survivor

Credit: UsaToday.com