End of annoying robocalls? FTC cracks down on deceptive practices

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The Federal Trade Commission reached a settlement with XCast Labs after the Voice over Internet Protocol provider was accused of facilitating billions of robocalls. Federal regulators sued the California-based company, claiming it helped other companies navigate around the Do Not Call Registry.

Now, XCast Labs might have to pay a $10 million fine and must start screening companies to make sure they’re following U.S. telemarketing laws.

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End of annoying robocalls? FTC cracks down on deceptive practices

Woman talking on cellphone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

How XCast Labs is accused of helping scammers make millions of fake calls

XCast Labs is accused of aiding other companies to make more than a hundred million robocalls. The California-based voice provider denies any wrongdoing in the settlement. The FTC has been on the case since 2020. That’s when it sent out a letter to Voice over Internet Protocol providers, including XCast Labs, reminding them that aiding illegal telemarketers is against the law.

It filed a complaint back in May, claiming the company still transmitted illegal robocalls. Some of those calls even involved telemarketers posing as government officials, including from the Social Security Administration.

Not only will XCast Labs face a proposed $10 million fine and begin screening companies, but it also has to cut business ties with illegal telemarketers.

End of annoying robocalls? FTC cracks down on deceptive practices

Woman talking on cellphone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: HOW HACKERS CAN SEND TEXT MESSAGES FROM YOUR PHONE WITHOUT YOU KNOWING

How to protect yourself from robocalls

There are 7 things you can do to keep robocalls away.

1) Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry

You can register your phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry using this link. While this settlement proves there are ways around the registry, it’s still an additional layer of security.

2) If you don’t recognize the number, don’t pick it up

Simple as this sounds, this is the easiest way of avoiding a potentially dangerous call. Most carriers now have a way of identifying robocalls by identifying them as “Spam Risk” or the like. Another way they try to get you is by using your local area code, sometimes even the first three digits of your or a family member’s phone number, to entice you to answer. Making it all the more important for you to take an extra careful look at the number on your screen.

3) You should also consider blocking numbers in your phone settings

Another way around this is by blocking unknown phone numbers in your phone settings

For iPhone users: To silence unknown callers:

*Settings may vary depending on your Android phone’s manufacturer

  • Tap Settings
  • Tap Phone
  • Tap Silence Unknown Callers
  • Then toggle to turn it on – it will turn green
  • If a 911 call is placed, this feature is disabled for 24 hours so that emergency calls to you can ring through
End of annoying robocalls? FTC cracks down on deceptive practices

Silence Unknown Callers feature on iPhone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

For Android users: To silence unknown callers:

  • Tap Settings
  • Tap Block numbers
  • Turn on the Block Unknown Callers feature

One thing that is important to remember should you use this feature is that it not only blocks potential SPAM callers, but it also blocks any unknown phone number you have never called or texted. So, you might want to think twice about enabling this if you’re expecting a call from someone from whom you haven’t received a call or text.

4) Telemarketers and spammers could be getting your phone number online

Your personal information is out on the web. If you want to make your personal information inaccessible, you might want to look into removal services. While no service promises to remove all your data from the internet, having a removal service is great if you want to constantly monitor and automate the process of removing your information from hundreds of sites continuously over a longer period of time. Check out my top picks for removal services here.

5) Manually block numbers from spam robocalls

Should an unknown number have called you and not left a voice message, it’s more than likely it was a robocall. While other robocalls go directly to voicemail with a threatening or enticing message, urging those truly vulnerable to act fast. Either way, you can manually block these numbers on an iPhone by:

  • Tapping the unknown number
  • Scroll down on your screen and tap “Block This Caller”
  • Tap “Block Contact”

MORE: HOW TO SEND SPAM CALLS DIRECTLY TO VOICEMAIL

6) Use your wireless carrier’s free spam and robocall-blocking service

Several wireless carriers provide their own free robocall scanning and blocking services. Among them:

  • AT&T ActiveArmor – Available for iPhones and Androids, it lets customers manually block unwanted calls and labels suspected robocalls as a “spam risk,” as well as making efforts to prevent unwanted calls from reaching you.
  • Sprint/T-Mobile Scam Shield – An app that labels all potentially dangerous calls as “Scam likely” and opens free controls for several anti-scam protections, including Scam ID, Scam Block and Caller ID. Additionally, the app also provides you with a second phone number for use instead of your private one, ideal for online shopping and helping you avoid calls from scammers as well as telemarketers.
  • Verizon Call Filter appHelps protect you from unwanted calls and lets you decide who can reach you. Call Filter also detects spam and blocks high-risk spam calls by forwarding them to voicemail.

7) Third-party spam-blocking apps

Several third-party apps can help protect you from scam artists. Among our most recommended include:

  • RoboKiller is an app that claims to reduce 99% of unwanted calls or texts. The app is not free for iPhone and Android users. However, it comes with a 7-day free trial, which might be worth checking out before investing.
  • Call Control is an app currently only available to Android users; the app helps you filter out unwanted callers by manually adding them to a blacklist.
  • Nomorobo: For those of you who still have a landline, thanks to a package deal with your internet providers, this app helps prevent robocalls from reaching you both at home and on the go. Currently free for VolP landlines, the basic mobile package currently starts at $1.99 a month.
End of annoying robocalls? FTC cracks down on deceptive practices

Woman using her cellphone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

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What about spam texts?

You might recall all 51 attorney generals backing a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to put an end to illegal and malicious texts. Since then, the FCC has included spam texts in do-not-call protections. More companies are also looking for ways to fine spammers. T-Mobile just introduced new fines for illegal spam texting this year. You can also block spam texts on an iPhone and Android following these steps.

How to block spam texts on an iPhone

  • Open the Messages app on your iPhone and then the message from the number you want to block
  • Tap the number or contact name at the top of the conversation
  • Tap Info
  • Scroll down and tap Block this Caller

How to block spam texts on an Android

Settings may vary depending on your Android phone’s manufacturer. 

  • Open the messaging app on your Android device
  • Find the spam message you want to block
  • Tap and hold the message until a menu appears
  • Look for an option like Block or Spam and select it
  • Confirm you want to block future messages from that sender

How to block texts using your carrier

Most carriers also offer options to block spam calls and texts, such as Verizon’s Block Calls & Messages, AT&T’s ActiveArmor and T-Mobile’s Message blocking. The exact steps to use these features will vary depending on your carrier.

Kurt’s key takeaways

While this settlement proves there are ways around the National Do Not Call Registry, it also highlights how important it is to have as many layers of security as you can. Each one protects you at a different level, ensuring spam calls and texts likely won’t head your way.

Are you worried about more companies skirting past the National Do Not Call Registry? How do you keep robocalls at bay? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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