How to stop or block annoying robocalls for free

Tired of being interrupted by annoying telemarketers and cell phone spam?

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Robocalls are among the most aggravating, evil technologies ever unleashed into the world. Besides just being annoying, these autodialers call thousands of people every day with fraudulent offers of mortgage reductions, credit card scams, and other potentially dangerous messages. Here are a few things you can do to stop or at least mitigate their effect on you.

On your cell phone: Android users have a number of call blocking apps to choose from. PrivacyStar may be the most robust. The app lets you block calls and texts from specific numbers or entire area codes as well as private, anonymous, or unknown numbers. The apps "Smart Block" option automatically blocks the most blocked numbers from other PrivacyStar users. The free app also gives you the option to file complaints with the FTC for spam calls or text messages. PrivacyStar works on Blackberry as well and there's an iPhone version, but all the iPhone version does is reverse phone lookup, directory assistance, and complaint filing.

Unfortunately, until iOS 7, there's no support for call and text blocking on the iPhone. Instead, you can add add unwanted callers to a "Do Not Answer" contact in your address book and assign a specific or even silent ringtone to it and never be disturbed by those people/robots again. If you have a jailbroken iPhone, you can download iBlackList through Cydia.

On your landline: Apps won't work on your regular phone, but it's possible your phone service provider has a blocking tool under the calling features section of your account management webpage. Verizon, for example, lets you enter specific numbers to block as well as all anonymous callers. You can call your phone company about the possibility of blocking numbers.

You can also block calls by using Google Voice (as your main number and letting it forward to your landline or mobile phone). In the Google Voice, you can block callers by checking the box next to their call or voicemail, clicking the "more" link, and selecting "Block Caller."

For both types of phones: The FTC advises you don't respond to any unwanted call, such as by pressing any number to speak to an operator or get your number taken off of the list, because this can just tell the company the number is working.

The FTP also tells us to register our phone numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. This isn't 100% reliable, however, since many robocalls and telemarketers choose to ignore the law. So the agency is offering $50,000 to anyone who develops a technical solution to illegal robocalls. Let's hope someone comes up with an effective solution soon, because as much as the above strategies can help, they require way too much work on our part.

Photo by meddygarnet

Read more of Melanie Pinola’s Tech IT Out blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Melanie on Twitter at @melaniepinola. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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