VIDEO: Can those annoying robocalls be stopped?

Click to watch me on NBC Nightly News

Spam calls have basically killed cell phones. At least, the “phone” part of cell phones.  If you’re like me, you just don’t bother answering calls from unexpected numbers any longer. The FCC says Americans get 2.4 billion fake calls every month.  I think I got that many last week on my own phone. NBC’s Tom Costello asked me to come into the studio yesterday to talk about this issue. I got a spam call during the 15-minute drive.

After years of hemming and hawing, the FCC and the mobile phone industry have finally agreed to do something about this.  Previously, cell phone companies have said they couldn’t legally block calls. Now, the FCC is clarifying its rules to allow firms to dump calls that have sketchy origins — when the originating number is fake, or unassigned, for example.  The plan grew out of a working group “strike force” I reported on last year. 

Here’s Ajit Pai explaining this strategy in a blog post last month.

“The FCC would give providers greater leeway to block spoofed robocalls. Specifically, they could block calls that purport to be from unassigned or invalid phone numbers (there’s a database that keeps track of all phone numbers, and many of them aren’t assigned to a voice service provider or aren’t otherwise in use). There is no reason why any legitimate caller should be spoofing an unassigned or invalid phone number. It’s just a way for scammers to evade the law,” he wrote.

But the rules, and the technology, will still take months to implement. So there’s a few things you can do to help the situation. Tom discusses them in his piece.  Most critically, I believe everyone should Google themselves, and their phone numbers, and other slices of personal information, every few months. It’s really important to know what everybody else knows about you.

In reality, however, I think my solution works best for dealing with robocalls.  People I want to hear from know to email me now (Bob at Bob Sullivan dot net).  At the very least, they’ll leave me a voice mail. I assume everyone else is a scammer.  You should too.

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About Bob Sullivan 1332 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.


  1. Its comforting to know that there are good people out there fighting the ‘good’fight on the behalf of those who arent in a position to do anything about it, Thank you Bob!!

  2. I forward my “landline” to my cellphone, where my voice message warns “if my phone doesn’t recognize your number and you don’t leave a message, your number will be blocked.” I NEVER answer and fortunately I seem to be able to block an unlimited amount of numbers on my iPhone. That said, I block 3 – 5 phone numbers per DAY!!!

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