Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Robocalls.

Telemarketers.

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Don’t they drive you nuts?

You can be up to your elbows cleaning chickens, in the midst of trying to wrangle a slippery toddler out of the bathtub or trying to catch some well-deserved shuteye when that ringing phone ever so rudely intrudes into your life. Worse yet, in addition to the many cold calls that come in from operators wanting to clean my chimney or fix my computer, it seems as if half the calls that come in to our humble abode are from pre-recorded voices explaining why I need to vote for a particular candidate or should donate money to what is I am sure a worthwhile cause. To be perfectly honest, while I don’t want to seem overly harsh, these calls are driving me nuts.

We signed up our landline and cell phones on the National Do Not Call Registry quite a while back and enjoyed a period where things were relatively quiet, but in the last few years it seems as if we have been living in the wild west, where anything goes and unsolicited calls come in far too many times per day. Some are just annoying: the 17 calls I get the day before an election reminding me to vote, or notifications that for the next six hours there is a great sale on baby shoes that I absolutely, positively cannot afford to miss, even though my baby is now 17 and her feet aren’t going to fit into those cute little European booties which are now 70% off their regular retail price. (Insert mandatory exclamation points that accompany those overly enthusiastic pre-recorded messages here.)

Then there are the far more annoying calls, from people claiming to represent my credit card company, informing me that they have noticed unusual activity on my account. Those force me to stop and consider if the call is legit. Others are from scammers, who, like the Nigerian prince who keeps emailing me to offer me a share in a business deal with truly stellar returns, are hoping to entice me to sponsor their next trip to the Bahamas. Worse yet are the truly insidious calls whose scare tactics are intended to persuade you to purchase a reloadable payment card to pay off a supposedly outstanding IRS debt or to rescue a family member in dire trouble or asking benign questions in the hopes that you will answer in the affirmative, allowing them to use your voice as approval to authorize fraudulent charges, leaving you stuck with a whopping bill.

You don’t need me to tell you all this, because like me, you are getting inundated by these calls as well. The question is, how to put an end to the madness? A Robocall Strike Force convened in 2016 by the Federal Communications Commission has been working on the problem, but so far solutions seem to be few and far between and slow in coming. Still there are definitely steps you can take to save your sanity and to at least try to slow the flood of calls down to a more manageable trickle.

Sign up to block legitimate telemarketers: Yes, after all these years, the National Do Not Call Registry is still out there, preventing genuine telemarketers from placing unsolicited calls to you. Register at www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222. It takes approximately one month for the process to take effect, so be patient.

Don’t answer the phone if you don’t know who is calling: There is no rule that says every telephone call has to be answered. These days practically everyone has caller ID, letting you know who is on the other end of the line. If you don’t recognize the name or number, let the call go to voicemail. If it is someone you really need to speak to, you can always call him or her back.

Hang up if you accidentally pick up a spam call: Really. I know that your mom probably taught you to always be polite, so if you get an actual human telemarketer, you can apologize nicely before you plunk the phone back down on its base. If you find yourself listening to a robocall, don’t press one, as instructed, to be deleted from the list, because chances are doing so will result in even more annoying calls coming in to disrupt your day. Trust me on this one; just hang up the phone.

Check out your call block options: It took me a while to realize that there are plenty of choices available when it comes to preventing unwanted calls from getting through. The vast majority of phone providers have free services to block annoying spammers, many of which are free. Take the time to check in with your provider and see what kind of help they can offer.

When it comes to cell phones, there are lots of apps that can flag incoming robocalls and even prevent them from coming through, many of which can be downloaded to your device at no charge. Truecaller and Hiya, which are both available free for iOS and Android phones, can flag calls as spam as they come in, while also giving you the ability to block them easily for the future. Of course, even without these apps, your cell phone already lets you block calls from any number you choose, a feature that I make use of on my phone all the time.

Even your home phones, if you purchased them relatively recently, should be able to offer some relief. I can’t even begin to tell you how much joy I experienced when I discovered that little call block button on the bottom of my handset and every time I get an unwanted phone call, whether it is from a human or an automated source, I happily hit that magic button and confirm that I really do want to block that number from calling me ever again. And it works – nothing makes my day happier than seeing the words “call blocked” appear on the handset as a call is rejected by my phone, an occurrence that has been taking place numerous times per day since I started blocking calls.

So until the powers that be find a better way to solve this problem, let this article serve as both a way to help eliminate at least some of those irritating interruptions in your regularly scheduled daily lives as well as a warning to robo callers and telemarketers: If you want me to take part in a random survey, I will block you. If your name is Rachel and you want to tell me that I am pre-approved for a $250,000 line of credit, I will block you. If you have an automated message that starts with music, I will block you. If you initiate a conversation in Yiddish, a language that unfortunately I do not speak, I will block you. If the first words you say to me are “don’t hang up,” not only will I hang up, but as soon as I do, I will block you.

Of course, if any of you guys want to reach out and say hi, please feel free. You I would love to hear from!

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Sandy Eller is a freelance writer who writes for numerous websites, newspapers, magazines and many private clients. She can be contacted at sandyeller1@gmail.com.
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