Let me begin today by disclosing I am fully aware the following rant is about a decidedly "first world problem."

There are countless issues more pressing than being annoyed by unwanted phone calls.

I'm still fed up with them, and I'm guessing many of you are too.

Unwanted phone calls used to be primarily a land line problem. The government set up a Do Not Call list. For a time that seemed to help.

In recent years, the number of unwanted calls has skyrocketed and expanded full blast to smartphones.

According to statistics from robocall blocking service YouMail, cited on technology guru Kim Komando's excellent website, Americans received about 24.3 billion robocalls in the first seven months of 2018 — a 41.3 percent increase from the 17.2 billion robocalls received in the first seven months of 2017. YouMail estimates that the average of U.S robocalls made each is month is around 4 billion. 

Another story I found on MarketWatch reported that more than half of spam calls in 2018 came from “neighbor scam" numbers — in which "scammers replicate the first six digits of your own phone number down to the area code to trick you into answering a call."

I believe that. I get a lot junk calls that come up with numbers similar to mine.

I ignore all of them. You should, too.

If a caller turns out to be legitimate, they can leave a voicemail and you can return the call.  

I'm planning to look into apps that may help deal with smartphone robocalls. But our home landline is my first target.

We've kept our landline active thus far so we can talk to our four grown kids and other relatives together on extension phones. But it's now easy to add callers to a smartphone call, so that reason really doesn't exist anymore.

It's hard to stop using something you've had all of your life, so before pulling the plug, I thought I'd try a few things.

I came across a story on the USA TODAY website that told of a free service available for landlines called "anonymous call rejection."

To enable it, you pick up your phone and press *77.  We tried that and immediately got a recorded message that anonymous call rejection had been activated. Apparently, all calls thereafter that come in as Anonymous, Private or Blocked won’t get through. We'll see how useful  that is. Many of the unwanted calls we get have numbers.

The bottom line, though, is to NEVER, EVER answer a robocall. Just let it ring and go to voicemail. Anything you do that shows your number is real and active and makes you a bigger target.

As I researched ways to deal with unwanted calls, I found one more admittedly minor issue that was caused by the government shutdown.

While it was ongoing you could not put your phone number on the government's Do Not Call list.

With a three-week agreement to reopen the government now in place, I trust that will change. 

I don't know if it will make much of a difference in the number of unwanted calls, but it's worth a try.

Who would have thought there would be so many wrong numbers?

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com

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