HARTFORD, Conn. — For nearly two decades now, any discussion of shutting down phone scams began with the "do not call registry."
The registry, created in 2003, was supposed to bar telemarketers from calling your number once you added it to the list.
The problem was – and still is – scammers do not care about the do not call list, so it's ineffective.
There are still good reasons to sign up for the DNC list – and we'll circle back to those, but for now, let's talk about the eight other things you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones.
1. As soon as you get a robocall, hang up and block that number.
2. File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or your state attorney general.
RELATED: How robocallers get away with it
Investigators can add the information you provide to thousands or millions of other complaints to identify and track down perpetrators.
“Those complaints are the backbone of our enforcement efforts," said Will Maxson, with the FTC.
3. Contact your service provider to see what kind of spam blocking and call services they provide.
By now, most offer some protection from robocalls and regulators and law enforcement are pressuring carriers to provide more.
"We're coordinating with them, we're putting pressure on them,” said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. “We are forcing them to play ball with us.”
4. Consider downloading a phone app designed to shield you from robocalls.
The Federal Trade Commission has actually sponsored a series of challenges in recent years, inviting private tech companies to create useful anti-fraud apps to protect consumers.
An app called "Nomorobo" grew out of one such contest.
The company's website says the app works by scanning all incoming calls against a list of known problem numbers to catch robocalls at a cost of $1.99 per month.
The FTC says there are many other apps available.
5. You can put your phone on "do not disturb" mode
This move will block all but your known and trusted numbers.
But if none of that works – then it might be time to change how you use your phone.
"It's tough,” Michael Self, a former robocaller, said. “They're gonna get through."
The best thing you can do, he says, is to "be aware, and be skeptical."
6. If you feel comfortable doing it, you can stop answering any number you don't recognize - the logic being any legitimate caller will leave a message.
7. For those of you who are worried about your aging parents and grandparents – advise them that no legitimate agency will demand payment for an overdue utility or tax bill over the phone - and they won't accept payment with gift cards, and they won't ask you to wire money.
Dr. Neha Jain from UConn Health said don't try to shut them off from the outside world. Just become their tech support and help them manage their online and cell phone accounts.
And this brings us back to the do not call registry.
8. Even if you think of it as the "do not care registry," there are three good reasons to sign up.
- Violating the “do not call registry” is a crime, and it gives prosecutors more ammunition to go after robocallers.
- It should reduce your robocall volume, because any legitimate, honest telemarketer will honor it, and stop calling you.
- Once you weed out the honest companies, the only ones who will call you are the dishonest ones.
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