We are very excited to offer another updated version of our spam blocking feature for our My Choice members. This feature is an improvement from our previous release announced here. This update brings two new exciting options that allow you to further filter out calls you don’t want, in addition to the spam blocking setting we’ve offered before! You will also still have the option to block calls directly from the Android dialer.
WHAT DO THESE SETTINGS DO?
1. “Calls from suspected spammers”
This option controls how you receive calls from numbers we believe to be used by spam callers. (If you’ve used our spam blocking feature since app version 3.24, this is the same spam blocking option that you’re used to.)
2. “Calls from unsaved numbers”
This option controls how you receive calls from numbers that are not saved in your contacts list. For a lot of people, calls from unknown numbers are almost always spam, because they have important numbers stored in their contacts list. Saving a phone number as a contact is not only a great way to quickly identify the caller, but it can also act as a partial filter for spam calls, allowing you to safely assume calls from unknown numbers are spam and decline them. However, this isn’t always the best option for everyone since spam calls will still ring your device and require you to take an action on them (for example, declining the call). With this new setting in the RW app, you’ll now be able to immediately block all calls that aren’t in your contacts list, so your phone will only ring when you receive calls from the people & places whose numbers you’ve saved. (Note: You will need to allow the Republic app to read your contacts in order to enable this setting.)
3. “Calls from unsaved Neighbor Numbers”
This option controls how you receive calls from numbers that not only aren’t saved in your contacts, but also start with the same 6 digits as your phone number. A common tactic used by spam callers is to use a phone number similar to yours, so that you’re more likely to think you recognize it and answer. Because of this, we decided to add this as an option in addition to the option to block all unsaved numbers, so you can narrow down which numbers you want to block. (Note: You will need to allow the Republic app to read your contacts in order to enable this setting.)
HOW DO I ENABLE SPAM BLOCKING?
To start blocking calls, open the Republic Wireless app, tap on the gear in the upper right-hand corner, and tap “Call and Voicemail Settings”
On this screen, you’ll see a section at the top titled “Spam Blocking Settings” with three settings below it. These are the three types of call blocking we now offer. To block calls from numbers that have been identified as highly likely to be spammers, tap “Calls from suspected spammers”
Choose from “Block”, “Send directly to voicemail”, and “Allow” (set by default)
The process for the next two options is very similar, but there are a few notable differences.
These are the two dialogs that are shown when editing your settings for blocking calls from unsaved numbers and calls from unsaved “Neighbor Numbers”, respectively. You’ll notice that for these settings, only two options are available: “Allow” and “Send directly to voicemail”. We purposefully left out the option to block calls from these categories completely since it’s much more likely that you’ll receive a call that you’d like to know about (think your Doctor, Dentist, Contractor, etc).
The next thing to note is that when you select “Send directly to voicemail” for either of these two settings, we will request access to your contacts. We only use your contacts when you have an incoming call and we need to see if the caller is saved in your contacts. If you deny access to read your contacts, the setting you were changing will go back to “Allow” since we couldn’t successfully change it without that permission.
That’s it! Continue reading to learn more about what we’re doing to address unwanted spam calls.
WHAT IS A SPAM CALL?
While spam is likely ‘in the eye of the beholder,’ I like to think of it in two buckets. The small bucket is telemarketers, callers with whom I’ve had some financial relationship in the past, (ex: alumni association from college, charities to which I’ve donated, businesses I’ve made purchases from, and even children’s schools). The big bucket is scammers, (robo-callers) with whom I have no previous relationship and their goal is to collect my personal information and/or steal my money (ex: fake IRS summons, extended car warranty offers, credit card offers).
HOW SPAM WORKS AND HOW YOU SHOULD RESPOND
Generally, calls in the ‘telemarketer’ bucket come from humans. Occasionally, you might also get a pre-recorded message from a school principal or a doctor’s office which I’m including in the ‘telemarketer’ bucket. If you no longer want to receive these calls, please ask the caller to remove your number from their list and stop contacting you. The Do Not Call Registry is also a good option for opting out of these ‘telemarketer’ calls. There isn’t a separate registry for cell phones versus landlines so you can add your cell phone number to the main registry.
Calls that fall into the ‘scammer’ bucket are typically placed via software. Scammers use auto-dialers to cycle through thousands or even millions of numbers daily. Scammers also use software to ‘spoof’ the caller’s number, often utilizing a local area code and prefix, to increase the chance that you answer. Much like email spam, the cost of each additional call is negligible so spammers only need a few unsuspecting individuals to volunteer their personal information to cover costs. The safest way to avoid scammers is by not answering calls from unknown numbers and letting the call go to voicemail. If it’s a legitimate call, the caller will leave a voicemail. Often, if you answer one scam call, it’s blood in the water for a host of other scammers that will relentlessly call you.
HOW REPUBLIC IS RESPONDING
We’ve been thinking about spam for years, but struggled to find an appropriate balance between blocking too much and not blocking enough. We want to stop unwanted calls, but we don’t want to block the important ones, such as a call from your daughter’s school that classes have been canceled due to snow. Ultimately, the solution we chose analyzes the frequency at which a single number is contacting the hundreds of thousands of Republic Wireless members, along with a host of other metrics that indicate it’s likely an unwanted call. For high-risk numbers, we partner with a third party that assesses the ‘spaminess’ of the caller’s number based on complaints, past history, and other factors. If the caller’s number has a sufficiently high spam score, we block it.
This approach won’t stop all spam. Based on modeling, it should block more than 50% of spam calls. After opting into this feature, we expect the level of spam for more than half of our members to drop to zero.
But if you still get many repeat calls from the same number, you can block it directly in the Android dialer. Simply open the dialer, long press on the call, and choose to block the number. Don’t worry, all of the numbers you previously added to your block list are still blocked and that list can be edited from the Dialer settings menu!
We are always looking for new ways to improve our service experience. This is only one of the many great benefits that our members get here at Republic Wireless. Not a member yet and interested in checking out our spam call blocking feature? Learn more about our service today and the innovative features we have to offer.