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Which call-blocking apps work the best?

Which call blocking apps work the best?
Posted at 6:31 AM, Feb 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-22 17:17:25-04

MILWAUKEE — Robocall-blocking apps are one of the best options in your battle against illegal telemarketers.

“They are awful. I mean, it's a waste of time,” said one consumer.

“You’re not sure to answer. You're not sure who's calling. Is it important, or is it not?” said another.

These apps are designed to warn you of suspicious calls or automatically block unwanted ones. TODAY’S TMJ4 wanted to put these apps to the test.

We asked six employees at TMJ4, with different cell carriers, to each download a call-blocking app: Hiya, Call Control, Call Blocker, Nomorobo, Numbo and RoboKiller.

We gave them one week with the app to see what worked. Once that week was over, we discovered that Hiya, Call Control and Call Blocker worked best.

Half of the people in the study didn't receive any robocalls. One AT&T user who downloaded Nomorobo got four unwanted calls.

Another AT&T cell carrier who downloaded Numbo received two unwanted calls, while the U.S. Cellular user with the app RoboKiller received one.

“I couldn't tell if it worked or if it didn't,” said one of the employees.

“I actually didn't get any, but I got one yesterday after I deleted the app,” said another participant.

According to YouMail, a company that blocks robocalls, consumers in the city of Milwaukee received nearly 22 million robocalls in January. The state of Wisconsin, as a whole, received more than 45 million robocalls.

The telecommunications industry is working on building back consumer trust by rolling out new technology this year called STIR/SHAKEN.

“I actually didn't get any, but I got one yesterday after I deleted the app.” — study participant.

It stands for “Secure Telephony Identity Revisited” and “Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs.”

This technology is designed to specifically target spoof calls. Spoof calls are those that mimic the user's area code and fool the user into believing it's a familiar business.

“The new technology will help better identify unverifiable calls which are more likely to be illegal,” said Ian Barlow, the Do Not Call Program coordinator with the Federal Trade Commission.

Barlow explained that the cellphone screen will likely say “verified” or “unverified” when a call comes in.

“It’s basically verifying the person who is using that number and if they have permission to use it,” he said.

The FTC says STIR/SHAKEN will give call-blocking apps and cell carriers better information about which calls to block, but it won't promise to reduce the amount of calls coming in.