How to block telemarketers and spam from your cell phone

Photo by Ciccioetneo

The calls were coming every weekday, first around lunchtime, and then right before I left work.

The first time I answered the call about a year ago, the telemarketer was cheerful: "We'd like to offer you a free home security system," the guy offered. "All you have to do is put up a little sign advertising our company in front of your home!"

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"No thank you," I recall saying. "I don't own a home. I rent, and can't do that sort of thing." It was the truth, and the marketer said he understood and thanked me for my time. I thought that was the end of it.

But a month later, I got the same call — but from a different person.

"I already explained this to the guy who called last month," I said politely. "Can you take me off your call list?" The person thanked me, and, again, I thought that was the end of it.

When I got the same call the following week, I recognized the number and didn't pick up. I got another call the next day. And the day after that. And — well, you get the picture. It was maddening. I gave the number a name, "Spammer Alert", and each time the name popped up on my cell phone, my heart sank.

I wasn't alone: Googling the number brought up a forum of people who were experiencing the same thing I was going through. It was like a mini-support group: "They've been calling here at least twice a day," one woman complained. "And I'm on the Do Not Call List too. They need to get a life and leave us the hell alone already."

When spammers don't want to get a life, and the Do Not Call List fails you, you can block them. I would have done this sooner if the information on how to do that was more readily available to me, but I had to go searching for it. And now I'm sharing the information with you here.

In 2008, New York Times tech columnist David Pogue was plagued by mobile spammers — spammers who used free Internet texting to send spam text messages to his cell phone, which he had to pay for. An AT&T representative contacted Pogue, and said customers could log onto their website, and adjust the settings so that their phones would no longer receive text messages from the Internet, where most wireless spam originates. This was also an option for Verizon customers, and Sprint.

I logged on into my Verizon account, clicked on "My Verizon" and then "Text Messaging". I clicked on "Preferences", and then "Spam Control" — lo and behold, after all that clicking I found "Internet Spam Blocking" and "Call & Message Blocking". Not only could I block the text message spammers who were plaguing Pogue, I could block the telemarketing calls that were plaguing me!

My cell phone has been silent. And that's been a beautiful thing.

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