Securing Our Communities: Scam Call Solutions

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

Each week, the NTIC Cyber Center highlights a different social engineering scam impacting individuals and communities within the National Capital Region. We encourage everyone to share this information with friends, colleagues, and loved ones to help reduce their risk of becoming a victim of financial fraud and identity theft.

Unsolicited robocalls and scam calls are an increasing and pervasive threat to residents within the National Capital Region and across the United States and recent legislation efforts have done little to curb the problem. In fact, experts believe that, by the end of 2019, scam calls will comprise nearly half of all US mobile call traffic. Unfortunately, distinguishing between scam calls and legitimate calls can be difficult as many of these nuisance calls employ caller ID spoofing techniques to trick recipients into answering the phone. However, mobile phone carriers and communications technology companies have been working together to develop solutions for customers. This week, as part of the NTIC Cyber Center’s Securing Our Communities initiative, we are providing our readers with a list of tools and services offered by each major US mobile provider to help combat these unwanted calls.

AT&T: AT&T offers the free Call Protect app to most AT&T wireless customers (prepaid and government accounts excluded) using compatible iOS and Android devices. This app detects and blocks calls likely originating from scammers, warns of suspected spam calls, and allows users to configure a personalized block list. AT&T’s paid service, Call Protect Plus, adds functionality such as reverse number lookup, caller id information displaying name and location, and enhanced call blocking features for an extra $3.99 per month.

T-Mobile and MetroPCS: All T-Mobile and MetroPCS customers using eligible devices currently receive a caller ID notice when the carrier suspects an incoming call originates from a number associated with scam activity. Customers wishing to block these calls entirely can opt in to the carrier’s ScamBlock service at no additional cost through their online account or by calling #662# from a T-Mobile or MetroPCS device. For even more protection, the carriers offer the NameID app that allows customers to identify the name and location of callers, block calls, and send certain categories of calls directly to voicemail. This service is included in all T-Mobile ONE Plus plans but costs $4.00 per month per line for customers of all other plans.

Verizon: Verizon offers customers with eligible iOS or Android devices spam, robocall, and fraud detection and filtering services via their free CallFilter app. The app allows users to automatically filter out suspect phone calls and report offending phone numbers to the carrier’s spam detection database. Customers desiring additional features including caller ID name and location information or personalized block lists can upgrade the service for $2.99 per month per phone line.

Sprint: Sprint customers using eligible iOS and Android devices can enable the Premium Caller ID service for $2.99 per month through their online account. This app features personalized block list capabilities and spam identification that assigns a threat level indicating how suspicious an incoming call might be.

Boost Mobile and Virgin Mobile: Customers of Boost Mobile or Virgin Mobile using eligible devices can configure the carrier’s call and text blocking service CallWatch by downloading the app from Google Play. This service grants customers features such as automatic detection and blocking of scam calls, reverse number lookup, and the ability to report abusive calls and texts to federal agencies. The service costs $2.00 per month per line for users of eligible Android devices; it is not currently available for iOS devices.

Cricket Wireless: Cricket Wireless has partnered with a third-party provider to offer customers the Hiya app to combat unwanted calls and text messages. The app automatically blocks spam and robocalls and provides caller ID services for customers using eligible iOS and Android devices.

Tracfone: Customers of Tracfone and other affiliate brands including Net10 Wireless, SafeLink Wireless, Straight Talk, Total Wireless, SIMPLE Mobile, Telcel (US customers only), Page Plus, GoSmart Mobile, and Walmart Family Mobile, can download the CallDetector app from GooglePlay. This app blocks scam calls and calls from unknown or anonymous numbers, features caller ID and reverse number lookup services, and allows customers to report abusive telemarketing calls to federal agencies. The app is free and currently available only to Android customers with eligible devices.

U.S. Cellular: U.S. Cellular provides the Call Guardian app for customers using eligible iOS and Android devices. The free version of this app alerts customers of “high-risk” malicious calls while the upgraded version provides notifications for calls of all risk levels as well as caller ID name information and call blocking services for $3.99 per month.

Though these tools and services will not eliminate spam calls entirely, they may provide some welcomed relief for customers who are tired of receiving a barrage of unwanted calls. Phone users who continue to experience high call volume may also consider registering with the Federal Do Not Call Registry, a service that allows phone users in the US to opt out of receiving certain telemarketing calls.

Please note that Securing Our Communities: Scam Call Solutions is provided for informational purposes only. The NTIC Cyber Center does not endorse any commercial vendor, product, or service referenced in this post or otherwise and we encourage our readers to conduct their own research prior to downloading mobile applications or subscribing to monthly services.

The NTIC is governed by a privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties protection policy to promote conduct that complies with applicable federal, state, and local laws. The NTIC does not seek or retain any information about individuals or organizations solely on the basis of their religious, political or social views or activities; their participation in a particular noncriminal organization or lawful event; or their race, ethnicities, citizenships, places of origin, ages, disabilities, genders, or sexual orientations. No information is gathered or collected by the NTIC in violation of federal or state laws or regulations.