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Ask HN: Why can’t I block all incoming calls that aren’t in my contact list?
319 points by tones411 on Jan 30, 2019 | hide | past | web | favorite | 324 comments
It’s pointless to block every single spam number that can call in. If we can’t end spam calls, why don’t phones let you at least block all except numbers in your contact list?

I just put my iphone on "do not disturb" full-time and use my favourites list to only allow calls though (from a selected list). People who double call are also allowed through. Then you are not constantly distracted by notifications, emails, texts, spam calls [1]. My thinking is, my phone should serve me, not the other way around, so I only check when I'm not focused on something else. Personally, I find useless notifications way worse than calls.

[1] https://www.iphonelife.com/blog/32671/tip-day-how-let-favori...

I want to do this, but only for calls. All other notifications should happen normally. It annoys me that iOS doesn't support that though, it's all or nothing.

Custom ringtone that is silent and individual ring tones for the select few contacts?

Wonder if you could do a no vibration pattern also, I haven't turn my ring tone on in like 10 years.

Yea, Crazy Frog "The Annoying Thing" permanently turned me off to ring tones.

I really like my Nokia 6 except I hate that you cannot disable just vibrations easily. and also that there is a high minimum volume for all sounds, sometimes at night I use earphones as speakers.

I've done this since the original iPhone first started to support custom ringtones. I used a quiet passage from a recording of Beethoven's 7th.

Why Apple doesn't include a silent ringtone -- a feature found on pretty much every 'feature phone' I've ever seen or used -- is just one of life's dumb mysteries.

Probably because they were too cheap to pay the licensing fees.

I'm pretty sure they could afford to hire a composer for an original silent composition and a recording session to go along with it.

For silence...?

Take your pick, ask for a license, see how far you get:


Surprised you didn't use 4'33".

That is genius!

Well you know us HN crowd...

Exactly only for calls... text is my main form of communication. I want only calls from those I let ring my phone do so and all others go to voicemail.

I hope Apple updates DND with more options like DND for calls only.

This approach comes pretty close to solving the problem, but a couple issues are dealbreakers for me:

1) It mutes all notifications, not just non-whitelisted calls. As much as I hate notification overload, I do want a select few to come through.

2) I want a discoverable way for non-whitelisted callers to be able to break through (not everyone will know to call multiple times to break through).

I'm working on an app that addresses those -- email me if you're interested (see my profile).

We have POTS at home and work with a regular digital answerphone set to "speaker" ("always answer").

So, all calls get answered by the answerphone, most spam callers hangup as soon as the message starts.

Genuine callers start to give a message and you can pick up if you want to handle the call immediately. If someone needs to "break through" then they can say "hi, it's X, can you pick up please".

Works fantastically.

I would love my mobile to work the same way.

re #2: They can leave a voicemail; I'll listen to it and call back if necessary.

Going back and listening to voicemails of spam is more time consuming than just answering it at the time it comes in.

At the moment, the percentage of spam calls that bother to leave a message is low enough that it seems to work out. I also don't have to worry about the impoliteness of hanging up when it's a live human on the other end, and can time-shift the annoyance to when I'm not in the middle of something.

I wish I could ban the hundreds of 2-4 second voicemails I get a week. actually ban the number too.

Hmmm, as interrupting to answer at the time has the additional overhead of task/context switching, I'd say it's more.

If you just switch to/from the voicemail context once for 10 messages, the cost is only 10% of the cost for real-time answering.

Usually works well, but when you get caught in a cycle of always missing each other it sucks. Usually this is a business or similar where they call and are making a bunch of calls, so by the time I call back they are on the line with someone else.

Not quite the same thing, but I have my mobile network set up to forward every call to a Twilio number which just states that my number doesn't accept calls. It sends me an SMS so I know someone tried to. It's great. People who do need to call me then will just use FaceTime Audio or WhatsApp calls.

That seems really obnoxious for anyone that has your number. Do you just not give your number out?

Because spam calls don't occur because you gave your number out, but because the spammers either farm your number from a "partner" or iterate through numbers.

That’s one class. Another class is if the number was in a credit application or marketing form, then got resold or data-breached.

I only put burner numbers on forms. They start to get called about 90 - 180 days later. Not all, but enough you don’t want to give your cell out.

I avoid giving it out wherever possible. Some forms require phone numbers, in which case I generally try to enter an obviously-incorrect number.

Interesting. Do you state FaceTime/WhatsApp in the twilio message?

Nope, don't want to encourage it.

I like this idea.

I've wanted a whitelist only setting for a very long time... and I have also resorted to using the iPhones DND feature but instead of favorites I just use contacts.

Havn't heard from the fake CRA, chinese immigration or duct cleaners for ages... I do still get text messages so I'm not sure what people are talking about by 'all or nothing' ...

As far as I can tell, the only downside is anyone in my contact list can wake me up at 4am...

This still lets people on that list wake you up after hours unless you take manual action.

I believe apple has a new call fitering API, but of course you don't have a way of really knowing what apps do with their permissions.

Apple should give you the ability to firewall apps from any net access.


Single number at a time though. Useless for spammers that use random spoofed numbers. Not sure what sort of performance problems you'd hit by adding 10M numbers per area code. It's probably a hashset underneath, so maybe none...?

I was so annoyed by spam calls that I called my carrier and asked if I could block Texas and Florida.

Apparently you cannot.

The Hiya app lets you block calls that start with a particular string. It looks like the app allows for blocking just an area code. The only downside is that numbers being blocked by Hiya will sometimes start to ring for like a quarter of a second before the blocking takes effect - still better than having them ring through. I have the area code and exchange for both of the numbers that ring to my phone automatically blocked in Hiya (so, first six numbers) and it makes a big difference. My LG G7 has a call blocking feature, as well, but trying to block only the initial string of numbers for the area code and exchange didn't work. I'd recommend Hiya.


The thing that pisses me off is that the numbers are either faked or stolen. The people actually making the call on those numbers need to be arrested and charged with a felony. I don't care if they are some low level telemarketing drone. They are already scammers and are committing hundreds of felonies a day. Put them in prison.

From the looks of screenshots from the iOS app, it looks like this app doesn't do this.


Yeah, in my case that is what I want. There is only a handful of family that can get through. But, if they are calling at 3am, it is very likely an emergency. If this becomes a problem, I'd just ask them not to call at 3am. I haven't had any issues though.

Personal habit that's worked for me for years: turn off all data when I go to bed - only calls and sms can wake me up (of course this works if you don't use sms as a regular communication medium)

I end up syncing in the morning when I turn Wi-Fi back on

I love the DnD feature of Android but I've noticed that if someone persists they still get through. A feature I assume.

This is a setting. Go to settings and search for "repeat" and disable "Allow repeat callers".

I've been getting a lot of spam calls where they call, immediately hang up, and then call back from the same number. I assume it's to get around do not disturb.

A few years ago my parents were getting a lot of spam calls on their landline. Basically all of them were automated calls, either a recorded message or you were connected to a person shortly after the call was connected. I bought an OBi100 [0], which is a small device designed to be a VOIP adapter, but you can setup rules on how calls (incoming or outgoing) are handled.

I setup a rule that if the call was from a withheld or foreign number, it would play an automated message asking the user to press the number 1 to be connected. This alone stopped basically all the spam calls. I'm surprised how well it actually works, I assume the caller detects it as a voicemail message so just hang up.

I imagine most carriers could implement something like this relatively easy. Sorry Google, no AI needed here.

[0] https://www.callcentric.com/support/device/obihai/obi100

This is the kind of solution that only works because basically nobody is doing it. If a big provider deployed it, it would take five seconds for it to be defeated.

The OP didn't exhaust their solutions. They found a simple solution which works (for them), and shares it. Once the solution gets widely adopted, it will also get more attack surface. In the meantime, the solution works well because the risk (getting spam calls once more) is worth the small investment. Its essentially a no-brainer to implement this, if you suffer from this issue (I don't, I'm eagerly waiting for a fun phone call with Miclosoft customer support despite owning no such products).

This is hacker news so this kind of solution is cool. And whatever the big guys are doing this user can always change his approach to defeat the spammers. Not globally but just for himself.

Yeah. This is so much like greylisting for email, but simpler. Greylisting has been around since at least 2007 and most spammers still don't bother getting around it.

I agree.

Exactly. With phone number spoofing, all the scammer needs is the phone number of someone on your list. With social media how long do you think it would take to generate such a list, and to get propagated to every scammer?

In UK some of the call centres use a fake local number.

It seems to me that phone companies can detect that, but they don't want to reduce the number of calls, do they?

How is a spammer going to figure out phone numbers of people on my list from social media? I don't know about you, but I don't have my Facebook friends publicly viewable.

And that's an awful lot of work just to cold-call someone to try to sell them insurance or whatever.

With a handy-dandy facebook bug that allows them to scrape such data at scale?

This has happened multiple times before, at least two separate incidents have made the news.

This doesn't seem like a reliable way of running a business: just hoping that you can exploit a bug in Facebook (which will surely be fixed before long) so you can grab people's friends, try to figure out their phone numbers, then spoof them, then cold-call them trying to sell them crap insurance.

I'm sorry, this just sounds far-fetched to me. History seems to have shown that when hurdles are just a little too high, the spammers just don't bother.

Why just facebook? Spammers have been exploiting bugs like this in everything for years. The data gets scraped and then sold and resold.

This would need to be spoofed for every individual though. I imagine this would be cost prohibitive enough that it would at least in the short term kill most spam phone calls.

On the contrary, it represents a revenue opportunity for the first person who can generate a list of matching pairs of phone number and friend phone number. I wouldn't expect the list to be prohibitively expensive because it will be resold thousands of time.

Can you explain phone number spoofing to me? Is there truly phone spoofing that is more than faking the dialer on the client?

There is no way for you to verify whether the caller's phone number is actually the real source. Anyone can impersonate anyone. It's like the source address in an IP packet. You can put whatever you want in there.

This is mostly a US problem though. In Europe, the operators tend to be more strict on this, AFAIK.

You should read the book "Ghost in the Wires" by Kevin Mitnick. It will really open your eyes as to what is possible with phones.

can I borrow your copy? I will pay shipping to and fro' :)

Sure! But honestly, it will probably be cheaper for you to just buy it from Amazon for $8. Or, read it for free using Overdrive (if you have a Kindle/ereader).

But this way I get to bug you about my discoveries and compare interpretations with yours... the knowledge comes with instruction hehe

I like the idea of using a 'enter code' (where code is pseudo randomly generated) to request your number be added to the white list. This could be done for all users not in your contacts. Then, the user could leave, say a voicemail, which is converted to text that goes into a list that you could later scan for valid requests.

I currently use the "Should I Answer" app, mentioned below, which is about as good as it gets in terms of pissed off people working together to fight the good fight I think.

However, all of this crap is still jist a bandaid for a lack of our governmental ability (at least in the U.S.) to hold phone utilities accountable for the illegal use of phone numbers.(1) Fine the phone companies hard and the problem goes away.

1. https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/phone-companies-...

I just love the thought of identifying a CAPTCHA-like obscured audio everytime I am calling someone.. :D

"Laurel" "Sorry, the expected answer was Yannie."

I love the idea of using that to train my new speech-to-text AI.

While I agree, if you randomize the number that needs to be pressed to get by the prompt it could become a serious roadblock for most autodialer systems.

Go the ReCaptcha route and have them listen to 9 sounds and tell you which one of them are store fronts.

Google Voice offers this as an option; they're fairly big.

They have a "Press 1 to be connected" option? Where?

Not who you're replying to, but I just looked and the only option I see is you can turn on screening and so when you pick up, you hear the person's name and can decide to take the call or not.

Yeah, plus spam filtering, which AFAIK doesn't work like the GP's solution. I think the other commenter was just confused.

And you can choose to disable screening for numbers that are already in your contacts.

I did something similar for myself nearly 20 years ago with Asterisk, and it was amazingly effective for my home phone. I'd whitelist numbers of friends and family, everyone else had to dial a number to get the phones in the house to ring.

I stopped doing it when I basically switched over to a cell phone as my only phone.

For a while 5 years ago I was getting a ton of spam calls, mostly the "Rachel from Credit Card Services" ones. One to two a day.

After trying the "Press 1 to be put on our do not call" and speaking to a person and asking to be put on their do not call, filing those FTC complaints, and still getting a few a day, I started using a "fake person generator" and just stringing them along. After a couple weeks of this I got one that went along with me for a few minutes and then said "Thank you for playing <my phone number>, you will continue to get calls." and hung up.

This was fantastic, because at the time I had 3 phone numbers associated with my cell phone, and I didn't know which one was getting the calls. I shortly after switched to Google Fi, and ditched the number that they had been calling, and the calls dropped way off.

Yeah I got the OBi device as I intended to use it as a VOIP gateway to connect to Asterisk, but in the end I was able to do everything I needed on the device.

I do exactly this today, using Phone.com as my home VoIP provider. One "universal" number rings both my cell and the VoIP land line determined by my travel schedule. Not on my whitelist? A prompt asks the caller to dial 7. No robocall has gotten through since.

Of course if this were widely available for people who can't write five lines of code, it would be defeated. For HN readers, some of whom scripted checking into Continental flights right at the 24 hour window to game the upgrade list, this is child's play that works.

Cool idea, but you're talking about a landline though aren't you?

The implication from the OP is that it's a question about mobiles. It's not 100% clear, but in my experience people rarely bother to have contact lists on landlines, which themselves are increasingly less popular.

Sure, but the point is that with this greylisting approach you don't need them.

iPhone or Android. We don’t have a landline.

Great workaround.

"Please press 1" reminds me of the recent CCC talk on automating hacking mobile voicemail to get access to online account recovery codes.

Some websites required a key press before speaking the code so he simply recorded the DTMF tone on the voicemail greeting message.


Many landline handsets sold in the UK now have this as a feature.

What I've found is that whist it does stop a lot of spam calls they now fake local numbers. Worse they fake them with a missing digit. The phone companies could definitely spot that. I've wondered previously if international telecoms treaties stop the phone companies from acting to block these calls.

The whole reason why I did this was because I was playing around with Asterisk and VOIP, and wanted to connect a PTSN line to it (which the OBi device was marketed as), but it turned out I could do everything on the device.

Anyway, at the time I was traveling a lot so had my VOIP number forward to whatever local number I had in that country. That worked great, except on my phone it just displayed my VOIP number as the caller ID, so I had no idea who was calling.

In Asterisk I saw you could set the caller ID, but it didn't work for outgoing calls via my SIP trunk, so I assumed it was disabled by my provider (makes sense). I contacted them, and they said they had unlocked that feature, after which I could make a phone call with any caller ID. I expect there is something fundamental about how the telecom system works that prevents them from blocking these calls, but I'm really surprised at how easy they gave me access to it.

My brother used a nice addition to this that worked quite well -- the message started with the obnoxious three-tone sound that usually precedes a failed call ("beeep-boooop-beeep this call cannot be completed as dialed..."), then just went into the "please press 3 to be connected to ..."

Seemed to automatically take them off most lists pretty quickly.

When I had a landline, I set my voice mail message to the 'we're sorry, your number cannot be completed as dialed' message. Worked great.

Hard to see any downsides to that plan.

Truecaller is a spam blocking service that may help


First time I heard about a voice captcha.

All the captcha systems I know about have a voice option for the blind. I end up using it fairly often because the image obfuscation techniques a lot of them use now makes the text nigh unreadable for humans.

What do you mean by foreign number? Most spam calls I get are from the same area code as my phone number?

Some of the spam calls I received were from US phone numbers (I'm in the UK), but when I answered I ended up connected with someone with a Southern Asian accent speaking rather bad English.

My name is James, I work for Community Phone, a nationwide cell phone company.

Show of hands: if we opened up this feature for you to control this filter for yourself or your loved ones, holding all else constant (price and coverage), would that be sufficient to cause a switch to try out an alternate provider?

Huh. I am currently on Google Fi.

I'm not thrilled putting Google in charge of my mobile data, but I still trust Google to safeguard my privacy more than any of the major telcos, and for someone who uses small amounts of data, they're very competitively priced and have really good, simple billing.

But particularly with the Librem Phone coming up, I've been trying to find other phone providers I won't hate that can give me more flexibility in devices and that at least somewhat shares my values. Community Phone looks really interesting. I'm frankly a little bit weirded out that the prices are that low, I'm going over the site trying to figure out what the tradeoffs are.

Rolling out a feature like this would definitely make me more interested in switching. Even if I didn't think it was valuable for me personally, it would make me feel like the company was in close contact with its users and working with them, rather than just blindly selling to them.

From a pure feature point of view, I would still want unknown people to be able to leave me messages. I get legitimate calls from unknown numbers -- but my policy is that if I don't know you and the call isn't important enough to leave a message, you're either spam or I don't care. If it is important enough to leave a message, I screen that and then add the number to my contact list if it's legit.

Hey danShumway, thanks for your note here. I am going to share it with my colleagues if that's okay with you. You express a very important culture and way of working.

The real answer is that our prices are low because most of our users to date use less than 1gb per line (nearly all senior citizens on our 15 or 25 plans)... they were overpaying the most while using the least (but even for them we cannot be too low otherwise even the stingiest would think our pricing is too low to be credible... and I am laughed out of /r/nocontract for having prices that are way too high). And since building that volume, we've been able to keep our prices as they are, due to better negotiations with carriers.

That said, most of our customers to date join us just because they like getting a human from Boston or Milwaukee when they answer the phone who can help them quickly, listens intently to what you say, and doesn't require a "tech-ese"

For how long were you with your previous carrier before joining Google Fi and when did you make the switch?

I don't want to derail the overall conversation too much.

I was with Verizon from my first phone until I first got a smartphone. I switched over to Fi specifically because I didn't want to deal with Verizon's billing, and because I didn't like the company in general.

The low-data approach is really attractive to me -- atm I use less than 500mb a month (sometimes as low as 200-300mb). At that level of usage your prices are very competitive with Fi. My concerns are that I'm starting to migrate away from native services where possible because of the security implications -- more of my texting is happening over Signal rather than SMS, and with the Libre phone theoretically some voice is going to start getting routed over Matrix.

I have no idea what that's going to do to my data usage, I honestly just have to experiment and find out.

Additionally, I'm starting to get more serious about using a VPN everywhere, even on mobile data, since I assume that behind Google, whatever network I'm on is absolutely selling any data that hits their towers. That may drive my data usage up, or it might drive it down because I might feel more comfortable connecting to random wifi networks if I know 100% all of my traffic is going through that VPN.

I'm in an urban area, so this is unrelated to me, but the fact that you're selling dumb phones on your plan is also pretty cool, and I can think of people who would be interested in that if Sprint's rural coverage was better.

We'd love to experiment with you on Librem. If you go through crazy spikes of data usage, we could comp them if you helped us characterize and understand the behavior-- and especially the value you hope you procure by way of privacy.

Do you operate your own VPN? Or if not, how do you truly evaluate whether you are solving your problem? What questions would you ask post-Librem and post-VPN adoption whose answers would tell you how close you are to solving your problem?

I consider my IP address to be sensitive information, so I wouldn't host a VPN on my home network, and there are advantages in numbers to using a popular service, since you can blend in at least a tiny bit.

I use a 3rd-party VPN (PIA). This is obviously not perfect privacy, since they could be lying about what data they store. That being said, I'm not trying to hide from a government, I'm trying to hide from advertisers, stalkers, and criminals. So even if I can't personally validate that PIA isn't storing any of my data, having my data accessible to a warrant is still better than having it accessible to hundreds of different sites and companies that I 100% already know I don't trust.

I validate actual implementation security by regularly checking what information shows up in requests when I visit sites. There are a couple of tools that help with that online.

Being strict about what data goes where is part of the reason why my data usage is low. It turns out that if you block network access for most apps on a phone by default, data usage just goes down a lot. Apps like Uber and Lyft make a lot of requests, because they are constantly tracking you, so blocking their network access if you have them installed is just a strict all-around win. Even apps that should be good about this like Google Music will sometimes just randomly decide to download things.

Obviously the librem phone is still kind of up in the air, but my game plan assuming it's not a complete disaster is to migrate over to that and fill in any gaps of functionality by just programming whatever features I need. I dunno how voice calls will work. The idea of switching to something more secure than the existing phone system is attractive, but I mentioned above, I'm not sure what it would do to data usage -- I just don't have any basis to make an educated guess.

In general I want my phone to be a very specialized device -- not a dumb phone, but a phone that only ever does what I tell it to.

So a successful migration for me would look like a company:

- with good coverage

- without any horrible terms like arbitration agreements or stealth charges

- that does not sell data, and that is supportive of low data-usage

- that is at least not actively unethical :)

on a device that:

- gives me root access

- makes calls, texts, and browses the web in a secure way

- that is highly geared towards offline availability and low data-usage

- and that doesn't run extra software or do things behind my back

Librem is my hope for the second part, I guess if it crashes and burns I'll look into custom Android roms. I haven't made a list of carriers yet, but from what you say, it sounds like Community Phone should be high up on that list?

Similar setup: I use Google Fi with a Google Pixel 3 phone, and I will buy the Purism Librem 5 phone.

I get ~5 calls/day that are legitimate calls with unknown numbers, and ~10 calls/day that are spam robocalls. I use Google screening and it works reasonably well; I would much prefer to have a telco do the screening automatically.

I use ~10-20GB of data per month, mostly for video calls, mostly for business, mostly via Signal, Slack, Zoom.

Feel free to PM me if you would like more. Contact info is in my user link.

thanks, PMed

Yes, for certain older relatives who are vulnerable to phone scams. I think you should market it that way.

I feel like if I just told some of my relatives about it without it being marketed, they would think I'm the one scamming them.

Have your older relatives shown a proclivity for phone scams?

Yes, though some of them already had a proclivity when they were young, it's gotten worse.

Sometimes getting them a prepaid phone with limited minutes, like 100/month or 1000/year, manages to fix it because it stops them from answering calls from unrecognized numbers. I guess the logic is they get upset about spending 4 cents a minute.

Oh hell yeah. My elderly mother started buying anything pitched to her before I jumped in and spent six months undoing that damage.

> would that be sufficient to cause a switch to try out an alternate provider?

yes, OMG YES. i get _at least_ 5 spam calls a day. It drives me mad. PLEASE let me whitelist.

I'd still need comparable coverage and pricing, and be able to use my iphone but yes i would switch carriers.

Telephone spam was not much of a problem before unlimited cell phone calling plans. I would love a system to charge people who aren't on my white list an amount of money I determine to call me. I'd probably put it at 10 cents so as to not hurt legitimate callers but basically kill spammers. Warren Buffet might set his to $10 million.

If this system existed, would you be pilling to port your phone number over to us today to try it out, potentially even paying slightly more upfront?

If the coverage and wifi integration was as good as Google Fi and my girlfriend and I can use our Nexus 5 phones, I would definitely do it right now. I would also pay a decent premium over our $35 a month unlimited call/text, $10 Gig data plan.

The easy international hookup feature of Google fi I could give up, although that is pretty sweet. All over Europe my phone would hook up automagically with the local system about 30min after my plane landed.

Honestly, I would pay for a feature where:

- People in my contact list (or whitelist) automatically get through

- Everyone else is forwarded to a real live human who screens my calls

(The reason why I would pay is I'd rather just have a well-paid human handle this instead of some kind of AI or heuristic.)

The human could be paired with some data, like what phone network the call came from, and additional data about how likely caller ID is spoofed. If you want to get fancy, you could do some kind of machine learning where you tell the person, "this call is xx% likely to be spam."

To keep things simple, I shouldn't be able to set many preferences. (This allows the human to react the same way every time.) But, things like choosing to allow or block "good" robocalls, like automated calls from the power company, are probably useful.

You could try to make a profit by actually asking to get on the do-not-call list, tracking it, and then aggressively suing violators. When I'm interrupted on my cell phone, I just don't have the time to track this kind of thing.

And, one more thing: If you want to get into AI, see if you can figure out how to keep the spammers on the phone as long as possible. This increases their costs dramatically.

Hi, a friend of mine started a similar thing called the Jolly Roger Telephone company. You should check them out, to fully appreciate the merit of your final point :)

Regarding your proposed feature, how much time, or how many calls/fewer distractions, would you look forward to saving every month if this real live human did their job well?

I have several devices including iPhone XS, a few Android devices, and a hotspot; each with its own number. How many devices do you support per account? Do you have an unlimited account and what sort of bandwidth limits do you have?

I live in Houston, TX. My current carrier is T-mobile. I'm fairly satisfied with cell service where I live, but my parents' home an hour away is garbage. How's your coverage there?

In addition to leaving my devices in do-not-disturb mode, I also specifically disable my voicemail. I am not interested in voicemail messages and have repeatedly asked to have T-mobile permanently disable it for my phones but it keeps turning up anyway. Is Community Phone able to resolve that?

What I would rather have would be if voicemail and other messages could be delivered directly to a personal email address and/or posted to a personal file server. I want to be able to aggregate my phone numbers' correspondence in any standard desktop mail client like Thunderbird.

James, your service looks interesting but your data plans seem very low (in size, not price). 1, 2, 4GB plans with $5/0.5GB overage costs?

Right. Most people people just sign up for our $25 plan for unlimited talk and text with 1 fast gigabyte of data, and overage 100mbs for $1 + sales taxes

Your website doesn't list the overage price for the $25 plan, only the two other plans.

Thanks. Yeah our website doesn't do us justice :)

Hey James. Honestly, it probably wouldn't be enough for me to switch. I've been using the do-not-disturb solution for a few weeks now and I'm mostly satisfied.

However, that proposed feature plus the fact you don't sell user data to advertisers (reading your website) is appealing...

I also am on Fi, the feature would at least get my attention. The biggest problem I would have currently with going to your service is the fact that it is on the Sprint network, currently the last place provider in my area.

How is T-Mobile or AT&T coverage in your area? We offer them as well.

Sounds like it would require customers to provide you with all their contacts for creating the filter? If so, no thanks. This feature could be implemented 100% on the device itself, without leaking information.

No. Android + Google resolved my problems with spam calls.

Awesome! How long did it take to solve, and for how many years did you have the problem before solving it?

Android just started doing a good job of blocking them one day. I didn't do anything.

I had tried Hiya and Jolly Roger Telephone Co, but neither was good enough to be worth the bugs and loss of privacy.

I had the problem intermittently for years, but it becamw awful (like 6+ spam calls a day) for two weeks before Google apparently fixed it.

I use the DND of Android Pixel 2. I got 26 calls yesterday that never rang, the majority of which show as local numbers. About half of those left 4 second voicemails. Out of curiosity I turned it off for about 10 minutes. Got the evergreen "you've won a cruise" call.

Can you elaborate?

Spam call filtering is built in to Android now.



hi James, This filter is a filter i would love to have for my phone, there is a wish list that could accompany the desire to filter calls, a ^large^ list perhaps, but i think it would be summed up as another user has stated, I want my phone to serve me, not the other way around. I also believe the smart phone thing has been abused for far too long, to the point I will not operate a smart phone for reasons of security, privacy and the interruption of tasks with alerts popups updates, and feature bloating. baked in apps that depart radicly from the stated function of the app, unnessecary permisions and connectivity. These reasons and more are why i refuse to use anything other than a dinosaur flipphone, and e-mail. thanks for the ear James.

Hi meetuu, thanks very much for your thoughtful response. I totally can relate to your desire for that feature and I hope you do not feel ashamed for it. Your phone is a personal device, and it ought to exist to serve your personal preferences so that you may live the best possible life with the thing (toleration or enjoyment)! I think it can be confusing now, that they have become so impersonally social, that we can be made to feel strange for wanting them to behave in different ways. And I appreciate your desire for simplicity and wanting to get to the essence of your communications.

At what point did you finally decide to leave your smartphone behind and how severe of a lifestyle change have you had to make in order to operate and function as you have come to expect of yourself?

- We currently offer unlimited talking and texting for $15/month + state taxes and FCC fees, or ~$18.

Hi James,

Interesting service - how did it get started? I see that you're all over the site, assuming youre "Strategy Team James"... Are you the founder of this service?

Who backs the network you talk to?

Would you have a data-only-text-only SIM plan? (i.e. could I have a ~$3/month SIM that ONLY allowed Text? or a $5/month plan that ONLY allowed text+SOME data?

I'd like to put sims in some IoT devices - and want to find the cheapest method to allow this.

I have some other ideas I'd like to talk to you guys about if these sorts of things are something you're open to.


Hi Sam, I started a previous company (caffei.net) and during this time of selling network software that improves end user privacy, battery life, network performance, and total data used to the folks building all the apps all the people use for 2 years, I grew disgusted with how little regard they have for all of the many prepaid people in the world... for whom a sloppily set up RPC connection for some trash 30 second video ad will cost them $0.40. This is why we had that lemonde.fr teardown on HN several months back: apps stuff themselves with third parties that hog up the network and thus battery life and aren't penalized for it. So the phone company we started became a way to exact the proper practices we know we can deliver, and we know that folks would benefit from. But then we started finding a lot of people in far worse situations with their big phone company providers, paying more than $300 a month for less than 2 gigabytes of data (using less than 50mb a month) etc etc. So our morals pushed us because we couldn't find anyone else helping them! Yes, Consumer Cellular, and yes GreatCall, are supposed to be good, but in practice for about 5% of users, they are really, really bad. And yeah I'm a founder.

We use AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile networks. We also peer with a few hundred regional carriers around the world.

What is your business application and how big of a cost component are these SIM cards and how many of them would you need? Have you checked out hologram.io? They have a card built for this IIRC.

Always open to ideas! I am james@communityphone.org

Man, I wish I had heard of hologram earlier - thanks for that.

Ill send you an email though - love the mission you describe for what youre doing.

Thanks Sam. I hope you love the mission enough to switch!

Interesting, got any family plans?

Absolutely. Our most popular family plans involve two unlimited everything plans for the kids ($45 each for two, or $50 for one) and then a $35 2gb plan for the parents with an additional line of unlimited t&t for $10 sharing that 2gb pool, or $45 + $90 = $135 plus taxes and fcc fees for the 4 lines.

hi again james, the problem with phone abuse became apparent, so long ago that i cant even remember. my wife bought a smartphone for me to use and it took less than a week for me to begin raging. the greatest peeves involved a "certain browser corporation" baking in thier browser, and requireing a sign in to a "G / G+ account" the lack of controll over basic functions, and camera use. It seemed that every time i wanted to snap a pic of a moment never to be seen again, the process was interrupted with suggestions, or a suddenly critical update [turning off OTA updates would be wonderful]. The life style adjustment that was presented to me was 1 device many uses , like camera, GPS, note taking, sharing of information. But it was a false promise as these things came at the price of not being able to actually use thes features in an effective manner. I was unwilling to adjust my life style to accomodate this "mess" so i have a task bag with SLR camera, GPS, FRS/HAM radio, PDA, laptop, and pocket router hotspot. This is my lifestyle, and im called a fossil, a dinosaur, older than dirt etc. if i had a device that was all of these things [basically a smartphone] but allowed me to ^totally^ controll it up to and including selection and design of an operating system and firmware of my own choice i would not balk at paying $900 on hardware that sits in the palm of my hand. Please all you hardware devs out there i hope you are listening as well. Thanx again James it sounds like you have a good price point as well, but im just interested in giving constructive feedback, i hope your company is able to be a suffiently successful competitor, and reset the bar for all others.

Hey Meetuu, I'm happy you've been able to find and fashion yourself a solution to these problems you've experienced. I worry about the people who agree with you, but who might not be smart enough to realize it, and instead choose to acquiesce to the mainstream pull of sterile veneer throwing up lowercase I prepends all over the place. If I comment back here in a few months, or years, will you receive my notification? I would like to give you updates and receive more of your constructive criticism as we move forward :)

Maybe you are a fossil, how could I know, but we've figured out how to fashion literal fossils into the black goop that's brought the entire world this far... fossils of all kinds must have a lot of potential!

Tangentially; T-Mobile tags suspect numbers with "Scam Likely" caller ID. Opt-in to block these calls by dialing #662# - https://www.t-mobile.com/resources/call-protection

edit; T-Mobile accepts forwarded text message SPAM at 7726 - https://www.t-mobile.com/responsibility/privacy/fraud-spam/s...

Half of my spam calls these days are from numbers that are supposedly in the same area code as my phone (likely spoofed as I've called a couple back before and the person didn't know what I was talking about when I said they called me) but since I no longer live in that area code I am able to use that as an identifier.

It's the same for me. Any time I see a call from my phone's area code, I know it's 99% likely to be spam (the other 1% is a recruiter, who I also don't want to talk to because they're trying to get me to take a job back in that same area code).

Having a phone with a far-away area code is actually really useful just for this reason, I've found.

I do report numbers all the time but I didn't know I can prevent them from calling me. Just did that 662 dial. thank you

Thank you, just activated this. And it is #632# to opt back out again (for my own future reference, I can probably find this thread faster than T-Mobile's documentation :)

I use this, and it lets many scam calls through / unmarked.

Thank you trying this out now.


I'm more inclined to say that the real solution to this is to make it expensive for the callers by having a service that answers the call every time and tries to keep the caller on the line wasting their time. There's obviously an asymmetric principal at play here.

Imagine for a sec a situation where: 1. I receive a robocaller message. 2. I press a button on phone indicating spam 3. Software Agent takes over, presses the right DTMF to proceed (ML based analysis of what works and what doesn't) 4. Agent waits for human to come on, starts playing random conversational pieces that sound right (extension, the google thing that booked a hair dresser appointment takes this even further https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D-6mxb_Mu8). 5.

Are you sure this is a problem you want to (try to) solve technically?

- You'll make it very hard for genuine people to contact you.

- You don't solve the problem, you only make it more expensive. As long as the benefit of calling you is bigger than the cost they will jump through whatever hoop to call you.

For some context: this isn't a problem everywhere in the world. In my country there are strict laws about unsolicited phone calls (especially to people who have indicated they wan't to be called[1]). I never get a spam called (automated or otherwise).

[1]: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/wetten-en-regelingen/productbes...

Not really personally. The telcos have an interest in making this not a thing, and I have strong hopes that any solution based on this concept would be put out of business by fixing it at that level.

There are laws in the US about this too, with some pretty heavy penalties that are possible to collect in Civil court. The problem is finding the perpetrator, as the phone system makes it difficult to get accurate info on who actually called. I suppose someone could start a class action against the telcos, or an aggressive AG could start a RICO case.

BTW, AT&T, if you don't fix this soon I'm moving to T-Mobile.

Re-read the proposed solution. The recipient screens the call and pushes a button to redirect the spammer.

It's surprisingly easy to fool spam callers with a set of prerecorded messages: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB0fj0vLJPE&list=PLduL71_GKz...

Several years ago, a coworker who knew about voice processing set up a device at his house that when you called his number, it would answer with whale song. This had just enough entropy to make a robocall believe that there was someone there. It would keep the robocalls going for quite some time. If you wanted to reach him, you had to dial an extension.

This exists (kind of).


I used that for a little bit. It was fun, but a bit clunky to get going (dial another number, join the calls).

Nomorobo does exactly this (except the robo calls are mostly auto-detected and the script read to them is pre-recorded). It records their conversation for your entertainment also! I think you can submit your own recording to harass the robo callers too I think.

link: https://www.nomorobo.com/

I've found the Google Call Screening feature to do a much better job at this than anything more malicious.

I tap a button, and the call screener takes its time to explain that I've enabled that call screening service, while I continue on my day. No spam I've ever gotten has waited for the voice to finish its 3rd word.

Google Call Screening almost solves the parent's problem. The only thing missing is a setting to have it automatically screen all calls that aren't in my contact list. Then my phone would never ring unless I know you or you waited/responded to the call screening.

Yes. I don’t even want to see the number come up or hear the phone ring unless they are on my contacts list.

You can? I thought that was pretty standard on Android phones? On my phone, at least, there are do-not-disturb options for "priority only" (which can be set to either specific contacts or the whole contact list), "alarms only", and "total silence" (careful with that one).

I use priority only to only allow started contacts through at night. During the day, I want all contacts to come through but not unknown numbers.

Yep I'm pretty sure this is standard on Android phones. Not sure if it can be done on iPhones though!

On iOS, you can do block everyone but favorites, or just all, with an option of allowing repeat callers through (they call X amount of times in a 5 minute duration).

Unfortunately this also disables all other app notifications which is less than desirable.

It's on my pixel 3 xl, if you turn on "do not disturb" you can allow calls from anyone, contacts, starred contacts, or nobody.

My challenge on Android is that Hangouts calls have zero ability to filter.

Does it disable other notifications on android though?

But you can! Mostly in Android though. I can confirm MIUI - the stock rom on Xiaomi phones - have this exact feature built in.

You can block all hidden numbers, all numbers not in your address book, specific numbers, etc.

Or one can use Tasker - an Android automation app to achieve the same functionality and more in any Android phone. I suppose these days, you can use Iphone's scripting functionality as well for the same, can't you?

Privacy concerns regarding MIUI /Android can be handled by installing a firewall like Netguard.

I can confirm that. No need for me to block all except whitelisted numbers. Blocking the dozen or so worst offenders was more than enough.

Also the feature of recording conversations is very nice.

There is a "Blacklist Block" app on F-Droid that (despite the name) will do that on any Android phone.

Yes this is excellent feature and working very well

Buy an android phone. Go to settings -> sound -> do not disturb -> exceptions/calls.

Click on allow calls and select "from contacts only".

On Android, you can do exactly this with an app called "Should I Answer?"

That app has a lot more features too, like blocking calls which are rated negatively in the community-curated database. Of course, you can rate numbers yourself as well, and block/whitelist those.

It can also block hidden numbers or foreign numbers, and a whole bunch of other stuff as well.

It's a pretty cool app. Check it out.

It's mostly built in for Pixel: it warns about spam calls under the caller ID and allows you to report spam. In addition, there's the new call screening functionality [1] (which also now works on the Pixel 2).

[1]: https://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/google-call-screening-h...

> It's mostly built in for Pixel

I this this "Pixel" reply is misplaced. I've been using "Should I Answer" for about a year on my Galaxy S6, and it does everything the OP was requesting and then some. I just donated to them yesterday for the first time in fact.

Even if you don't choose to use your contacts as a white list (which I don't because I often have client/prospect calls coming in that aren't in my contacts yet), it still catches about 95% of calls thanks to thepower of the masses fighting back.

If you don't have it, definitely worth a download

Agreed. And it does it by periodically downloading a ratings database and storing it on your phone, so the checking doesn't leak any personal info. That takes some space, but not very much.

I will try this

I block all US calls now, using Hiya (I block +1 ) and warn new contacts to either text me, or use signal, whatsapp, discord, etc. Originally, it was just enough to block my own area code (+1 616 ), since I had moved and didn't have any contacts that would have been from the area. But in the last few months, robocalls kept increasing, and I'm at about 100 robocalls a week.

I seem to have robocalls worse than most, most of my friends are still sufficing with spam detection, but it's not enough. It's a crying shame the FCC has allowed the telephone to become a tragedy of the commons, but none of the carriers have any interest in blocking robocallers, it's a secondary source of income.

I have a smartphone that literally can not operate as a phone and take calls. It's dystopian.

Or why isn't the law enforced? Why is the FCC and do-not-call.gov asleep on the job?

Why are scammers even allowed to spoof caller IDs from local area-code numbers that don't even exist? (Thankfully, this makes them blissfully easy to spot. But I fear someday the fraudsters will get up to speed on that heuristic.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a technical measure like the one you suggest — it appears to be sorely needed. But I'm dismayed at how little the government and the carriers care.

And for God's sake can we choose a more convincing scam than "the factory warranty on your vehicle is about to expire"? My car is over 20 years old. The warranty is gone.

> Why is the FCC and do-not-call.gov asleep on the job?

I can't speak to the FCC's leadership under Ajit Pai, but donotcall.gov was shuttered during the latest government shutdown.

Here's a success story of the FCC busting someone last year: https://mashable.com/2018/05/13/fcc-fines-spam-robocalls-flo...

I use "Should I answer?" which serves this purpose very well: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.mistergrou...

The main service the app offers is a community rating of phone numbers. Depending on the rating, calls can be muted automatically. You can also, however, tell the app to generally block all calls except those from contacts in your address book.

It is not exactly the solution you look for but on iOS you can use call blocking apps which work in a similar fashion to the safari blocking extensions. They provide a list of blacklisted numbers to the phone app and they can either tag them (say, as a telemarketer) or block them outright. I currently use Callblock and it works fine.

One advantage of this system is that the blocking provider does not need (and can't have) access to your phone call history at all. The disadvantage is that it is a blacklist only, you can't invert the rules.

As a side note, although I would _love_ to just ignore all calls from numbers I do not know, at least in France most companies such as banks, taxman and so on will call you from a withheld number and they don't always leave a message.

Default ring: three seconds of silence, no vibration.

People you actually want to talk to: custom ring/vibration. As a bonus you can assign different rings to people so you know “oh hey that’s Mom” or whatever.

Just a guess, but I would expect carriers to be strongly against any feature that made it easy to block most calls.

Carriers no longer get paid per call, so you'd think they'd be incentivized to lower the load on their network by reducing the number of spam calls.

At least in the US, the carrier initiating the call still pays the receiving carrier. This is less then 1¢/minute in most cases, but still represents real money when multipled by millions of calls a day.

Users just pay for 'Unlimited Calling' now, but all the legacy payment structures still exist on the back end.

The more people block most calls, the less useful the ability to make calls is. And making calls is rather important for telcos.

But with less usage, their service is valued less by the customer, which would cause more unsubscribes/downgrades in service.

Xiaomi phones have a "Block Calls From Strangers" option in the security settings. Xiaomi phone's are awesome.

I use callcentric for voip and it allows all non-whitelist numbers to fall through to ‘press random digit to connect’. That gets rid of spam calls for me.

nice !

Amen. The existing spam call blockers are all based on blacklists, and it's a losing battle against spammers who can simply keep spoofing new numbers.

I'm working on an app (iphone & android) that solves this the way you suggest, via a whitelist of contacts, with an optional way for non-whitelisted, non-robocallers to still get through.

If you're interested in early access, email me at russell.davis [at] gmail [dot] [com].

Although at first glance this sounds like a no brainer and a little confusing why we are not given the power to have a whitelist system on our phones I think this feature is a terrible idea. This is the same as saying, why can we not bounce all emails that have not been stored in our email address book. This one feature has the ability to destroy modern communication as we know it.

Hear me out. If you all have noticed, with every privacy feature released a significant amount of people migrate to it full-time. I currently cannot recognize my phone ring, because from the day I bought my last phone I switched off the ringing and never bothered to turn it back on, not because I hate ringtones, I just forgot and also there have been no dire consequences to do so. Someone on this thread also said he/she set her phone permanently on "do not disturb" and just deals with notifications when they want to. This is all well and good cause anyone who has tried to reach us has successfully done so and even if they did not reach us, we have evidence that they attempted to.

Having a whitelist system is VERY different and has many unforeseen consequences. From as little as, your mother got a new phone and soon she cannot reach you, you got a beautiful girls number and want to ask her on a date but cannot reach her. To bigger issues like your teenage child is mad at you and deletes your contact from their phone. Job offers will be missed, you will become unreachable in emergencies etc. The short of this is, the best case of such a feature is that you don't need to install a third party app to block spam calls, the worst case of such a feature is people can literally die cause they cannot contact you or vice versa. If I was a phone manufacturer. I just won't even allow this. There are easier ways to solve the underlying problem without opening the door for worse outcomes

Why would a beautiful girl give me her number and not whitelist mine? My teenage child could very well block my number. This argument doesn't make any sense.

> Why would a beautiful girl give me her number and not whitelist mine?

Ever watched any American movie? The girl usually writes the number on a back of a receipt or napkin, gives it to you and immediately leaves.


I do generally agree with the OP though. I need to have a way for unknown but legitimate calls to reach me. To use actual examples that happened to me - sometimes there's a problem with my on-line order, or with some form I submitted to the government, and some clerk from a company/govt office calls me to set things straight. I don't have, and couldn't possibly have, an idea from what number they'll call, but getting that call is a difference between fixing a matter on the spot, vs. wasting me (and them) half a day + incurring some extra wait time the next week.

who cares about shallow movies? this hypothetical girl would never get called, so obviously she will ask him to call her on the spot, so she can view the last blocked call in some menu, and whitelist it...

sure the girl might like to be surprised, but is that worth all the spam? perhaps someone should come up with an artificial spam service "so that you will extra enjoy your real acquaintances when they call you" if that really were true...

I don't mean this maliciously but unless I've misread your comment this is a lot of text that boils down to "sometimes you'll be unreachable". Some of the reasons you list:

- family members getting new phones

- missed connections + job offers

- teenage child being angry with you

- emergencies

Two responses:

1. The cellular phone has existed only for so long, and people found a way to exist before it. I'm not going to belabor the point since it's not very deep but this concept that you need to be reachable 99% of the time in 99% of the cases is wrong -- the cases where you actually absoutely need to be reached is often <1% of the time.

2. The problem is identity here -- it's not that you don't want certain numbers calling you, it's that you don't want certain numbers calling you. This could be solved by creating a system that links identities to numbers, though it's exceedingly optimistic notion that we'd get everyone to agree on the same system.

In all the situations when you give someone your phone number or they give you theirs, you're agreeing to talk to each other. If you instead exchanged some sort of identity (let's say GPG key), the problem no longer is "how can I call a number they should be at", it's "how do I find how to contact this person with this identity". The latter question can be solved much more robustly.

I've thought about something like this -- creating just a online store of just identities that you can freely create and discard, boiling down to GPG key. Having such a shared resource would mean that chat apps, telco providers, and various other usecases could just use GPG (in this example) to look up the right contact method... Attempting to create a widely used standard is basically suicide though so maybe this idea has no legs.

In this imaginary scenario you have a whitelist that works the way you want -- people you want to contact you can, and you can have very limited overrides like a shared identity/utility key for hospitals/government/etc.

[EDIT] - I also wanted to add -- again, I do think that this would have bad effects on "free and open communication", but I'm not sure it might actually be bad for society -- maybe free-and-open-communication by default for some mediums isn't good. I don't think closing down this loophole for phone numbers is going to squelch productive protests (one of the phenomenons I personally think we'd want to protect), but maybe I'm wrong.

It sounds to me like phone spam is so bad in the US, a lot of people want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I wonder what the differences are in law or technology that makes the problem so bad there vs other parts of the world? Maybe it can be solved in another way.

I think we just have really loud complainers -- I lived in the US for most of my life and it's never been this bad of a problem...

Opt in. Problem solved.

Hey Tones411, I actually created an app that does this for Android called RoboStop. Check it out! Unfortunately Google will be removing the app from the Play Store on March 9th due to increased restrictions regarding access to user's data (call logs), but I plan on moving the app over to RoboStop.org in about a month from now.

What if it was a legitimate emergency?

Like if someone used your number as an emergency contact. Or some hospital in the world trying to contact you because someone you know got hospitalized (touch wood).

But that's pretty much already a problem because most people, myself included, no longer answer calls from unknown numbers, unless we are expecting one. And my patience even for that is running thin -- more than once in the last few months I've been expecting an incoming call (e.g. Lyft driver) and have picked up an unknown number only to be greeted by spam.

If a legitimate business or other entity wants to get through to me and isn't in my contacts, their best bet is to leave a voicemail and hope I get around to taking a look at my visual voicemail transcriptions. Most robocalls don't leave voicemail, but some are starting to.

Right. If I don’t know the number I don’t answer it anyway.

What happened 40 years ago when home phones were the only way to contact somebody?

I'm not trying to say it's not an issue, but the mentality that you need to be connected and accessible at all times is a relatively new phenomenon. If you are in a caretaker role than sure, but if my best friend is sick in hospital and I miss it because I'm out hiking or have turned my phone off, that's just life. People are not supposed to be 24/7 contactable in my view.

In those days, you would answer the phone when it rang because most calls were legitimate contact attempts. Then telemarketing came, but it was kept somewhat in check by the need to have a human make the call. Spam robocallers are a very recent phenomenon; but they've made it so that the overwhelming majority of unknown-number calls people get are spam.

To make matters worse, 40 years ago most people didn't even have answering machines... most of the time the phone just rang and rang. Somehow we muddled through. Your point is spot on re: not being reachable 24/7 by the entire world.

People wrote letters. For urgent matters you paid a visit. Imagine that.

The BBC used to have a service that would send those messages over the radio. E.g "to the Travis family traveling in a blue sedan, number so and so on vacation in Northern Wales, please immediately contact Bristol General Hospital, your daughter is in critical condition"; the idea was that even if you didn't hear the broadcast, somebody near your would and would bring on the message.

30 seconds later I'd get the transcribed message. What irks me is when people claim "it's really important", but don't leave a voice message.

This is a good reason for the telcos to actually fix their shit instead of slapping this bandaid on it. But until then people are just going to manually ignore calls from unknown numbers assuming they're spam calls and the result will be the same.

In this case, maybe sending the calls to voicemail instead of outright blocking them will work. AFAIK robocallers disconnect when encountering voicemail, whereas in a real emergency they'd leave a message to call back.

For legitimate emergencies, 911 is open 24 hours a day. Everything else can wait until I'm ready.

This is 100% a risk I’d be willing to take. I am not trading actual every day pain for extra safety in a carefully constructed trolley problem scenario

No doubt this depends on where you are in your life.

As a single guy with no children, I'm unlikely to get any emergency calls. But my friend who has two children in school and one in nursery? You bet they're going to call her if one of them gets sick or has an accident.

That's absolutely an issue for some people but not for everyone.

Not a problem. They leave a message and you can get back to them.

Assuming op is using an iPhone?

I was looking into this for a friend and found something a couple of tutorials for making it happen with iphone, but they all said you had to use the interface from a computer (desktop/laptop) - that the call filtering and time block feature was not accessible via the phone's interface. (this was about a year ago?) - you could make your phone go silent, but let a selected set of contact be able to ring, or perhaps give another set of contacts the option to turn off your silent mode if they coded twice within 5 minutes or something?

I think there is built in methods for this with do not disturb and assorted options with that feature on newish android without third party apps right?

(I currently frequently use a "timed silent profile" app that I paid the premium for years ago, but I think I ran into these settings on base android in the past year.

This. It's a complete nightmare, I get 5-10 junk calls a day, all from "local" numbers. I gave up blocking them as they are seemingly random. Some of the calls are in Chinese!

At this point I just don't answer a call that's not in my contacts, but I should be able to enable this as the default. If it's someone that really wants to talk to me, then they'll leave voicemail.

I shouldn't have to use Do-Not-Disturb; that's for something else (don't ring my phone at all when I am sleeping), also I don't want to lose my other notifications.

The telcos charge for a "blocking" service so they have no incentive to do anything about it ... but I don't understand why Apple hasn't addressed this (maybe today's 15% decline in iPhone sales is people saying f-it and switching to Android where you can get apps to block calls).

Just checked, I got this feature on stock samsung s8(phone-settings-block numbers-block unknown callers)? Are you talking about iphone(as if it is a default phone vendor) ?

Thanks. I am using iphone but didn’t realize Samsung had that option. I couldn’t find that option on my Essential Android phone either so it must be a vendor thing.

There is a difference between unknown callers and calls from numbers not in your contact list.

Can you explain?

An "unknown caller" is typically one that has no caller ID information provided (e.g., unlisted number). However, getting a random telemarketing call from a VoIP-provided (or spoofed) local number would still come through since the caller ID information is provided, even though the number is not in your contacts list.

Unknown = caller who has chosen to hide their number, or their number is just unavailable for any other reason.

Fortunately, my carrier allows blocking such calls on NETWORK level, so they don't ever reach my phone.

This feels a bit tech-supporty. Are you sure you can't? There seem to apps for doing call blocking on both Android and iOS. I'd be absolutely shocked if none of them allow checking against your contacts.

This is still possible with Google Voice but through the legacy menu. I hope they aren't planning to drop these features any time soon.

You can screen calls or automatically send them to voicemail. You can create rules for groups of contacts that override the default. You can setup different voicemail messages for different groups.

I have it setup to send everyone but friends and family to voicemail. The transcript of this message is emailed to me. If I get multiple spam voicemails from the same number, I add the number to a contact called "Block" which sends them to a custom voicemail message I recorded telling them the number has been disconnected.

My number is posted on websites, I use it when signing up for shady things, but I hardly ever get spam. I remember having to add a lot of numbers the first month and then suddenly the torrent of spam calls abruptly stopped. I assume they blacklisted my number on their lists. I've been pretty much spam free for years.

I wish there was no unlimited calling and texting. 1 cent per minute/text is ideal. cheap enough for everyone to afford and expensive enough to make massive scale spam calling business unprofitable. same for emails. make emails cost 1 cent per email that gets donated to whatever good cause and watch spam drop by 90%

i feel like it would be effective but i worry about requiring payment information for sending emails. it seems like a privacy nightmare

Also, this gives a way to entities who control the payments control who can send emails.

Might be a concern in authoritarian regimes.

Weren't there a project with proof of work?

blockchain-based emails would definitely be a zesty solution

Android (not familiar with iPhone at all) has solved the problem of blocking unwanted calls, but has it intertwined with "do not disturb", which also affects notifications. I think we'd all enjoy having the feature separated out so that phone calls can be filtered as desired without assuming a silent/lesser mode needs enabling.

On an unrelated note, I've many times wished the phone protocol was upgraded to send metadata of your choosing along with the caller ID. Not even asking for a standard, because it'd probably suck. Just provide the means to send some optional data along with the call (which could ultimately put the nail in the coffin of land lines). The primary use case I had in mind would be to authenticate identity (since caller ID can be spoofed), but I'm sure a bunch of new uses would be utilized.

Get a Google Voice number. Give your cell number to people, the Google Voice number everywhere else. You can configure Google Voice to send all calls to voicemail if you want. And I think you can still configure it to send you a transcription via text. Spam calls won't leave a message.

Doesn't work. Spammers still manage to blind call my actual cell phone number even though I've given it to absolutely not a single person, dead or alive.

Your provider/mvno should allow you change that one easily. I just did with mine that some spammers had. Works great except new one is on the school districts notification list with no easy way to opt-out. But that one is easy to block.

Exactly. Robocallers just call every single phone number. There aren't that many.

Yep. Even if I switch numbers they real number is still out in the wild. And even if it’s not in the wild my guess is they are just calling every combination of numbers.

Google voice can be configured to screen calls from anyone not in your contacts. It works pretty well in my experience.

I still get regular spam calls, but I can always look and identify them. My cell phone has a 315 area code, and the only other person I know with a similar number is on my contact list. Absolutely anything else from a 315 number is spam. If I get something from the same number twice then I add it to my "SPAM" contact which is blocked.

The Hiya app also helps somewhat. I didn't realize how good a job carriers like T-Mobile do at filtering out the Spam calls until I switched to XFinity Mobile and went from 1-2 calls per week to 5 in the first day. Hiya brings the number back down inline with T-Mobile, and might be the same database T-Mobile uses on the backend.

At least in Spain you can ask to be in the Robinson list and then, no company can call you for advertisements or offers unless you're a client of them. AND, in Spain is against the data protection law to do marketing calls from mobile phones if you're not their client. So they can get into trouble if they do.

You can always set you're phone to ignore calls, but this doesn't avoid the call to reach your phone. However, the robinson list does.

"Is an opt-out list of people who do not wish to receive marketing transmissions"


I've been pretty happy with blacklist blocker.


I had to work some magic (which I have since forgotten) to convince my S9+ to ignore this background process, else it would stop working after a few hours.

The key thing that I wish it had was a quick way to allow unknown calls for a specified time. This would have been helpful when given the option of staying on hold for an extended period of time or receiving a callback - or when you get that "my connection is crap, let me call you back on another line."

Have you looked at the Should I Answer? app?

I don't answer calls from unknown numbers as well, but still having my phone ring only to ignore it multiple times per day is annoying. Apple should really make this a first class feature for iPhone users at least.

I have felt it since long, that phone calls should be like emails. For example, the ring should include an (optional) recorded subject of the caller (of course, may be heard on demand, by the receiver of the call for privacy reasons). In fact anyone not in contact list, should be required to send a brief voice subject/purpose of calling, which may be limited to 10 seconds. Also we should be able to respond by pressing a 'Not interested' button.

This will take the problem of spam away.

I got a “new” number when I moved to Canada. The ONLY calls I receive (about 2 per week) are robo call spam / scams. The messages repeat once in English and then in mandarin. (It’s a Vancouver number.. only logic I can see).

Most of the time they go straight to voicemail and leave the same message.

All my real friends FaceTime, signal, iMessage, etc.

It bewilders me that telcos haven’t done anything about this. It’s 100% of my incoming calls... and they only about 2 unique actual messages, pre recorded...

The Mandarin spam is not specific to Vancouver numbers. I live in Toronto and receive daily calls.

It is pretty annoying -- you'd think there would be an out of the box solution for this. We can block IPs, why not phone numbers?

With the Galaxy 9, there are some Name ID features built in if you use T-Mobile. For iOS on T-Mobile, I do:

1. Pay for T-Mobile Plus to get Name ID.

2. Install the Name ID app and enable all the blocking features.

3. Manage Blocks, Go to VM, and whitelist contacts

Another thread mentions Exchange Blocker, this also helps with exchange alias scams and is a light weight app that takes a minute to install.

My solution for Android is to do the following

1. Set system ringtone to "nothing" 2. Set ringtones for people I want to not miss 3. Suppress annoying notifications

Takes care of most problems.

A few years ago, prior to the recent rush of non-stop robo calls that many people experience today, I was fraudulently put on some diabetes sales list (I don't even have it) and would get calls daily on it, often from the same number.

At the time, AT&T, if you gave them a few dollars a month, would let you block 5 numbers. It was the most unbelievably stupid policy I had ever seen and almost caused me to churn, which I probably should have done.

Well, I personally choose to just ignore them. Blocking each of them are a waste of time. By ignoring them, I think along with time, they will consider my phone number as an inactive number. Sometimes I also look up the numbers on Google or some sites like http://whycall.me and just post some reports about those numbers if I find people have reported them as scams.

I use this android app (paid $1 for the ad-free version): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vladlee.ca...

It specifically has a setting to force all non-contact list calls to voicemail. I had to do this when I started getting 8-10 spam calls a day.

So when you call 911 or emergency services the first or second thing you are asked for is your phone number so you can be called back if needed. Trust me... you are NOT going to remember to turn off blocking when things go pear shaped. Obviously it's your own choice, but it could become a life and death issue in rare circumstances.

Because your phone company is a much bigger customer than you are, and they make termination fees on every call you receive.

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