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June 7, 2019
You may have already heard of Nomorobo. It’s an app designed to prevent “robocalls” and block your number from receiving spam calls.
Nobody likes spam calls from robots or telemarketers. They’re annoying at best and waste your time. At worst, they’re actively trying to scam you.
Here at the Hushed blog, we’re fascinated by all things related to phones, telecom, and privacy. Robocalls and number spoofing are major concerns in the modern tech world, so Nomorobo immediately jumped out as a service deserving of an in-depth review.
Let’s check it out!
Robocalls are automated phone calls that deliver a pre-recorded message. They’re termed “robocalls” because the voice delivering them is often stilted and robotic.
If you’ve received one of these calls, you may wonder “how did they get my number?” Most likely the caller is using a random number-dialler to contact numbers sequentially. The caller doesn’t know who you are and isn’t targetting you specifically. They’re just calling thousands of numbers at a time, hoping a few unlucky people pick up.
If this sounds illegal to you, then you’re right, it usually is! But it’s difficult to enforce anti-robocall laws since many robocall operations are located in countries with lax regulations.
There are also legal robocalls, like calls placed by political organizations. Both the Democratic and Republican parties use robocalls to contact citizens. These types of calls are actually exempt from the National Do Not Call Registry.
This is another tactic used by scammers. “Spoofing” means to copy or duplicate a number. Large-scale scammers frequently hide being spoofed numbers.
A spoofed call can appear to come from your area code, or even from your own phone number! This is a trick designed to convince you to answer the call. Unlike robocalling, spoofing is never legal. It’s very difficult for the authorities to locate and prosecute spoofers. Due to the illicit nature of their activities they can be well-hidden.
Nomomobo is a product of parent company Telephone Science Corporation. Don’t let the cute name fool you, it accomplishes much more than just stopping robocalls.
The history of Nomorobo is actually quite unique. It was developed in response to the Federal Communications Commission Robocall Challenge. In 2012 the FTC organized this contest and invited the public to “create solutions that will block illegal robocalls.” The prize was $50,000 USD, which was split between 3 winners.
Nomorobo came on the market in 2013 and has been growing in popularity ever since. Initially, it was only available for VoIP (Voice over IP) landlines but has since expanded to mobile phone numbers.
The Nomorobo app blocks spam or robocalls by scanning a blacklist of known problem phone numbers.
All calls are caught after the very first ring and compared to the blacklist. When using Nomorobo, you will always hear the first ring of an incoming call. If there’s only one single ring, that means Nomorobo has picked up the call and blocked it as spam. And if it continues to ring, it’s legitimate (so you should probably answer it).
In the event that a real incoming caller is mistakenly being blocked as an unwanted call, there’s a workaround. You can add it to your “wanted call” list. That change prevents calls from that specific number from being intercepted.
Nomorobo protects against text message spam in addition to calling spam. Better yet, it has a function to officially report spam/robocalls. This is super convenient for the civic-minded among us. If you want to actively take down spammers, Nomorobo makes it easy.
The app also offers a neat option called “Advanced Robocall Protection.” This is a conglomeration of features that provide an additional layer of security. “Advanced Robocall Protection” blocks ‘spoofed’ number robocall and international robocalls, in addition to the normal protections of the app.
Version 3.0 of Nomorobo launched at the end of May 2019 and includes some exciting new updates. Most importantly, the unwanted number blacklist is refreshed every 15 minutes.
Compatible Devices: iOS and Android smartphones
Free?: Free for VoIP landline phone numbers / 14 days free trial for VoIP mobile phone numbers
Price: Free for landlines. For mobile numbers, it’s $1.99 USD per month, per mobile device. There is also an option of paying $19.99 USD for an annual subscription, per mobile device.
App Category: Utilities
Publisher: Telephone Science Corporation
Minimum Software Requirement: Nomorobo Mobile can be used on iOS devices running iOS 10 and up. It’s also available on all Android devices running ADR 4.1 and up.
Nomorobo is currently supported on these VoIP landline services:
Adams Cable Service, Astound Broadband, AT&T U-verse, Blue Stream, BroadVoice/Phone Power, Co-Mo Connect, Comcast Xfinity, Compas X-Stream, Continuum, Cox, Crexendo, Eagle Communications, ECFiber.net, Frontier Vantage Voice, Frontier FIOS Digital Voice, Fision Hotwire Communications, Haefele, Hometown Communications, Myakka Communications, Momentum Telecom, NextLight, Ooma Premier, Optimum/Cablevision, RCN, Service Electric Cable TV, Service Electric Cablevision, SELCO, Spectrum (Formerly Time Warner, Spectrum, & Bright House), Sonic, SureWest, Verizon FIOS Digital Voice, Voip.ms, Voipo, Vonage, Wave Broadband, & 1-VoIP.
Nomorobo is a robust app that offers a valuable service, and we’re all for it. As far as we can see there are only two main drawbacks:
Nomorobo Mobile will only work on smartphone mobile devices. So if you’re looking into this service to protect tech-phobic friends or relatives from predatory robo-callers, you’re out of luck. That’s not a dealbreaker, however, if they have a VoIP landline.
The other negative is that they are not supported by all carriers. This is not their fault; it’s more a reflection of how the telephony industry (like all industries) can be slow to evolve to address new threats.
The good news is that Nomorobo and similar apps could soon be unnecessary, as there are plans in motion to stop the deluge of robocalls. Recently, the FCC voted to allow mobile phone companies greater authority to block spam calls.
If the proposed legislation known as the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Defense plan passes, then all unwanted calls may soon be blocked by your carrier by default. That would make apps like Nomorobo, YouMail, and RoboKiller obsolete. Much as we like the Nomorobo app, we would like it better if unwanted robocalls were a thing of the past entirely!