Robocalls. Fake neighbor spoofing. Cell phone spam. Whatever you call them, these types of illegal calls are getting worse, and definitely getting more annoying. In fact, according to YouMail’s Robocall Index, last month Americans received 4.4 billion robocalls during just that month. That breaks down to 145 million per day, or 6 million per hour, or 1,700 calls per second. In addition to the inconvenience, robocalls also pose a danger to those who fall prey to fraudulent scams that attempt to invade people’s privacy and often their bank accounts. So how can we block robocalls and the like?

While registering on the “Do Not Call Registry” was an initial solution that helped a little, lately it doesn’t seem to matter how careful you are, they still get through. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that the U.S. government is taking action.

A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers late last month unveiled a new anti-robocalling bill to combat the influx of illegal robocalls that plague Americans daily. The bipartisan version of the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act (PDF), introduced by leaders of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, would empower the FCC with strong enforcement tools to reign in robocallers. The legislation would ensure that consumers have the ability to stop calls they previously authorized and require incoming calls to have authentic caller identification information before they are delivered to customers. The bill has the support of numerous consumer groups including the National Consumer Law Center, Consumer Reports, and the AARP.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the FCC has forged ahead with improvements of its own, including an order in June that allows wireless carriers to enable, by default, services that automatically block robocalls or suspected spam calls on behalf of consumers. The agency, however, opted against requiring that AT&T, Verizon and other carriers offer those services without charge. House lawmakers have proposed prohibiting companies from imposing fees for such services.

Meanwhile, you have a few options.

  1. Download call-blocking apps. Most phone carriers offer free apps that help identify potential fraudulent calls, making it easier to reject or screen them instead of wasting time. Ask your phone service provider what they can provide to help you block robobcalls and spammers.
  2. Send unknown callers to voicemail. If they are legitimate, they’ll leave a message and you can return their call. Plus, by sending to voicemail or hanging up, you might actually get less calls in the long run.
  3. Do not “opt out” of spam calls using their methods of selecting buttons, sending emails or talking to service agents on their phone line. This just lets them know you’re there and they will continue to call you.
  4. Report repeat offenders. While it may seem like a drop in the bucket, government agencies that collect these reports are more likely to take action if they see hundreds or thousands of complaints about the same offender. You can report unwanted calls and scammers via the FTC’s Complaint Assistant, the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Complaint Center and the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.