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Practical Techie: Blocking spam, identifying unknown callers is viable online

There’s an app for everything on the web. A recent estimate is that 8.93 million mobile apps roam our planetary cyberspace. This according to a report from the platform RiskIQ which estimates that by 2025 the count for app downloads will be near the 200 billion mark. Most apps have no practical use for professional digital citizens as the greatest offering is in the entertainment field.

Yet, most net citizens are prone to receiving robocalls or bots that want to sell the user merchandise and services or get their attention for some cause or organization. Many times, for hackery. But mercifully, certain apps help users identify unknown or usually blocked numbers that somehow get through to a mobile phone.  

BLOCKERS — The best blocker apps should notify when it stops a call, in case that a user wants to call back to maybe let off steam. The app should describe the number of anonymous calls in real-time and automatically block spam or protect from falling into malicious traps. Also, create a blocker´s list so that next time a protective message is automatically played, falsely claiming the number is disconnected. 

One of the most popular of these apps is TrapCall, available for both iOS and Android devices. Its platform promises users to take back their privacy and detect who’s hiding behind a No Caller ID, Restricted, and Unknown number. Also, to end unwanted spam calls from robocalls and telemarketers. The good blockers should also force callers to identify themselves and to let the user record the call before allowing the call to go through.

ID — There are also caller-ID apps. One is Truecaller. It not only identifies spammers and weird calls but also SMS messages from any part of the world. The ID function displays the caller’s number on the receiver’s phone before answering the call, along with the name, location, and more information about the caller when available. It should differentiate between an unknown, unsolicited caller or an important call. Privacy is protected. Both apps mentioned above follow the Google Play and Apple App Store guidelines, which prohibit applications from uploading client phonebooks to make them searchable or public.

FREEOS — All the best blocking or ID apps charge a monthly user fee. But there are free ways to find out who just called a user´s phone. These apps are called “reverse phone lookup sites.” The list includes CocoFinder, Spokeo, PeopleFinders, Truecaller, CellRevealer, Truthfinder, and Zlookup. Truth finder, for example,  can be used to check a caller’s real name, location, background information, phone number, address, and many more items. These other two, Spy Dialer and Spytox have suggestive names about clandestine intelligence services, but it’s all about branding not spooking. These free services offer basic caller identification. More in-depth searches or protective functions require payment.

SPYWARE — Internet users worldwide are prey to spamming, automated sales calls, and privacy intrusions. Spyware companies like RCS Labs make no secret that their clientele consists of law enforcement agencies using surveillance software. The intrusion list includes business executives, human rights activists, journalists, academics, and government officials. Some spyware platforms even impersonate legitimate companies, such as ISPs and smartphone manufacturers. Their malware can disable a data connection and send a link via text message to recover the target ID. A user is usually prompted to download an application when opening a message, but the link is malicious. The spyware’s other trick is disguising itself as a messaging application such as Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp.  Google has been tracking commercial spyware tools for years and put out a blog post detailing “government-backed actors” in Europe. Good reading.  

Author Details
Author Rafael Matos is a veteran journalist, a professor of digital narratives and university mentor. He may be contacted at cccrafael@gmail.com.

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