Friday, June 22, 2018

Hiya - Stopping Phone Spam - Caller ID Call Blocking robocalls

Hiya - Stopping Phone Spam - Caller ID Call Blocking robocalls - A product recommendation.

My phone, like yours, has been the target of repeated and persistent robo, spam, and spoofed calls, using unknown numbers, unlisted and, "neighborhood" numbers.

How did they get your phone number?  It seems every company from Home Depot, to Equifax, to Chilis, and T-mobile, have lost their database.  Your number is out in the wild.  Plus, it is easy to robo-dial every possible number.

The numbers change daily.  For example, in Area-Code 202 (DC), 16 million calls were placed this quarter, using 1,300 different numbers.  Texas Area-Code 469 had 10 million calls, using 1,000 different numbers.

Don't register with the National Do Not Call database.  This list is mostly used by non-profits to call you directly (they are exempt from the list are are known to use it.  Meanwhile, spammers and crooks don't subscribe to the database -- because they are dishonest, and they use it it validate numbers.

If you are like me, you no-longer accept un-recognized that are not in your address book.  This works to-a-point, until your voice mail fills.


You need Software

On the Android and Apple App stores, consider installing the free Hiya Call Blocking software.  This program examines inbound calls and compares with a database. Reported calls are blocked.

Most spam calls ring one time while the database is searched, then are deleted/intercepted.

If an unknown (non-reported) call makes it to your phone, hang up.  Then, in the Hiya application's pop-up, "Block" the call and "Report" to the database; this appears to be a two-step process; see below for comments.  Once that number reaches a database threshold (number of reports), the number blocks for all users in the system.

Installing Hiya

Install "Hiya Caller-ID & Block" from the App Store.  Naturally, at least on the Android Play Store, you'll find several look-alike apps; be-careful and look for the icon displayed above.

The free version is really free.  No strings attached.  No advertising.  No gimmicks.  Refreshing. It updates the phone's spam-database once-a-day.

There is reportedly a premium version, for $3 per month ($20 per year); this updates the database three-times-per-day -- I have seen, but cannot find this option.  A note has been sent to the vendor and I am waiting for a response. [Update:  They have now de-nuded the free program, making it useless.  The regular version is now on a monthly/yearly subscription)

AT&T customers can use Hiya's program, through the AT&T network.  As before, this used to be free, but is now double-the cost of Hiya's).  AT&T's install is convoluted and difficult to install, requiring  two different AT&T apps:  "AT&T Mobile Security" and then "AT&T Call protect."  I am unclear why they require the first program to use the second.  Under the hood, it is the Hiya program.  It is a serious pain to install. 


Recommended Settings:

When installed, create an optional setup account (I tied mine to Google); this way your "block database" is backed-up and can be used with a new phone.

Next, in the "Settings screen (gear icon)," Incoming Calls, make these recommended changes:

"Scam and fraud Calls"  - Block (send to Voice Mail).
"Suspected Spam Calls"  - Block (send to Voice Mail).
"Calls from Private Numbers" - Block (send to Voice Mail).
"All other incoming calls" -  Show caller ID.
"Outgoing Calls" - set to "Do nothing".

A "Block (do not send to Voice Mail)" is a needed option, especially on the first two menu choices.

Note the app does not require permissions to use the address book -- but probably benefits, if granted rights.  Consider this change:  In the System Apps screen, under Hiya, under "Permissions," grant access to the Address Book -- presumably giving it permission to allow those calls to pass through.  It is unclear if this is indeed what happens, and the website does not have details.  Similarly, would granting "SMS" rights allow it to block unwanted text messages?  Unclear, un-documented.


Idiosyncrasies

The Hiya program has some strange oddities. 

For example, when launching the program manually, it is not obvious how to see the list of incoming calls and numbers.  It turns out the bottom "phone-menu" icon is really the recent-call report.  For the longest time, I thought this was an icon to place a new call, even though the icon next to it is number-pad icon, which made it doubly-confusing.  This is an interface problem.

The Today-report (phone icon) does not always show phone numbers, sometimes showing "general spam" -- with no phone number.  With this said, today I looked at the report and the numbers are listed.  This may be a bug.  Calls from the Address Book are listed by name -- but again, no phone number.  This is inconsistent and confusion.  If this is a phone-number-blocking program, we need to always see the numbers!

An irritation:  When reporting a spam call, it seems to take four or five clicks to make the report.  It should be two:  1) to report; 2) to choose the type of spam [marketer, general spam, IRS Scam, Survey, etc.].  Too many clicks; too many options.  We are already annoyed the call made it through, don't want to be annoyed at a data-entry screen.

A confusion:  The program is unclear if you choose "Report" -- does this also "Block" the call?  I am always unsure and end up clicking both buttons.  We need clarification here.  Why would we ever want to Report a number and not block it?  The button should read, "Report and Block."   The Block option is understandable -- block, but don't bother filling out a 5-click report.  But even this is confusing.  If I block, does it still "report" the number back to the home database?  Gosh, I hope so.

"Mr. Number"

The publisher has a second program called "MN" (Mr Number), which is similar to the the Hiya program -- doing the exact same features.  The program is listed prominently on their website, but again, there is no explanation on what it does and why it is different than the main program.  It appears to be older and possibly obsolete.

The App and Play Store reviews roundly trounce the "Mr. Number" application -- with many 1-star reviews.  Again, I can't tell why this program even exists and I cannot tell what makes this one different than their flagship program.  This makes the company, or at least their webpage, a little flaky.


Conclusion:

Inbound phone calls from numbers outside your address book are unusable because of spam.  Unless you want to be pestered all the time, you will have to use a program, such as Hiya's Caller ID and Block.  Despite its idiosyncrasies, this is a good program, and is worth installing.  I liked it better than competing programs, Caller ID and TrueCaller.


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