Statistically speaking, most Americans probably don't know many people in Azerbaijan, Burundi, or Montenegro. These days, however, your "recent calls" screen could be littered with incoming calls from these countries, not to mention dozens of calls from numbers suspiciously similar to your own. Robocallers have been a pain in consumers' necks for decades, but they've ramped up so much in recent years, the federal government is finally starting to act on it.
The Federal Communications Commission announced this week that Chairman Ajit Pai plans to allow your phone carrier to automatically enroll you in call-blocking technology. It's available as an opt-in feature at most carriers now, but once the FCC meets on June 6, it could become universal. The change could also allow phones to include a setting that only accepts calls from numbers in your contacts.
It seems like an obvious solution, but until now, lawmakers and regulators have been unclear about whether it was actually legal. Other measures under consideration include technology that can authenticate incoming calls — basically, it's software that can tell if whoever is calling you is masking (or "spoofing") a local number by altering what displays on your phone's screen.
There are some other, often low-tech ways to fend off robocallers. One of the simplest is to just not give them what they want. If you don't recognize a number, especially if it shares the first six digits of your number, let it go to voicemail. The important callers should leave a message, while eventually, the spammers should get the message and, for the moment, move on.