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(Credit: Verizon)

Verizon is aiming to help all its wireless customers battle spam calls and robocalls for free.

SEE: The definitive guide to stopping robocalls on your mobile phone

In March, Verizon will begin rolling out its spam-alerting and call-blocking tools for free to all wireless subscribers with compatible smartphones, the company announced in a news release. The carrier already offers such tools through its Call Filter service, but that currently runs $2.99 a month. The tools will be available for a wide range of iPhones and Android phones. Verizon said it will explain how to sign up for the free tools as the launch date gets closer.

Robocalls and spam calls skyrocketed in the US in 2018, jumping from 2.8 billion in January to a peak of 5.1 billion in October, according to YouMail's Robocall Index. The numbers dipped in December, coming in at 4.6 billion. But the problem continues to frustrate and annoy mobile users. Though you can find third-party apps to handle spam calls, the mobile carriers have been trying to play a larger role by offering integrated tools to block such calls. The best such tools automatically block or alert you to suspected spam calls so you know which calls to answer and which ones to ignore.

Verizon's Call Filter service identifies possible spam calls, displaying a meter that shows the level of spam risk associated with the call. If that call meets the necessary criteria, Verizon will tag with it a spam label. The service also uses a block list to prevent potential spam calls and robocalls from getting through. Further, you can view details for unknown callers, including the name, phone number and location.

Other carriers, including AT&T and T-Mobile, also offer their own spam call detection. Verizon touted its own such tools as the most accurate, at least according to a study from research firm Mind Commerce. The study found that Verizon's tools proved accurate at identifying a potential spam call 93.6 percent of the time, compared with 90.1 percent for AT&T and 86.9 percent for T-Mobile.

Of course, detecting possible spam calls remains a challenge for Verizon and the entire mobile industry. Many spammers and robocallers conceal their identities by using fake or spoofed phone numbers. Such calls often go through several providers outside the US and are then routed through other networks before they reach Verizon customers. As such, identifying the true source of such calls is difficult without the cooperation of the other providers along the chain.

Verizon pointed to other efforts in the battle against spam calls. The carrier supports the STIR/SHAKEN technology, which tries to authenticate the actual source of spoofed calls. Verizon is a founding member of US Telecom Industry Traceback Group, an organization that attempts to trace suspicious robocalls and works with law enforcement to track down the source behind such calls. The company also said it wants to narrow the definition of robocalls and spoofed calls beyond the broad scope currently outlined in the Truth in Caller ID Act.

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Takeaways

  1. Come March, Verizon will offer free spam alert and call blocking tools to all subscribers with compatible smartphones.
  2. The tools alert you to potential spam calls, prevent certain calls based on a block list, and display details on calls from unknown numbers.

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Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books - "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time" and "Teach Yourself VISUALLY LinkedIn."