December 2, 2020

Google Phone for Android helps root out spam calls. How to get it this week

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Instead of having to figure out who is calling, this new feature tells you who and why. 


Angela Lang/CNET

Android users will soon get more help directly from their phone screen to fight robocalls and spam calls. Google announced this week that the company’s Phone app will start using a new Verified Calls feature to tell you not only what business is calling you, but why they’re calling. Knowing that an unknown number is really who it claims to be is designed to help keep you from falling into common schemes where crooks pose as legitimate businesses to swindle you for sensitive information or money.

Google’s move is the latest in an industry-wide effort by the federal government and private tech companies, including T-MobileApple and a cohort of wireless carriers to reduce automated, spam and scam calls people receive on their phones, some of which break established consumer protection laws. In 2019, robocalls reached an all-time high of 58.5 billion, according to YouMail, a company that provides blocking services. 

Verified Calls complements Google’s earlier attempt to rein in robocalling through a call-screening feature that leans on Google Assistant to help identify calls. Below, we’ll walk you through what we know about this new Verified Calls feature, and how to get it as soon as this week.

What is Verified Calls for Google Phone?

An amped-up version of caller ID, the feature checks if a call is indeed originating from a participating business. When you receive an incoming call from a verified business, you’ll see the business name, logo, a verification badge and a reason why the company is making the call — as long as the business provides this. 

For example, a restaurant delivery service can tell you the driver is lost or that your delivery has arrived. Or the call screen could explain that your airline needs to alert you of a change in flight time. Maybe your bank is calling to verify a large purchase or flag potential fraud. Seeing these reasons is designed to give you confidence in the legitimacy of the caller.

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An example of what an incoming call will look like with Google’s Verified Calls.


Google

How to get Google’s Phone app and how to set it up

Not all Android phone makers, like Samsung, use Google’s Phone app out of the box, opting instead for their own dialer. In order to take advantage of the new Verified Calls feature, you’ll need to download Google Phone and set it as your default dialer. If you’re not prompted to change defaults the first time you open the app, you’ll need to go into Apps section of the settings app and choose it as your default.

Some phone makers, like Google and OnePlus, use Google’s app out of the box, while others don’t. Here’s the easiest way to find out if your phone uses the Google Phone dialer.

  • If you have a Samsung Galaxy device, you’ll certainly need to switch to Google Phone if you want to use the Verified Calls feature.
  • Otherwise, open the Google Play Store and search for Google Phone. If you already have the app installed, you’ll see a button that says Open.
  • If you don’t have Google Phone, the button says Install. Click it to initiate the download and install the app. You may need to go into the app settings and make this your default.
  • If you see a message saying the app isn’t compatible with your device, check back later this week. Google’s announcement says that the company is rolling out support throughout the week. 

Google’s post isn’t clear on what steps, if any, you’ll need to take to start using the new feature, but at a minimum, I’d open the Phone app and tap on the menu button in the top-right corner, select Settings > Caller ID & spam and turn on all of the options. If nothing else, Google will use Google Assistant to help screen calls and keep robocalls away in addition to verifying your incoming calls. 

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Samsung owners will need to make the switch to Google’s Phone app if they want to use Verified Calls. 


Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Where will Verified Calls work? 

Verified Calls will work in the US, Mexico, Brazil, Spain and India to start. Google will add more countries in the future. 

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Verified Calls, but rest assured, we’ll start testing it as soon as we can, updating this post in the process. If you want additional help with getting rid of robocalls, we have some steps you can take. Carriers are also working together on technology that should help reduce spam calls and make features like Verified Calls more prevalent. If you’re a T-Mobile customer, make sure you’re taking advantage of Scam Shield.


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