Are you sick and tired of all the spam calls you get? The FCC has tried to crack down on such calls, while lawmakers on the federal and state levels have passed legislation to address the problem. But there are certain actions you can take on your own.
Android devices and iPhones come with built-in features for blocking specific phone numbers, while mobile carriers offer their own blocking tools. Several third-party apps can also work to block telemarketing calls, including Hiya, RoboKiller, Truecaller, and Call Control.
You can even register your phone number with the FTC's Do Not Call Registry, though that won't necessarily stop scammers and disreputable telemarketers from calling you. Let's check out all your options.
(Editor's Note: If you’re receiving unwanted robotexts, there are steps you can take to block them, too.)
How to Block a Number on an iPhone
(Credit: Lance Whitney / Apple)
Robocallers cycle through thousands of phone numbers, and many include the same telephone prefixes as your own phone number. To block them as they come in on your iPhone, open the Phone app and tap Recents. Tap the Info icon next to the number you want to block and choose Block this Caller and then Block Contact.
While that number is now blocked, spammers have a habit of jumping from one number to another, it this remedy helps only if the caller uses the same number more than once. With iOS 13 or higher installed on your iPhone, you can take a more effective but drastic measure to clamp down on spam calls.
(Credit: Lance Whitney / Apple)
Go to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers and turn on the switch for Silence Unknown Callers. This feature automatically silences all calls from numbers that are not in your contacts list. Calls are sent to voicemail and appear on your Recents lists so you can return the call if it's legitimate.
How to Block a Number on an Android Device
(Credit: Lance Whitney / Apple)
The steps for blocking numbers on an Android phone vary based on the manufacturer and operating system. You should be able to open the Phone app and select recent calls or call history. Tap the number you want to block and find the command that says block and/or report as spam. Confirm the request to block the number.
(Credit: Lance Whitney / Apple)
Some Android devices also allow you to block all unknown callers. While the process varies among different devices, you typically open the Phone app and go to the Settings menu. Find the option for blocking numbers and activate the feature. You can also manually add phone numbers that you want blocked.
Your mobile carrier will also provide built-in tools to help you block suspected spam calls. These apps will offer extra features not already available on your phone, though some more advanced items may require a subscription to use.
ActiveArmor: For AT&T Customers
AT&T provides ActiveArmor, an iOS and Android for blocking fraud and spam calls. The free version will filter out potential fraud and spam calls, labels telemarketers and similar companies as "nuisance calls," sends unknown callers to voicemail, and other features. The app will also check your passcodes and provide data breach alerts.
For $3.99 per month, ActiveArmor Advanced Mobile Security will also throw in VPN, identity monitoring, reverse phone lookup, caller ID, and safe browsing features. For those with a family plan, the AT&T Secure Family app for iOS and Android can help you manage all your devices.
Call Filter: For Verizon Customers
Verizon Wireless offers a free version of its Call Filter service for customers with compatible phones and postpaid plans. The free version detects and filters out spam calls. It alerts you when an incoming call is likely spam, lets you report unsolicited numbers, filters out numbers with the same first six digits as yours, and will block robocalls based on your set level of risk.
For $2.99 a month per line, the paid version of Call Filter kicks in Caller ID, a personal spam list, and other features. iPhone users can download the Call Filter app from the App Store. The app should be pre-loaded on your Android device. If not, download it from Google Play.
Scam Shield: For T-Mobile Customers
T-Mobile offers a free blocking app called Scam Shield for postpaid T-Mobile and Metro customers. The iOS and Android app can identify scam calls in an effort to prevent them from reaching you. An enhanced Caller ID feature displays detailed information on a call so you can determine if it’s spam. A legitimate call carries a Number Verified tag, while a potential spam call comes with a warning.
Scam Shield even gives you an extra proxy phone number you can use when you don’t want to share your regular number. If your regular number is caught up in spam, you can change it for free once a year. A spam counter keeps track of the calls that have been blocked.
For $4 a month, Scam Shield Premium edition kicks in more advanced features, including voicemail-to-text, the ability to create a block list, and an option to send certain types of calls straight to voicemail.
Block Callers with These Apps
There are several free third-party apps that can help you block incoming spam calls, including Hiya, RoboKiller, TrueCaller, and Call Control. Each service offers a premium tier that kicks in extra features if you subscribe.
Hiya for iOS and Android warns you of robocalls and scam calls based on a database of known scammers. The app tackles phone calls associated with fraud and illegal activities as well as those connected with telemarketers.
Hiya can detect spoofed calls that use the same initial digits as your own number. You can type a phone number into the app, and Hiya will reveal its source and tell you if it's a suspected spam number. The app can also automatically allow calls from any of your contacts.
The basic version is free. A premium edition with a call screener and other features is available as a seven-day trial, and then costs $3.99 a month or $24.99 a year.
RoboKiller for iOS and Android blocks spam calls but also attempts to mess with the spammers. The app's Answer Bots will automatically answer spam calls with pre-recorded nonsense designed to frustrate them and waste their time. You can even create your own bot responses.
The app includes a database of known spammers, though you can add specific numbers that you want blocked. RoboKiller offers a few paid tiers with additional features. Following a one-week free trial RoboKiller Lite is $3.99 a month or $29.99 a year, the Standard edition is $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year, and Premium is $5.99 a month or $49.99 a year.
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Truecaller for iOS and Android strives to block spam calls and text messages. The app identifies each incoming call—especially those from unfamiliar numbers—so you know whether or not it's legit. It can automatically block unwanted calls based on known spammers, as well as numbers you manually add.
You can look up specific names and phone numbers to get information on them, and you can make phone calls directly from the app to call your contacts. The basic app is free. The Premium edition removes all ads and kicks in other features for $1.99 a month or $17.99 a year, though certain more advanced protection will cost you more money.
Call Control is available for iOS and Android and uses crowdsourcing to help block spam calls. The premium version of the app comes with a feature called “CommunityIQ” that consults thousands of community reports and Do Not Call complaints to determine which calls are coming from spammers.
You can tell the app to block calls from any numbers similar to your own, look up numbers to see if they’re from spammers, and even connect a compatible landline to extend the spam blocking at home. The basic app is free but lacks most of the core features; subscribe for $9.99 per quarter or $29.99 per year to get CommunityIQ and more.
Spam Blocking on a Landline
Without mobile apps and other digital tools, preventing robocalls and spam calls on a landline is more challenging. However, there are still several options available to help. Check with your carrier to see if it offers any features to cut down on spam calls.
Some landline phones also come with built-in call blocking technology. If you already have a phone and it doesn't have this feature, you can buy a separate call blocking device. You can also register your number with the FTC's Do Not Call Registry.
Register on the Do Not Call List
While scammers won't respect the FTC's Do Not Call Registry, it can't hurt to register your landline and mobile phone numbers. From the website, you can report unwanted calls, verify if your phone number is registered with the Do Not Call Registry, and add your number if not.
If you think you may have already registered with the Do Not Call Registry, select Register Your Phone and then click Verify Here. Type your phone number and email address, then click Submit. At the next screen, click Verify to confirm your number and email address. You’ll then receive an email indicating whether your number is already registered.
If you're not already registered, select Register Your Phone and then click Register here. Enter your phone number and email address, then click Submit. Confirm your information and click Register. You’ll be directed to check a message in your email. Click on the link in the message to complete your registration.
You can report any robocalls or scam calls you receive to the FTC. The agency can't act on your specific complaint, but it will suggest steps you can take and collect the information you provide in its own fight against sleazy telemarketers.
From the DNC homepage, click Report Unwanted Calls. You’ll be asked to fill out all the details about the phone call in question, then submit the information. Alternatively, you can call the FTC at 1-888-382-1222 to report an unwanted call.
How To Stop Robocalls and Spammers
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