How to stop spam calls & robocalls: a complete guide

Spam calls aren’t just wasting your time, the fact that you’re getting them means that your phone number (and almost certainly other personal information) is doing the rounds on spammers’ and scammers’ call lists. 

There are a couple of things you can do to help stop spam calls on your device right now, as you read along. Both have serious shortcomings, though. Luckily, there’s a longer-term strategy that both works better and has no downsides.

Updated: January 08, 2023

  1. Register your phone numbers with the FTC’s National Do Not Call Registry.
  2. Remove your data from the web including data brokers sites.
  3. Block spam calls on Android phone
  4. Block and silence spam calls on iPhone
  5. Block spam calls on landline phones
  6. What to do if you answer a spam call
  7. How to report unwanted calls
  8. What are spam calls, anyway?

Keep reading to learn how to do this in detail.

Not what you are looking for? Check out these related guides:

Before you do anything else 

Register your phone numbers with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) National Do Not Call Registry (DNC) if you haven’t done so already. Our research shows that the number of people on the Do Not Call registry increased by 2.7 million between 2022 and 2023. While it won’t do much to deter scammers, the registry will keep telemarketers and researchers from bothering you.

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Here’s how it works:

  • Registration: You can register your cell or landline numbers free of charge, either online here or by calling, toll-free, 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY).
  • Telemarketer compliance: The FTC requires telemarketers to check the registry and refrain from making unsolicited calls to any registered numbers.
  • Exceptions: Some categories of calls are exempt. These include political organizations, charities, survey organizations, and companies with which you already have an existing relationship.
  • Period of validity: There is no expiration on the Do Not Call Registry. However, if your number has been disconnected for a period of time or you have a new number that the previous owner had registered, you may need to register again. You can verify if and when your number was registered here.
  • Scope: The Do Not Call Registry only applies to calls made within the United States, so calls originating from outside the country may also be exempt from these regulations.

Take your personal info off data broker sites

Blocking numbers using your phone settings is like dealing with a leaky roof by opening an umbrella. There’s a better way. Rather than trying to filter spam calls on your handset, you can stop robocalls and spam calls cold by getting your contact details off the market. What market?

There’s a $257,000,000,000+ industry based on the buying and selling of personal data. Companies called data brokers specialize in collecting, processing, and monetizing individuals’ personal information. They get the vast majority of this data from public sources, repackaging it into detailed profiles and “background reports.”

Type your full name into a web search engine and you’ll likely find a bunch of people search sites (a kind of data broker) eager to sell access to your personal information. These are just the tip of the iceberg: many data brokers prefer to deal in your data behind the scenes and won’t show up in a search like this. 

The people responsible for all those spam calls you receive, from regular telemarketing calls to illegal robocalls and scam calls, have to get your number from somewhere. Not only your number, but often other personal details like your name, mailing address, and preferred online device.

No matter where the bulk of your spam calls originate, there’s a good chance you ended up on these spam callers’ lists with the help of a data broker. So if you could get data brokers to stop sharing your personal information, you’d be able to drastically reduce the number of spam calls you get, without the hassle of call screening.

Here’s the crazy part: to stop data brokers, these shadowy companies that trade your privacy for their profits, all you have to do is ask. State laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) force data brokers to honor opt-out requests when they receive them.

You can find our individual opt out guides here or subscribe to Incogni and let us handle the data removal process on your behalf. 

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How to block unwanted calls on Android devices 

Having your day interrupted by unwanted calls can be annoying, especially when they turn out to be spam calls. Thankfully, Android devices come with some built-in solutions. While these do not help prevent spam calls, they will help to manage the problem short term.

How to block calls from known callers on Android

Blocking spam calls from repeat offenders—those that call again and again from the same number—is worth it if most of the spam calls you get are from the same old numbers. Here’s how.

  1. Open the Phone app and go into the “call history” or “recents” tab. Find the number from which you received a spam call.
  2. Tap the call from the number you want to block.
  3. Tap “Block/report spam”.
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The obvious downside to this method is that it does nothing to stop spam calls from new numbers. Still, it costs you nothing and every little bit helps. There is a nuclear option but, as the name implies, it comes at a cost.

How to block unwanted calls from all unknown callers on Android

Definitely an extreme option, Android users have the option of blocking unwanted spam calls from all numbers that don’t appear in their contacts list. Anyone (or anything, when it comes to robocalls) trying to reach you will go straight to voicemail without your phone ringing. 

Here’s all you need to do:

  1. Open the Phone app and tap on the three dots in the top-right corner.
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  1. Select “settings” from the drop-down menu and tap on “blocked numbers.”
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  1. Toggle the switch next to “unknown.”
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How huge the drawback is here will depend on how many legitimate calls you typically get from unsaved numbers, and how urgent those calls tend to be. There will always be some important calls coming in from unknown numbers, so you’ll have to check your voicemail regularly to make sure you don’t miss any.

Use a third-party app

Google’s Pixel phones already come with this app, but if you don’t have it and wish to, visit the Google Play Store. It’s a dialer app with a tad more features and better customizability than others. Here’s how you can block unwanted calls with the Phone by Google app.

Use caller ID and spam protection—a Google Phone feature that lets you know more about the caller before you answer and filters spam calls. It should be turned on by default.

You can discover its settings by opening the phone app, tapping the three dots in the top-right corner, choosing settings, and picking the “spam and call screen” option. You can turn on spam filtering and toggle the “see caller & spam ID” option to see more detailed info when getting calls.

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Note: some say the spam filter is too sensitive and blocks calls that aren’t scams, so test it out and see what works for you.

How to stop spam calls on your iPhone

There are various methods you can try to stop spam calls on your iPhone. Some of them may work better for your needs than others. For the best results, we recommend using all of them. 

Turn on Silence Unknown Callers 

The Silence Unknown Callers feature available on iOS 13 and later lets iPhone users avoid unwanted calls by silencing them. 

Here’s how it works:

  • Caller ID information and Contacts: Calls from phone numbers that aren’t saved in your Contacts, Mail, or Messages apps are silenced. Although, numbers you’ve already interacted with, even if they aren’t saved, will still come through. 
  • Voicemail: Silenced calls from unknown numbers will go directly to voicemail. These calls won’t cause your iPhone to ring or vibrate. You can check your voicemail later to see if any important messages were left.
  • Emergency Calls: Calls from numbers identified as emergency services (e.g. 911) will always ring through, even if the feature is turned on. 

This is a great option to try if you’re tired of having your day interrupted by spam callers. Of course, it comes with some downsides. There is, of course, the risk of missing important calls. It’s up to you to decide if reducing spam calls is worth that risk. 

If this sounds like a fair compromise to you, here’s how to enable the Silence Unknown Callers feature on your iPhone:

  1. Open the settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap on “phone.”
  3. Find the “call blocking & identification” section.
  4. Toggle on the switch next to “silence unknown callers.”

Turn on Silence Junk Callers

Silence Junk Callers is pretty similar to Silence Unknown Callers. Spam or “junk” calls will just go straight to voicemail without disrupting your day. However, this one isn’t a built-in iPhone feature. Whether you’ll have this option available to you depends on which carrier you use. T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon customers should have it, for example, but if you aren’t sure, just follow the steps below to find out. 

Here’s how to enable the Silence Junk Callers feature:

  1. Go to the settings app.
  2. Scroll down until you see “phone” and tap on it. 
  3. Find the “call blocking & identification” section.
  4. Toggle on the switch next to “silence junk callers.” 

Block spam calls

While the Silence Unknown Callers and Silence Junk Callers features can be really helpful, sometimes you want a more definite solution. You can prevent certain callers from reaching you entirely by blocking their number. So, if there are certain numbers you recognize as spam callers, you end up answering a spam call, or you’re left a message (from the Silence Unknown or Junk Callers features) that’s suspect, we recommend you block those numbers. 

This might be a somewhat tedious process, but the more numbers you block, the fewer spam calls you’ll receive in the future. To the spammers, your phone will be seen as unresponsive or inactive, making it less likely for them to target you in the future, even from other numbers. 

Here’s how you block voice calls, FaceTime calls, and messages from specific callers on an iPhone:

  1. Open the phone app. 
  2. Tap “recents” or “voicemail” (depending on whether you’ve taken the call or not).
  3. Tap the “i” icon next to the number you want to block. 
  4. Scroll down and tap “block this caller.”

Use a third-party app

For an added layer of spam protection, try downloading a spam-blocking app for your iPhone. Spam-blocking or spam-filtering apps rely on a database of numbers previously identified as sources of spam. When a call comes in, the app runs it against its database and identifies whether it’s a spam, telemarketing, or other type of nuisance call.

Depending on which spam-blocking app you try, you may only be notified about the type of call coming through, or the app may automatically prevent the call from coming through entirely. Your phone calls should never be sent to the app developers, ensuring your privacy. However, as with any app you download, you should exercise caution and discretion. Make sure you choose an app with a good reputation that isn’t likely to go rogue.

If you want to give call-blocking apps a go and have chosen a reliable one, here’s what you should do:

  1. Open the app store and download the app.
  2. Open the settings app. 
  3. Tap on “phone.”
  4. Find the “call blocking & identification” section.
  5. Find the “allow these apps to block calls and provide caller ID” section. 
  6. Toggle on the switch next to the app you downloaded. 

How to stop spam calls on a landline

While landline phones are becoming less and less prevalent, millions of people still have them in their homes. Unfortunately, landlines receive just as many spam calls as mobile phones. 

These calls range from annoying but relatively harmless sales calls to straight-up attempts to rob you of your money. In addition to signing up to the Do Not Call Registry and not picking up the phone from unknown numbers, here is what you can do to stop unwanted calls on your landline phone.

Use call-blocking software

Many modern devices have call-blocking capabilities; you just need to install and use appropriate software to make it work. Noborobo is probably the most effective option when it comes to blocking unwanted calls on landlines.

This software has an ever-expanding list of robocallers. As soon as your phone rings, it filters the list of numbers and hangs up for you if the call is coming from a spam caller. Sure, new numbers come up every day, but it’s nice to rule out all known offenders.

Contact your service provider

Nowadays, most phone service providers have their own means of fighting spam calls. You can go to the FCC page on call blocking resources to check if your provider has anything to offer. Not all of these services are free, though. Some charge a monthly fee. But it’s still something you should ask your service provider about. 

Get a call-blocking device

If you have an old-school copper line rather than a more modern VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone, you won’t be able to install any software. Instead, you can block calls with a physical call-blocking device.

These are programmed to include thousands of known spam-caller numbers, and adding new ones is quick and simple. The device forwards unwanted incoming calls straight to voicemail, much like a piece of software would.

Try out a community phone

There is another solution – community phones. It’s a wireless landline service connecting your home phone to the cell towers in your area.

This service lets you customize the list of phone numbers and incoming calls that can reach you. It also filters spam, forwards calls, and has voicemail, among other things. They are like middlemen between a landline and Voice over IP (VoIP) software like Messenger or Telegram.

What should you do if you answer a spam call?

Don’t pick up if you’re getting a call from an unknown number when you’re not expecting one. Let it go to voicemail. Legitimate callers will leave a message, while automated calls do not. 

As soon as you pick up the phone, telemarketers add you to their list, and you’ll be getting more calls from then on. Be aware that spam callers often change their phone numbers to make it seem like they are from your area. It can be a spam call, even if the caller ID seems familiar.

But what should you do if you answer an incoming call from an unknown number and realize it’s a spam call?

  1. Don’t speak: Make sure not to answer any questions, and avoid saying the word “yes.” Criminals may use recordings of your voice to commit identity theft. And any personal information you provide is likely to lead to more unwanted calls.
  2. Avoid non-verbal interactions: Spam callers may ask you to press a button on your phone or otherwise interact with them without speaking. If that happens, hang up. They’re just looking to identify potential targets.
  3. Call back through official phone numbers: Sometimes live spam callers pretend to be the IRS, your bank, or a service provider. If you have any doubts, hang up the phone and call the official number of the institution in question. You can usually find that number online or in your service agreements. No official will ever ask you to provide sensitive information such as your Social Security number or banking details. If the caller is asking for such information, it’s a sign that you’re talking to a scammer and should hang up.
  4. Don’t tease the scammer: Some people think that it’s fun to play around with scam callers and waste their time. Don’t do that. Criminals can record your voice and then use it with malicious intent. Once you recognize a scam call, you need to hang up immediately.

If you don’t want to get scam calls, you should give these callers as little attention as possible. This is just as true when talking to telemarketing agents as when you’re getting calls from scammers and criminals. Once the call is over, make sure to report it.

How to report spam calls to the FTC and FCC

You should report any and all spam calls you receive to the FTC and FCC (Federal Communications Commission). It won’t prevent the specific caller from contacting you (the previous options in this list can take care of that), but it will blacklist them, making it easier for companies and regulators to deal with them accordingly. Reporting to both the FTC and FCC is completely free and should only take you a couple of minutes. 

Here’s how you can report spam calls to the FTC:

  1. Go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
  2. Click “report now.”
  3. Click “phone, internet, TV service” and then select “cellular or landline phone service.” 
  4. Click “continue” and follow the on-screen instructions.

Here’s how you can report spam calls to the FCC:

  1. Go to the phone complaints page of the Consumer Inquiries and Complaint Center.
  2. Fill out the form and select “unwanted call/messages” under “phone issues.”
  3. Click “submit.”

What is a spam call and why is it worse than you think?

Spam calls, or nuisance calls, are unsolicited phone calls that typically aim to extract money or data from recipients. While they can be disruptive and irritating, they can also be dangerous. Spam calls can come in the form of promotional calls, survey and research calls, robocalls, and scam calls. 

Even if you don’t fall for a scam call, receiving them is already bad news. It means that somewhere along the way, your personal information (at least your phone number) fell into the wrong hands. Simply answering one of these calls opens the door to more down the line as it confirms that the number is active and in use. 

You may start experiencing even more spam (scam) calls targeting you with attempts to steal more personal information, access to your online accounts, and money. So it’s best to block any spam calls you can, or better yet, prevent spammers from getting your phone number in the first place. 

Check out our article on how to remove your personal information from the internet to protect your sensitive data from fraudsters or try our fully automated data removal service

FAQ

Why am I suddenly getting so many spam calls?

There are a number of possible explanations for why you’re suddenly getting so many spam calls. If you’re getting spam calls from a range of random phone numbers, then it’s possible your phone number is being passed around between data brokers, and the spammers are getting it from there.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), carriers, and phone companies are doing what they can to stem the flow of spam calls, but it’s a never-ending game of cat and mouse. If spammers have your phone number, they’ll try to call it—it’s what they do.

To reduce the number of such calls, make sure you don’t hand out your phone number to just anyone, and remove your current information from data brokers with a subscription to Incogni.

How to block unwanted calls on a landline for free

There are ways you can reduce the number of spam calls you’re getting without spending a penny:
– Add your number to the Do Not Call Registry.
– Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.
– Hang up as soon as you realize it’s a spam call.
– Contact your phone service provider and see if they have free call-blocking services.

Can spam calls be traced?

Yes. Dialing *69 will trace the last person who called you and lets you call them back. Also, if a scam caller is harassing you, you can dial *57. Your phone service provider responds to these numbers automatically, logging all the info and passing it to the police. This way, the authorities can locate your harasser.

What is a spam risk call?

A spam risk call, sometimes labeled “Scam Likely” or “Scam Risk”, is a name that a mobile carrier gives to numbers associated with spam. Carriers use machine learning to identify spam and scam-likely calls and let you know.

Why do I keep getting spam risk calls?

People are getting more spam calls because spammers can make money through them. You may have unknowingly answered a spam robocall in the past, and the spammers’ system registered your number as active. This means it’s prime for more spam. Try blocking the number and registering yourself on the national Do Not Call registry.

Is there a spam blocker for landlines?

Yes, there are two ways to block spam calls on landline phones. If you have a VoIP phone, install call-blocking software. If you still use a copper line, getting a call-blocking device is your best option.

How do I permanently get rid of spam calls?

There’s no reliable way to block spam calls without running the risk of missing important calls from unknown callers. The best option is to starve spammers of your phone number in the first place.

This isn’t a permanent solution either, though. You’ll need to keep searching for your personal information among data brokers and submitting and resubmitting opt-out requests to keep your data suppressed. This is why an automated personal information service is such a good approach: it might not be a “one and done” solution, but it’ll work for as long as you want it to.

Does dialing 662 block spam calls?

Dialing #662# on your Android phone will block calls flagged as “Scam Likely”, but it won’t block spam calls in general. Like many other spam-blocking methods, this one doesn’t have any downsides, but it isn’t a complete solution, either.

Here’s how to enable call blocking for “Scam Likely” phone numbers on Android:
1. Open your phone app and switch to the dial pad;
2. Dial #662#;
3. Tap the receiver icon like you would when calling a regular number.

Is it better to ignore or decline spam calls?

It’s better to ignore rather than decline spam calls. If you don’t recognize the caller ID, just let it ring out. Your Android phone will let you assign a button to silence incoming calls rather than reject them. Rejecting a call might let the caller know that your number is active.

Is there a setting to block spam calls on iPhone?

There are two settings to block spam calls on the iPhone. These are the Silence Unknown Callers and Silence Junk Callers features. You can turn them on in the “call blocking & identification” section of the settings app. 

Can you block all spam risk calls on iPhone?

You can’t block all spam risk calls through iPhone settings. You can block all unknown callers and junk callers. However, if you want to block spam risk calls, you can download a third-party spam-blocking app. 

Should I block all spam calls?

You should block all the spam calls you receive. Accidentally answering a spam call can open the door to more spam and scam calls later on, even if you hang up right away. Blocking all spam calls reduces this risk and leads to fewer spam calls down the line. 

How do spam callers get your number?

Spam callers can get your number from a variety of sources. This may include warranty cards, online shopping accounts, social media accounts, public records, data brokers and people search sites, and data leaks and breaches. 

You can reduce the exposure of your phone number and other contact details by removing your data from the data brokers and people search sites that sell them to marketers and other third parties (even scammers, on occasion). You can also try an automated data removal service like Incogni to keep your personal information off the market.

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