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How to stop spam risk calls

The phone rings. It’s an incoming call from an unfamiliar number with the caller ID showing Spam risk — “Not again!” you think. We understand the headache.

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. A carrier provider uses machine learning to identify spam and scam-likely calls and lets you know. So if an incoming call writes “Spam Risk” — feel free to ignore it.

But avoiding unfamiliar calls by not answering is no way to stay in touch, so here are a couple of things you could do to prevent the annoyance:

  • Check if your phone has a built-in function to block callers and turn it on.
  • Try a third-party app dedicated to filtering your calls.
  • Register to the National Do Not Call Registry.

Basically, it’s about setting up a filter between you and the scammer or telemarketer.

Get a spam-filtering app

Since most spammers automize their spam and spread it in bulk by using robocalls, the best option is to get a third-party app that blocks them in your stead. The more popular Android and iOS apps to filter, show caller ID, and/or block spam calls are:

Most operate similarly: once a call reaches you, the app runs the caller’s number against your contacts, personal files, and a database of scam-related numbers and looks for a match. If found in the latter, the call is automatically blocked or sent to voicemail, depending on your preferred settings.

Note: such third-party apps need to access your contacts and other personal information, so be sure to check out the privacy policies of such service providers.

Stop spam calls on Android

Start by knowing what call-blocking settings are on your Android phone 

Many Androids have different default block settings found in your phone dial app. As a general rule, you should first try fiddling around there. But there’s an option with more customizability.

Try using the Phone by Google

Some non-iOS and non-Samsung smartphones 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.

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 at the top right corner, choosing Settings, and picking the Spam and Call Screen. 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 is blocking calls that aren’t scams, so test it out and see what works for you.

Stop spam calls on iOS

Begin with getting a call filtering app:

  1. Visit the App Store and download a spam call detection app;
  2. Go to Settings PhoneCall Blocking & Identification;
  3. Turn the app on or off under Allow These Apps To Block Calls And Provide Caller ID.
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Bolster the defense against the dark arts of call scams:

Turn on the Silence Unknown Callers option (only available on iOS). To do so, go to Settings PhoneSilence Unknown Callers and toggle the feature.

It blocks all the callers you had no contact with before and have yet to save in your contacts list. But there are exceptions to what unknown call numbers get through.

If you’ve sent a text to an unsaved phone number or if there’s one in an email, the phone calls from those numbers will go through (unless manually blocked). Blocking a number may be a nuclear option, but one you should know about nonetheless.

Block a caller on iPhone manually

Go to phoneRecents → tap on the i symbol on the right of the number and tap the Block this caller option at the end of the list.

Stop spam calls on a landline phone

Register to the National Do Not Call Registry (US citizens only)

You can stop spam from telemarketers by going to www.donotcall.gov and registering yourself and the spam caller. Or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone number you want to register.

The registry officials state you should receive fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering. But remember, this will only stop telemarketers’ calls and won’t filter out illegal scam artists. 

Aside from not answering the calls or letting them go to voicemail, regular landline phones have no other ways of stopping spam calls. The situation is in your service provider’s hands. But there might be a solution.

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 the middleman between a landline and voice over IP (VOIP) software like Messenger or Telegram.

More guides on how to stop spam:

What to do to avoid unwanted calls altogether

As with everything dangerous — there is no all-cure, and one must practice caution. The best decision is to take a couple of cautionary measures at once.

Be mindful of where you leave your data

In general, there are six ways how someone got your phone number outside of the internet:

  • You’re a registered voter — there have been multiple data leaks where the voter’s credentials got revealed and sold.
  • Your phone number is on your checks — scammers go dumpster diving, so be sure to get rid of sensitive information properly.
  • You called a business that tracks caller IDs and collects phone numbers.
  • You applied for credit, and the company might’ve given away your credentials.
  • You went to charity and might’ve given your number — some scammers use fake charities to lure data from you.

Don’t answer

The spammers use computers with auto-dialers to call 209–0000, 209–0001, 209–0002, 209–0003, and so on. Unanswered calls are deemed inactive and are blocked. If someone answers, the spammer knows the number is active, and there is potential for more spam.

Register your number on the Do Not Call list

Even if you’re not using a landline, you can opt out of sales calls and robocalls by registering to the FTCs do not call Registry. It will dissuade any opportunistic salespeople since calling after you’ve registered is illegal.

As FTC puts it: The Registry is a list that tells telemarketers what numbers not to call. The FTC does not and cannot block calls. The Registry can’t stop calls from scammers who ignore the Registry.

It won’t stop all spam, but it should lessen the load. 

Watch out for familiar numbers

Some fraud callers use spoofed IDs. It means a scammer changed their number to one you are more willing to answer. Some scammers believe people are more inclined to respond if the unknown call comes from a place they live at.

Some scams are even nastier; they use social engineering — they find out the phone numbers of the people close to you. Then they copy it, change the last digits, and call you, hoping you will mistakenly think it’s a relative calling you.

That’s how some scammers dupe people into picking up a call from an unknown number.

What to do if you answered a scam call

Be cautious. If you pick up the phone, let them speak first. There are two options for what kind of a call you just got – an automated one or a vishing attempt (a form of phishing).

When it’s an automated call scam

Your answers are probably being recorded, so don’t say anything and hang up. Even a simple “Yes” or “No” can be used against you. If it was a legit institution or a business calling you, look for their official number on the web and call them to ask if a call was issued. If not — block the number that just called you.

When it’s a live call scam – vishing

The scammers might try to pull a scam and say they’re from a national organization or an institution you trust, like the IRS. They WILL ask for personal details — that is their most common MO.

Remember, no official organization will ever ask you to provide sensitive details, and it’s their job to know. Hang up the phone and call the institution using their official number.

If you notice that it’s a scam call, whatever you do, and no matter how tempting, resist the urge to mess with or prank the scammers. The risk of them recording your voice or trying to track you through your service provider is too high.

Note: picking up a scam call shows the con artists your number is active, and your number could be subjected to more spam calls.

Closing thoughts

When personal info is mismanaged, one should expect marketing or scam calls. So, be wary of who you give your data to and how you do it.

But the prime reason for the spam coming in bulk is automation — robocalls used by telemarketers and scammers alike. As the saying goes — fight fire with fire. Get an automized third-party assistant that would block spam phone calls for you, hopefully, not at the expense of your data.

Remember, be cautious and critical, and spread the good word to others!

P.S. Here’s something topical to cheer you up!

DEALING WITH AN IMPATIENT PHONE SCAMMER 

FAQ

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 registers your number as active. That means it’s prime for more spam. Try blocking the number and registering yourself on the national do not call registry.

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.

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