Why am I getting so many spam calls and emails?

Despite efforts by the US government, and others, to reduce the frequency of unwanted calls, they remain a consistent part of all our lives, with the average American receiving 3–4 daily. If you’re one of the sufferers, you may be wondering why you’re getting so many spam calls and how to stop unwanted calls from disturbing your peace. 

The bad news is there are many reasons why you may be dealing with annoying spam calls. The good news is that there’s also a lot you can do to prevent them. We’ll show you why spam happens and give you step-by-step instructions to make it stop.

In short, you may suddenly be receiving many spam calls for several reasons, including:

  1. Your phone number was leaked in a data breach.
  2. Your phone number is being sold in scammer groups.
  3. You share your phone number publicly.
  4. You answered spam calls in the past.
  5. Someone is signing you up for spam calls.
  6. Data brokers are selling your phone number .

Continue reading to delve deeper into this and discover effective ways to put a halt to it.

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Your phone number was leaked in a data breach

If you’ve recently started experiencing an uptick in the number of spam calls you receive, this could be an indicator that your phone number has been exposed in a data breach. There have been 6.41 million data records breached in the first quarter of 2023 alone, so it isn’t as unlikely as one would hope.  

To see if your data has been in a data breach, you can check haveibeenpwned.com. Their database is up-to-date and pretty reliable. We’ve checked several of our own email addresses with notable spam problems against those that we keep well-protected. As expected, the site flagged the spam-riddled accounts and confirmed that we have, indeed, been “pwned.” It also identifies where the breaches occurred, allowing you to secure accounts where needed.

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Your phone number is being sold in scammer groups

Whether your data has been compromised in a data breach, bought by the wrong people, or scraped from various public sources, there’s a possibility it’s found its way onto the dark web. Cybercriminals often sell large datasets on scammer groups, making it easier to target you with personalized scams. 

Information in these datasets may include account-name and password pairs, contact details, Social Security numbers, and financial information. I could also include things like your past purchases, browsing habits, health information, and more specific details. 

You share your phone number publicly

You may be directly contributing to the number of unwanted calls you receive. 

Spammers may be getting your phone number from your social media profiles, personal sites, blogs, e-commerce listings, home-sharing sites, or anywhere else you might have shared it.

Unless you have a private number, you’re also exposing your caller ID to anyone you call. 

You answered spam calls in the past

Answering calls from unknown numbers can lead to more spam calls down the line. When you answer calls, it lets the spammers know that your phone number is active, prompting them to target you more intensively.  

If your caller ID doesn’t flag spam calls, it’ll make it harder to avoid unwanted calls too.

Related: How to block No caller ID on iPhone

Someone is signing you up for spam calls

We noticed an alarming volume of searches along the lines of “How do you sign someone up for spam calls?” People are specifically looking for instructions on how to inflict spam on others—whether as a “light-hearted” prank or out of malicious intent. 

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It may be more common than you might think. One of our own writers (who will remain unnamed for the sake of dignity) had their mobile phone number signed up for spam. They suddenly started receiving many spam calls and texts of an embarrassing nature and quickly realized why. Thankfully, they were equipped with all the tricks to deal with the aftermath of this type of situation—which we’re sharing with you here. 

If you’ve recently been involved in any disputes—a bad breakup, friendly rivalry taken too far, or a road rage incident (yes, the TV show Beef is, unfortunately, completely plausible), this might be why you’re suddenly being flooded with spam calls. 

Data brokers are selling your phone number 

Data brokers and people search sites hold a lot of responsibility for the overabundance of spam. These companies collect personal information, including your phone number (and far more), and compile personal profiles which they sell to interested third parties. 

A huge portion of those sales go to marketers who buy data, in bulk, to help them target potential customers. But data brokers have been known to sell directly to fraudsters too. There have been multiple legal disputes over the years regarding this. 

One notable case involved three data brokers, Epsilon, Macromark, and KBM, that were charged for knowingly selling data to scammers to help them commit crimes like elder fraud. They even provided data on successful scams to help the cybercriminals refine their attacks. 

People search sites, a type of data broker that publishes or sells personal information online for anyone to buy, also put a target on your back. They make it incredibly easy for someone to find out who you are, where you live, how to contact you, and even details like who you live with and where you work. You’ll find disclaimers on these sites stating that their data should not be used for purposes like phone scams, but that does very little to deter criminals. 

The worst part is that taking your information back from data brokers can be very time-consuming and labor-intensive. They form intricate webs, collecting data from many sources, both public and private, and selling it to various third parties, including other data brokers. Once your data gets caught in this web, tracking it down and removing it becomes a challenge. 

Removing your data doesn’t have to be complicated

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* See the full list of data brokers Incogni covers here.

How do I stop getting so many spam calls and emails?

Sign up for the national Do Not Call registry 

One of the quickest and easiest ways to reduce unwanted calls (if you live in the US) is signing up for the national Do Not Call registry. This list is regulated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and prevents organizations from contacting registered phone numbers. 

This will significantly reduce how many spam calls you receive from legitimate entities but won’t affect illegal calls. So while this step may stop telemarketers from reaching you, it won’t do much against scammers. 

To register for the national Do Not Call registry: 

  1. Go to https://www.donotcall.gov/.
  2. Click “register your phone.”
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  1. Click “register here.”
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  1. Enter up to three phone numbers, provide and confirm your email address, and click “submit.”
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Make sure to check your inbox for the verification email. If you don’t receive it within a few minutes, it may have gone to your spam folder. 

If you’re unsure whether you’ve already registered your number to the Do Not Call registry, you can click “verify your registration” instead of “register your phone” in Step 2. 

Use *60 to block spam callers on your landline

Whether you just received a spam call and want to block it immediately or there is one number, in particular, that has been a nuisance, you can block specific numbers on your landline using the star code *60. 

Here’s how you can use *60 for call blocking:

  • Dial *60 and press send.
  • Dial  #01# to block the number of the last incoming call.
  • Dial #, the phone number (including area code) of a specific number you want to block, followed by # again. 

We recommend doing this for all the spam calls you receive. It may feel like a chore, but can significantly reduce the number of spam calls you receive over time. 

Block spam calls through your device settings

You can also block spam calls directly through your mobile device settings on both Android and iOS. The options range from blocking specific phone numbers to silencing all calls from unknown numbers, and each comes with pros and cons. You can choose what’s best for you, based on your needs. 

Android

If you’re an Android user, you have two main spam blocking options. You can either block specific numbers, or you can turn on blocking for unknown numbers. 

We recommend that you use the former option any time you receive a spam call, or if there are specific phone numbers you’ve had issues with in the past. The second option is a bit more extreme. It’ll automatically block calls from any number not saved in your contacts. While this will put a definitive end to spam calls, it may also cause you to miss important calls from numbers you haven’t saved. 

If you want to block unknown callers on your Android phone:

  1. Open your phone app.
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  1. Tap the three dots in the top right corner and select “settings.” 
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  1. Go to “blocked numbers.”
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  1. Enable call blocking from unknown numbers using the toggle next to “unknown.”
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If you want to block specific numbers on your Android phone:

  1. Open your phone app. 
  2. Find your “call history” (it may also be under “recents”, depending on your model).
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  1. Find and tap the number you want to block, then tap the “i” icon.
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  1.  Tap “block,” then confirm your decision. 
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iPhone

Apple gives iPhone users two main options to block spam calls. You can either silence unknown callers or block specific phone numbers. 

If you’re not willing to risk even a stray spam call or two slipping through, the silence unknown callers feature is your solution. It will stop all spam calls from reaching you, but it’ll also send all callers that you haven’t saved to your contacts straight to voicemail. If you don’t want to go to such lengths, we recommmend you block any spam callers that reach you to reduce the number over time. 

If you want to silence unknown callers on your iPhone:

  1. Open your settings app.
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  1. Tap “phone.” 
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  1. Find the “call blocking & identification” or “calls” section.
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  1. Enable “silence unknown callers” using the toggle.
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If you want to block voice calls, FaceTime calls, and messages from specific numbers on your iPhone:

  1. Open your phone app
  2. Tap “recents” or “voicemail”, depending on whether you’ve answered the spam call or not. 
  3. Find the number you want to block and tap the “i” next to it. 
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  1. Tap “block this caller.”
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Block spam calls through your mobile carrier

Most major mobile carriers also provide call-blocking services, whether free or for an added fee. 

Here’s a list of tools and services according to your provider:

  • Verizon – Call Filter, available on Android and iPhone, offers basic spam blocking for free. There is also the Call Filter Plus, which provides caller ID and spam lookup for an additional fee. 
  • AT&T – ActiveArmor, available on Android and iPhone, provides basic call protection and call blocking with its free version. The paid version also adds caller ID and reverse number lookup features. 
  • T-Mobile – Scam Shield, available on Android and iPhone, provides basic spam-call blocking for free. It also offers a premium version with block lists and proxy phone numbers. 
  • UScellular – Call Guardian, available on Android and iPhone, offers basic spam blocking for free. The premium version also allows you to create your own blocking lists. 

Use spam blocking apps

Spammers are nothing if not persistent. Some unwanted calls will always slip through the net, unless you use an extreme method that blocks all calls from unknown numbers indiscriminately. 

If you don’t want to risk missing important calls from doctors or administrators from your child’s school, for example, you might want to consider using third-party call-blocking services for an extra layer of spam protection. 

Call-filtering apps generally offer a wider range of call-blocking services and customization options. You can choose one that automatically blocks any incoming calls flagged as spam or go for an option that displays the type of spam it is using caller ID. Whatever option you go for, you should always ensure the app is from a reputable developer and has a low likelihood of “going rogue.”

Here are some call-blocking apps, in no particular order, that we can personally recommend: 

Remove your phone number from data brokers and people search sites

One of the best ways to prevent spam calls from disrupting your day is by removing your phone number from data brokers and people search sites. As we already mentioned, these companies are responsible for a lot of the spam calls you get as they make it their business to sell your data to third parties, sometimes including scammers.

That said, it may come as a surprise to some that the data broker industry is completely legal (although selling to scammers is not). Thankfully, that also means there are legal avenues to opt out of their databases, depending on whether there are data privacy laws in effect where you live.

If you aren’t sure whether you’re protected, here are some data privacy regulations around the world:

  • European Union member states and Switzerland – General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR);
  • United Kingdom – United Kingdom General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR);
  • Canada – Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA);
  • United States – There are no comprehensive data privacy laws at the federal level, but some states have their own, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). 

Even if you aren’t protected by any data privacy laws, we still recommend sending opt-out requests to data brokers. From our experience, they’ll often honor these requests anyway—whether out of goodwill or the extra effort it takes to check where the request is coming from.

There are several steps to removing your phone number (and other personal information) from data brokers and people search sites. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  1. Identify which people search sites sell or publish your personal information. You can do this by searching for your name, phone number, or address. The results displaying your information are people search sites.
  2. Make a list of data brokers that operate in your area. Some data brokers are country-wide. Some focus on certain states or districts. You’ll have to do a little research to narrow down which ones might have your data. They don’t index their data, though, meaning it won’t show up in search results like people search sites do, so you’ll have to assume they all have it.
  3. Follow the opt-out procedure of each data broker and people search site. You’ll usually find a link toward the bottom of each website labeled “opt out” or “remove my personal information.” Most of them require you to submit an online form.
  4. Repeat the process periodically. Data brokers and people search sites tend to replenish their databases regularly. This means that they may get your personal information again, even after you opt out.

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How to report spam calls 

You can and should report spam calls to the Federal Trade Commission. While it may not immediately affect the number of spam calls you receive, it will help the FTC take legal action against illegal callers. 

There are three circumstances in which you should report spam calls to the FTC:

  1. If you’ve signed up for the national Do Not Call registry and you’re still receiving telemarketing and other types of nuisance spam calls, you can report it to the FTC here.
  2. If you receive robocalls, even if you haven’t signed up for the Do Not Call registry, you can also report those robocalls using the same portal.

If the type of spam call you receive is fraudulent, you should report it to the FTC here.

FAQ

Should I be worried if I get a lot of spam calls?

Spam calls are very common, however, it may be cause for worry if you experience a sudden increase in the number of spam calls you get. This could indicate a deeper problem, such as a vulnerability in your cybersecurity or your number being sold in scammer groups. 

Is it better to ignore or decline spam calls?

It’s better to ignore spam calls. When you decline a call, it may alert the spammer that your phone number is active, prompting them to call you again. If you use a call-blocking tool that uses caller ID, never answer calls labeled as spam. 

What happens if you answer a spam call?

It’s never a good idea to answer spam calls. This may lead to many more spam calls down the line in the best case. In the worst cases, it could lead to loss of funds, identity theft, or legal trouble, if the spam call was fraudulent in nature. 

How many spam calls a day is normal?

It’s normal for Americans to receive 3 to 4 spam calls a day, on average. The rate of spam calls varies greatly from country to country. You can check the stats for your country here. Despite being common, however, spam calls can be disruptive and harmful, so it’s best to block them. 

Will spam calls eventually stop?

Spam calls won’t stop on their own. You can take steps to stop spam calls from reaching you, however. 

Methods to stop spam calls include:

– Removing your phone number from data brokers and people search sites;
– Signing up for the national Do Not Call registry;
– Using *60 to block spam callers;
– Blocking spam callers through your cell phone settings;
– Blocking spam callers through your mobile carrier;
– Using spam-filtering apps.

Why are spam calls so hard to stop?

Spam calls are hard to stop because your phone number is likely exposed in multiple places across the web, from data brokers to your online accounts. While you can make legitimate organizations stop calling, the only way to stop illegal callers is by making your phone number private. 

Why do spammers call and not say anything?

Silent spam calls are usually telemarketing cold calls. This happens when the company uses predictive dialers which make many calls and sometimes don’t have available agents to handle the call, resulting in a silent call that normally disconnects soon. 

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