Your smartphone is ringing again. An unknown caller! Who could it be? A long-lost friend perhaps? Your kid making an emergency call on a payphone? The pope?
Sadly, you already know the answer—and it’s maddening.
Telemarketing calls, robocalls, and spam calls are more pervasive than ever, with 22 billion robocalls placed in the U.S. in the past six months alone. And getting constant unwanted calls isn’t just annoying—many of these spam calls are potentially dangerous, as an estimated 19.7 billion USD was lost to phone scams in 2020.
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While anti-robocall legislation is in place to help combat the spam call surge, there are still ways to stay safe from phone scams. Here are five things you can do to protect your privacy and block spam calls.
1. Don’t give out your number unnecessarily
There are several ways that your phone number could be exposed online, such as listing your phone number on your social media accounts, submitting your number when signing up for things (always read terms and conditions), or having it leaked in a data breach.
Doing a quick search of yourself and your phone number is a good way to figure out how much of your private information is easily accessible online. If it’s listed on a website, you could try sending the site admin a request to remove it. Some social media sign ups may require your phone number, but you can potentially sidestep this by using a fake number. Some options for acquiring a fake number include Google Voice, using a temporary number app or website, or getting a burner phone number.
2. Add your number to the National Do Not Call Registry
If you’re in the U.S., a free and easy way to filter out telemarketers is by adding your number to the National Do Not Call Registry. This can be done via www.donotcall.gov or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register.
You should receive fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering; however, this method does not filter out scammers or unscrupulous companies who ignore the registry.
3. Block unknown callers on your phone
You can change the settings on your Apple or Android phone to block calls from unknown callers.
For Apple iPhones, you’ll need to be running iOS 13 and later. To turn on the Silence Unknown Callers feature, go to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers, and toggle it on. Unknown numbers will then be silenced and sent straight to your voicemail, but they’ll appear in your recent calls list.
On your Android phone, there should be a function to block all unknown callers within the Settings menu. While the process varies depending on your device, you can usually access it by opening the Phone app > tap the three dots ⋮ > Settings, then find the option to block numbers and activate the feature.
4. Check if your mobile provider offers a call filter
Your phone service provider may have products available to filter out unwanted calls. In the U.S., carriers with such offerings include T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T, though some of these services may require a fee.
5. Use a call-blocker app
Call-blocking apps are an efficient way to curtail (or even deter) spam calls. Besides fulfilling their basic promise of blocking unfamiliar calls, each app comes with its own add-ons and features tailored to what you need, whether it’s filtering spam texts too or adding an automated answering message (designed to frustrate scammers). Most of these apps charge a subscription fee, with standouts being Nomorobo, Robokiller, and Hiya.
How do you deal with spam calls? Let us know in the comments.