How Do You Block Spam Calls Once and For All?
For years, con artists have used phone calls to entrap victims; but with technological advances — such as robocalls and artificial intelligence (AI) — it's become even easier for fraudsters to target and trick more people every day. Late last year [*]:
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed a record-breaking $300 million fine for phone scammers that used robocalls to make over 5 billion unsolicited calls in three months.
Unwanted calls — including robocalls, telemarketing calls, and spoofing of local phone numbers — have quickly become the top consumer complaint received by the FCC [*].
But spam calls aren’t just an annoyance. If you become a victim, you could lose your savings, suffer the ramifications of identity fraud, or end up with mountains of fraudulent debt in your name.
In this guide, we'll explore how you can combat spam callers — from leveraging the built-in settings on your smartphone to using dedicated spam filtering tools and third-party apps.
Why Are You Getting So Many Spam Calls?
Scam calls are unsolicited phone calls from impersonators who try to illegally obtain sensitive information or money. Also known as vishing (short for “voice phishing”), this fraud involves social engineering tactics — through which scammers use urgency and scare tactics to coerce or deceive their victims.
In 2023, some of the most common phone schemes include IRS imposters, fake customer or technical support representatives, giveaways or fake sweepstakes scams, and even fake kidnapping scams (known as the “grandparent scam” for its frequency of targeting elderly victims).
These scams have become so widespread that one study claims Americans lost almost $40 billion to phone scams in 2022 alone [*].
While scammers have more ways than ever to target you over the phone, what all of these types of calls have in common is fraudsters gaining access to your phone number.
Here are eight ways scammers can get your phone number:
- Your phone number was leaked in a data breach. Billions of pieces of personally identifiable information (PII) were leaked in data breaches in 2022. If a company storing your phone number gets hacked, your data could end up for sale on the Dark Web.
- You accidentally answered a spam call in the past. Answering a spam call tells scammers that your number is active — meaning they’ll continue to target you.
- Your phone number is viewable on a public social media profile. Many people post their phone numbers on their social media profiles without thinking of the consequences. That’s why it’s so important to follow best practices regarding online privacy on social media.
- Malicious websites or apps. Cybercriminals hide malicious programs — like spyware, ransomware, and trojans — in bogus websites and apps. If you land on a scam site or download a risky app, scammers could seize information including your phone number or credit card details.
- Phishing attempts. Fraudulent emails and spam text messages containing suspicious links are classic traps for stealing personal information. But despite the widespread warnings of phishing attacks, these old-school techniques duped 300,000 victims in the United States in 2022 [*].
- Data brokers sold your number to marketers or scammers. Brokers store and sell personal information, such as medical records, income data, credit scores, social media behaviors, and smartphone locations. The use of data brokers is beneficial for advertising purposes — but hackers and scammers can exploit this industry.
- Telemarketing lists. As a type of data broker, telemarketers store contact lists of potential customers. These repositories are low-hanging fruit for scammers who need new targets.
- Public directories. Scammers can extract phone numbers from web directories (like Yelp) and People Search websites (like Spokeo and Intelius).
As soon as hackers get your phone number and confirm it’s active, you’re a target for scam phone calls — until you do something about it.
💡 Related: The 10 Best Spam Call Blocker Apps of 2023 →
How To Block Spam Calls on iPhones
When it comes to blocking spam calls on iPhones, the standard approach is to block individual numbers. But this technique is not foolproof. While Apple offers excellent security features, scammers can evade these safeguards by frequently rotating phone numbers.
Clever spam callers can trick you into answering by using Voice over the Internet (VoiP) technology to spoof numbers of trusted organizations or even your family members.
Here’s how to block spam calls on iPhones:
1. Block individual spam numbers on iPhones
If you’ve been targeted by phone scammers, your first step should be to block their numbers and avoid future contact. Here’s what to do:
- Open the Phone app and find the number you want to block. You can do this by checking your Contacts, Favorites, Recents, or Voicemail.
- Tap on the More Info button next to the phone number or contact that you want to block.
- Scroll down, and then tap on Block this Caller.
Unfortunately, you can’t rely solely on blocking individual numbers, as spammers change their numbers to continue targeting you. To avoid spam calls, you need to take further precautions.
2. Silence unknown callers on iPhone
You can avoid dealing with spam calls by enabling your iPhone’s “Silence unknown callers” feature.
With this feature activated, your iPhone will silence any calls from numbers you haven’t saved in your address book. The unknown caller will be rerouted to your voicemail, and you will see the calls appear in your recent calls list.
Here’s what to do:
- Go to Settings, and then Phone.
- Scroll down, and tap on Silence Unknown Callers.
3. Use an AI-powered spam call blocker on your iPhone
Just as fraudsters use AI to run more sophisticated scams, you can use the same technology to thwart scammers. Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant answers unknown callers for you — and filters out potential spam and scams, so you only receive legitimate phone calls.
How To Block Spam Calls on Android
On many Android devices that have Google Phone as the default dialer app, you can filter spam calls by adjusting the app's settings. But other smartphones, like Samsung models, may have different processes.
Here’s how to block spam calls on most Android phones:
1. Block individual spam numbers on Android
While spam and robocalls typically originate from random phone numbers, if you are receiving multiple spam calls from the same caller, you should block contact from those specific numbers.
Here’s how to block numbers on Android phones:
- Open the Phone app.
- Long press the number you want to block.
- Tap on Block.
2. Block all unknown callers on Android
For additional privacy and protection against spam calls, consider blocking all unknown numbers:
- Open the Phone app.
- Tap on the three dots in the upper-right corner, and tap on Settings.
- Tap on Caller ID & Spam in the Assistive section.
- Switch on Filter spam calls to start blocking all potential spam calls automatically.
Be aware that Google's spam filtering can be oversensitive. You may need to adjust this setting if you start missing legitimate communications from trusted numbers, such as Amazon. You can turn off spam filtering and instead enable See Caller and Spam ID to manually screen calls as they come in.
3. Use Google Call Screening (Google Pixel only)
Call Screen is an exclusive feature on Google Pixel smartphones that answers phone calls on your behalf. If you’re inundated with unwanted calls, this filtering can help you avoid robocalls and spammers.
How to block spam calls with Google Call Screening:
- Make sure your Google Pixel has the latest version of the Phone app. If needed, you can update the software via the Google Play app store.
- Launch the Phone app.
- Tap on the three-dot menu button, and then go to Settings.
- Select Spam and Call Screen.
- Switch on See Caller and Spam ID.
- Tap on Call Screen.
- Go to the Unknown call settings and choose the callers you wish to screen.
- Pick Automatically screen. Decline robocalls under each type of caller.
- If you want, turn on Save Call Screen audio.
When Google Assistant screens a call, you’ll get a notification to let you know your phone is actively “Screening an unknown call.” At that point, you have the option to Answer or Decline the call.
Four More Ways To Block Spam Calls on Your Smartphone
There are several other universal approaches that can help you combat spam calls — although many device-agnostic tools aren’t as reliable as device-specific options.
But if you want to know how to block spam calls in other ways, consider these four methods to stop con artists from calling you.
1. Download and use tools from your mobile phone provider
Most wireless internet providers offer built-in digital security features to help you block calls or flag suspicious phone numbers.
Here are three options from popular providers:
AT&T ActiveArmor® mobile security app
- The free plan includes many useful features — including fraud call blocking, nuisance call alerts, call routing, device security alerts, and app scanning for Android devices.
- The paid plan is $3.99/month, per line. It offers advanced features — including Public Wi-Fi® Protection, virtual private network (VPN) and Wi-Fi alerts, identity monitoring, reverse number lookup, caller ID, and safe browsing.
Verizon Call Filter
- The free version includes a Call Filter service for customers with compatible phones, but only for postpaid plans.
- When you upgrade to Call Filter Plus, you get total spam and robocall control.
- Paid plans cost $3.99/month for one line or $10.99/month for three or more lines.
T-Mobile Scam Shield
- Scam Shield is a free app for postpaid T-Mobile and Metro customers.
- This app identifies scam calls, provides enhanced Caller ID, and offers a proxy phone number for privacy.
- The paid plan — Scam Shield Premium — is $4/month. It offers advanced features like voicemail-to-text and call-blocking options.
2. Join the National Do-Not-Call Registry
One of the most effective methods to reduce unwanted calls from telemarketers is to add your phone number to the National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry.
You can add your number in two ways:
- Visit donotcall.gov to register your phone number online.
- Call the toll-free number at 888-382-1222 from the number you wish to add to the list.
3. Try a third-party spam call-blocking app
App developers have also created solutions for dealing with spam calls — with varying degrees of success. Here are a few options to consider:
- TrueCaller protects people from spammers and robocalls. Features include spam caller ID, SMS identification, reverse lookup, and in-app calling and messaging. In addition to the free Basic version, you can get annual plans for Ad-Free at $9.99, Connect at $29.90, or the Premium version at $49.99.
- Call Control blocks unwanted calls on your home landline phone. With features like a blocklist, you can filter incoming calls and reduce the risk of engaging in calls with fraudsters. Call Control offers a Basic version for free. The Premium version is available for $9.99 quarterly or $29.99 annually.
- Hiya provides features like spam protection, caller ID, and call blocking. You can use limited features for free, while the Premium version is available at $3.99 monthly or $24.99 annually.
4. Remove your phone number from data broker lists
If you don’t want your personal data to be sold to third-party companies, you should remove your information from data collection sites.
While you can remove your data manually, it’s a time-consuming process. You’ll need to find email accounts for each data broker website and reach out individually to ask them all to remove your records from their database.
Aura saves you time by contacting data brokers and people-search sites on your behalf and lodging requests to remove your information.
💡 Related: How To Remove Yourself From Data Broker Sites →
Can You Block Spam Calls on a Landline?
While there are several ways to block spam calls on mobile phones, blocking numbers on your home phone is not as straightforward. While possible, many landline spam-blocking services and tools have garnered negative reviews — so be careful when choosing one.
Here are four options we recommend to protect against spam calls on landlines.
For AT&T customers:
- After you receive an unwanted call on your landline, you can block it by dialing *61 or *60.
- Next, press the Call button to place a block. The last number that called will not be able to contact you again.
For T-Mobile customers:
- To turn on scam-blocking features, dial #662#, and then press Call.
- You can confirm that the feature is enabled at any time by dialing #787#.
Use your phone’s built-in spam-blocking features:
Most telephone companies offer an anonymous call rejection option. This free feature lets you screen out potential spam calls from parties that have blocked their caller ID information. With this feature enabled, you can reduce sales calls from telemarketers and attempted scams from more sinister individuals.
To set this feature, dial *77 from your landline. If that doesn’t work, contact your landline provider to find out how to enable its call-blocking process.
Use a separate spam call-blocking device:
While most spam call-blockers are types of software, there are physical devices that tackle the problem of unwanted calls. A popular product is imp landline call-blocker, which scans every incoming call and stops unwanted callers from reaching your landline phone.
What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed Over the Phone
If you end up on the phone with a scammer, you might be conned into sharing sensitive information or sending money or gift cards. Taking action quickly can stop the scammer from causing serious damage to your financial life.
Here are nine tips on what to do next:
Secure your online accounts
Scammers often try to access online accounts — such as your banking, social media, or email. You should immediately update your login credentials if you shared personal details, passwords, or two-factor authentication (2FA) codes with a phone scammer.
Freeze your credit
A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit reports or taking out new loans or credit cards in your name. You can place a freeze by calling each of the three bureaus individually:
Try to get your money back
If you've been scammed over the phone, contact your bank or credit card company immediately. Let them know about the fraud, and request that they reverse the charges. The financial institutions will need to investigate before refunding your money.
Block the number
As detailed above, you can block individual numbers through the Phone App on your iOS or Android device. Proactively placing blocks after each spam call will help deter fraudsters from targeting you again.
Monitor your credit and identity for signs of fraud
You can visit Annualcreditreport.com to order free copies of your credit files. Manually reviewing your credit reports, bank statements, and credit card statements takes time but can help you spot early warning signs of financial fraud.
Report spam calls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
The FTC investigates fraud and provides support to help you recover. You can file an identity theft report online and get an official affidavit that confirms you are a victim of fraud.
Warn your family members
Scammers could target your contacts with similar schemes, so it’s a good idea to spread the word before friends or family fall victim. Scammers may have used AI voice cloning when on the call with you, and could target your parents or grandparents next.
Make your phone number less accessible to scammers
You can reduce your digital footprint by tightening your privacy settings on social media platforms and removing your information from data broker lists.
If all else fails, change your phone number
While this is a drastic option, it might be the only way to avoid future scam calls. Make sure to keep your new number private by never sharing it online.
The Bottom Line: Keep Your Phone Free of Spam and Scam
Truecaller reported that 26% of Americans lost money to phone scams in 2022 — up from 23% the previous year. Spam calls aren’t a huge risk on their own — but if you engage in any way, you could pay the price.
If scammers get any of your information or record your voice, they could exploit you or your family with various types of identity theft.
An all-in-one service can block spam, protect your identity, and safeguard your finances.
Aura helps you minimize the threat of scam calls and spam texts with its comprehensive suite of digital security tools, which includes:
- AI-powered Call Assistant. Avoid costly phone scams and harmful messages with smart spam-blocking and call screening.
- #1-rated identity theft protection. Get peace of mind by knowing that your identity, Social Security number (SSN), passwords, and financial accounts are being monitored 24/7 for signs of fraud.
- 24/7 three-bureau credit monitoring. Keep a constant watch on your credit files and get rapid fraud alerts about suspicious activity — 250x faster than other digital security providers3.
- Dark Web monitoring. Aura provides real-time scanning, and sends instant alerts if your phone number or other personal data is detected on hacker forums and marketplaces.
- $1,000,000 insurance policy. Every adult member on your plan is covered for eligible losses due to identity theft — including stolen money, child and elder care, credit cards, and passports (up to $5 million total coverage).
- White Glove Fraud Resolution Specialists. Get dedicated U.S.-based 24/7 support to help you navigate the fraud recovery process with banks, creditors, and government agencies.