Are You Suddenly Getting More Spam Calls?
When Becca Andrews’ mother received a call claiming there was something wrong with her Amazon account, she just wanted to make sure her money was safe. But a few hours later, scammers had fleeced her out of $11,000 — along with her Social Security number (SSN), date of birth, and driver’s license number [*].
Scam, spam, and unwanted calls have quickly become the top consumer complaint received by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [*].
In 2022 alone, Americans were flooded with over 50 billion robocalls and spam calls — with victims losing an estimated $39.5 billion [*].
If you’re tired of receiving so many spam calls or are worried that you’ve been scammed, there are steps you can take to stay safe.
In this guide, we’ll explain why spam calls have become so rampant in 2023, how to protect your phone, and what to do if you’ve fallen victim to a phone scam.
Why Am I Getting So Many Spam Calls in 2023?
Spam calls comprise any unwanted or unsolicited calls that you receive, including:
- Telemarketing calls from marketers who are trying to sell you products from a (usually) legitimate company.
- Robocalls or pre-recorded statements that try to get you to buy a product or follow up with a company. Some of these are legal, automated calls for notifications or bills. However, the majority are illegal calls designed to redirect you to a scammer.
- Scam calls that try to trick you into sharing your personal or financial information using “vishing” techniques. Phone scammers often impersonate well-known companies or agencies, such as Amazon, Apple, or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Scam phone calls and text messages have been on the rise for years. Luckily, they’ve started to taper off as the FCC, carriers, and phone companies try to tackle the issue. For example, the FCC recently mandated that U.S. carriers need to adopt Stir/Shaken technology to block international scammers from spoofing local phone numbers [*].
Yet, despite their efforts, Americans still receive billions of scam calls every month.
So, why are you receiving more spam calls? And how do scammers get your phone number? Here are five reasons why you might be receiving more spam calls than ever before:
Data brokers sold your number to scammers
Data brokers scrape the internet for publicly available information about you and then sell it to marketers or scammers.
While you can request that these companies remove your personal information, the unfortunate truth is that there are hundreds of data brokers in the United States alone [*] — making it almost impossible to keep your contact information private.
Instead, Aura’s identity theft protection service can automatically scan data broker lists for your personal information and request removal on your behalf.
Your phone number was leaked in a data breach
Data breaches are among the most common ways that scammers get access to your phone number. In 2022, 166 million people had their personal data stolen in data breaches from companies including Twitter, Uber, and WhatsApp [*].
If you find out that your phone number has been leaked in a data breach, you should take steps to protect yourself and your information. This includes changing your passwords and monitoring your accounts for suspicious activity.
While no one can completely protect you from data breaches, you can take action to minimize the harm that a breach can cause. Aura’s identity theft monitoring solution scans online sources, public databases, and recent data breaches for your personal information. You’ll receive an alert in near real-time if your phone number or other information has been compromised.
You accidentally answered a scam call in the past
When you answer or respond to a spam call, you alert spammers that your phone number is active. They will then mark your number as “live” and you’ll receive more and more calls as they try to reach you using different numbers.
It can be hard to tell if you’re dealing with a scammer — but if you accidentally answer a spam call, you should hang up immediately. The less information that you provide to scammers, the better. Avoid answering any questions if a robocall asks something like, “Hello, can you hear me?” and hang up the call.
Scammers will only leave you alone when they’re sure you won’t answer or fall for their tricks. So, if you see an unknown number, don’t answer.
Your number is being sold on the Dark Web
Once your phone number has been leaked to the Dark Web, it’s almost impossible to remove. For this reason, you should be extra vigilant whenever you receive a call from an unknown number.
Aura’s free leaked password scanner can help you discover whether your personal information is for sale on the Dark Web. And if you want to keep a closer eye on your data, Aura’s Dark Web monitoring service will scan the Dark Web regularly and alert you if any of your information is leaked.
💡 Related: What Are "Potential Spam" Calls? (How To Block Them) →
You added your phone number to a social media (or similar) profile
Scammers often check publicly available records to find people’s contact details, and there are several places where your number could be exposed. For example, you may have listed it on your social media account or submitted your number when signing up for a website.
If you list your phone number where scammers can find it, you’re handing it to them for free. Instead, try to avoid putting your number online and use a “fake” number wherever possible when signing up for online services and accounts.
How To Stop Spam Calls: 8 Options
- Use an AI-powered spam call blocker
- Take advantage of your phone’s built-in features
- Sign up for your carrier’s call-filtering service
- Download a third-party call-blocking app
- Add your number to the National Do-Not-Call Registry
- Remove your phone number from data broker lists
- Never respond to robocalls
- Keep your phone number private
Scammers are always looking for new ways to target you — especially over the phone. Here are eight ways that you can help reduce and prevent spam calls:
1. Use an AI-powered spam call blocker
Most traditional or built-in spam blocking features only allow you to block numbers after receiving spam or scam calls. But modern AI-powered tools offer a more proactive way to block spam calls (and text messages).
Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant scans incoming calls and text messages before you receive them and check for suspicious links, typical scam language, or known spam numbers. If Aura finds any signs of spam, it blocks the caller and sends them to your voicemail.
Here’s how Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant helps block spam calls and texts:
- Screens unknown callers on your behalf. When people who are not on your contact list try to call you (such as scammers, telemarketers, or robocallers), Aura will answer on your behalf to ensure that only legitimate callers get through. Your phone will hang up on anyone else who calls, or send them to voicemail.
- Blocks spam and scam phone calls. When Aura detects incoming scam content, it will automatically block the SMS or phone call. This makes it much harder for scammers to bother you with unsolicited offers.
- Automatically filters out spam and scam text messages. Aura uses AI to scan incoming text messages for common scam language, dangerous links, and known malware signatures. Any potentially dangerous message is sent to your junk folder.
2. Take advantage of your phone’s built-in spam blocking features
Modern smartphones have features that can help either block or silence annoying spam calls. Just keep in mind that this function can cause you to miss important calls from people not in your contacts list (although they’ll still show up in your call logs and voicemail).
How to silence spam calls on an iPhone:
On Apple iOS 13 and later, you can turn on Silence Unknown Callers to avoid receiving calls from people you don’t know.
To set this up:
- Open Settings and select Phone.
- Toggle the “Silence Unknown Callers” feature to “On.”
How to block spam calls on Android:
On Android devices, the Caller ID & Spam Protection feature helps prevent you from receiving suspected spam.
To turn this on:
- Open the Phone app and then tap More options (the three dots).
- Tap Settings, then Spam and Call Screen, and toggle on “See caller & spam ID.”
- Finally, turn on Filter spam calls.
How to block spam calls using Google Call Screen:
If you have a Google Pixel phone, you can use Google’s Call Screen feature to find out who’s calling you.
To turn this on:
- Follow the steps above to get to your phone’s Spam and Call Screen settings.
- Tap Call Screen and then select “Automatically screen. Decline robocalls.”
3. Sign up for your phone carrier’s call-filtering service
Most mobile phone service providers have apps or services that can help filter out spam callers. Here’s a list of the major tools that you can use, depending on your provider:
- AT&T ActiveArmor (Android, iPhone). AT&T’s free call protection app (previously called Call Protect) provides basic call-blocking features. AT&T also offers paid services including enhanced caller ID and reverse number lookup.
- T-Mobile Scam Shield (Android, iPhone). T-Mobile’s Scam Shield app blocks spam calls for free, but also offers a premium version that includes block lists and proxy phone numbers. You can also enable scam blocking without the app by visiting your account settings.
- Verizon Call Filter (Android, iPhone). Verizon’s Call Filter lets you tweak the app so it only blocks the kind of calls you want it to block. There’s also a paid version, Call Filter Plus, which lets you add caller ID and spam lookup features.
- U.S. Cellular Call Guardian (Android, iPhone). Call Guardian identifies and blocks unwanted calls and spam texts. It also has premium features (included with some cell phone plans) that let you create personal blocking lists and sync these across devices.
Related: How To Know if Your Phone Is Hacked (and What To Do) →
4. Download a third-party call-blocking app
Call-filtering services aren't 100% effective. Third-party apps promise to help by blocking robocalls and spam based on databases of known scam numbers.
However, some call-blocker apps collect and share a lot of personal data about you — which could lead to even more spam if you’re not careful [*]. Furthermore, it’s hard to judge how effective spam-blocking apps are — especially with AI-powered options like Aura available.
Among these, the two most highly recommended and privacy-friendly apps include:
- Robokiller (Android, iPhone). Robokiller blocks incoming calls and attempts to waste a scammer's time with pre-recorded messages. It costs $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year. All you have to do is install the app and then enable the call-blocking feature via your phone’s settings.
- Nomorobo (Android, iPhone). Nomorobo offers a basic plan ($1.99 per month) that stops illegal robocallers, or a Max plan ($4.17 per month) that promises to stop unwanted calls, robocalls, and spoofed numbers.
Related: Help, My Phone Number Is Being Spoofed (What To Do) →
5. Add your number to the National Do-Not-Call Registry
The National Do-Not-Call (NDNC) Registry is managed by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and informs telemarketers of numbers they cannot contact. To add your number, head to DoNotCall.gov, click on Register, and then add your mobile and landline numbers.
Unfortunately, adding your number to the Do-Not-Call list can only help you reduce the number of sales calls you receive from legitimate companies — not scammers. Other organizations will also still be able to call you — including charities, political groups, and surveyors.
Once your number has been added to the NDNC Registry for 31 days, you can report any unwanted calls that you receive to the FTC.
Related: The 10 Best Spam Call Blocker Apps of 2023 →
6. Remove your phone number from data broker lists
Data brokers, also known as “people search sites,” collect and store publicly available personal information to sell to third parties (like marketing agencies) for a profit.
If you find that your number (or anything else) is up for sale on any of these sites, you can follow their opt-out process to remove your personal information. However, since there are so many data brokers, this can be a lengthy process.
7. Never respond to robocalls (even by simply pressing numbers)
If you accidentally answer a robocall (or a human-operated spam call), avoid responding at all costs – even by pressing a button on your phone. Sometimes the pre-recorded message will tell you to press a number to stop getting the calls. This is just another way for scammers to determine if your phone number is active.
Above all, never respond to questions or give out personal information such as account numbers, passwords, answers to security questions, or your Social Security number (SSN).
If the operator claims to represent a company or government agency, simply hang up and call the organization directly via the number on its official website. This way, you will verify the authenticity of the caller and avoid giving out information to scammers.
8. Keep your phone number private
If you list your phone number publicly, you’re just making it easier for scammers to find it. To prevent this, avoid putting your phone number anywhere online, including on social media.
Also, avoid providing your phone number when signing up for online accounts. Not only does this increase the chances of having your number leaked in a data breach — not all websites can be trusted. Many may include clauses in their T&Cs (terms and conditions) that let them sell your data to third parties.
To see if your number is easily accessible, try searching for it in your web browser. If you find it listed on a website, contact the site to see if they’ll remove it. And in the future, use a “fake” phone number (like Google Voice) when signing up for anything online.
Related: How To Avoid the Google Voice Verification Code Scam →
What Happens If I Answer or Call Back a Spam Call?
While merely answering a spam call or random number can’t cause serious damage, it does open you up to several serious risks, such as:
- Receiving even more spam calls. Scammers sell lists of targets — which include anyone they know picks up or responds to their calls. If you answer, you’ll start getting even more spam calls.
- Being tricked into giving up personal information. As soon as you answer, scammers will try to get you to share personal information that they can use to steal your identity. Even just saying “yes” to a scam call can be used to hack into your online accounts.
- You could lose money. If you give up personal information or hand over your payment credentials, the scammers could end up stealing money from you.
Did You Give Personal Information To a Phone Scammer? Do This
- Monitor your bank and credit accounts. If you’ve given away financial or credit card information, you should freeze your credit with the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) and inform your bank of potential identity theft.
- Report SSN fraud to the IRS and Social Security Administration (SSA). If you gave away your SSN, you should report it to the relevant authorities immediately, including the IRS, SSA, FTC, and your local law enforcement. They will help protect you from identity theft.
- File a complaint with the FCC. If you’ve received an illegal call or text or are the victim of a spoofing scam, file a report with the FCC to have that number blocked.
- Strengthen your digital security. If your passwords are vulnerable, update them to unique 12-character phrases that will be impossible to guess. Also use two-factor authentication (2FA) and biometrics (if possible), as these will provide additional layers of protection.
- Consider signing up for identity theft protection. Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution offers near real-time credit monitoring, Dark Web scanning, identity protection, and more to help safeguard you and your family against cybercriminals.
Aren’t There Laws Against Spam Calls?
Lawmakers and agencies like the FCC and FTC are trying to tackle robocalls and scam calls, but it’s an uphill battle.
In the last few years, there’s been multiple new laws and technologies adopted to combat the rise of spam calls, including the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence Act (TRACED Act) of 2020. This increased the fine for spam robocalls and requires carriers to use advanced call authentication technology to identify and block scammers.
The adoption of new technology to weed out spoofed numbers resulted in an estimated 15-20% drop in spam calls in 2022 [*]. And while this is progress, it isn’t enough to guarantee protection from cybercriminals.
The bottom line: Phone scammers face few legal repercussions for their actions — and make billions each year off of American victims. Unfortunately, this means that in 2023, reducing the amount of spam calls that you receive comes down to adopting new technologies and changing your phone habits.
The Bottom Line: Spam Calls Aren’t Going Away
Phone scams are not only frustrating, but they also pose a significant risk to your identity and finances. Protecting yourself from these calls is now much harder than simply ignoring unknown numbers – scammers know how to manipulate you into giving up your personal information.
That’s why it’s vital to safeguard your information ahead of time. Sign up for Aura’s comprehensive digital security solution today to proactively protect yourself from phone scammers.