How Do You Get Random Callers To Leave You Alone?
When an Arizona woman answered a phone call from a random number, the last thing she expected was to hear her daughter sobbing on the other end of the phone, claiming she’d been kidnapped. Luckily, before the woman paid the ransom, she contacted her husband — who was with their daughter. The only thing scammers had stolen was her voice print [*].
So far in 2023, 72 million scam calls have been made every day [*] — which means you need to be on guard any time the phone rings.
Phone calls from random numbers could be from anyone — a local business, your doctor’s office, or, in many cases, scammers. The problem is: how do you know who will be on the other end when you answer?
In this guide, we’ll explain why scammers use random numbers, the types of phone scams you should be on the lookout for, and what you can do to protect yourself and your family from scams over the phone.
Why Do Random Numbers Call You?
By using robocalling, auto-dialing, and Voice-over-IP (VoIP) technologies, fraudsters can make scam calls in startling numbers. For example, in just four years, a single company, Avid Telecom, made more than 24 billion calls [*].
For their scams to work, fraudsters need you to pick up the phone. Yet, most people won’t answer a call from a purely random number. And scammers know this.
Here are some of the main methods they use to trick your caller ID into showing numbers that could entice you to pick up their calls:
- “Neighbor spoofing.” Since most people ignore calls from 1-800 numbers or unfamiliar area codes, fraudsters from distant call centers now spoof their numbers to make them appear local. Often referred to as neighboring or area code spoofing, this type of caller ID spoofing makes even local calls dangerous.
- Contact list calls. In the age of spam calls, many people only answer the phone if they recognize the number. If fraudsters have access to your contact list, however, they can use a spoofed number that looks like it’s coming from someone you know.
- Calling from your own number. Sometimes called "mirroring," scammers may spoof your own number when calling you. This trick works because it piques the recipient's interest. You probably don't expect to see your own number on the caller ID, so you may answer the phone simply to solve this mystery.
- One-ring scams. In this scam, fraudsters let the phone ring once and then hang up. They hope your curiosity will lead you to call back and ask what the call is about.
- Private numbers. While this strategy has fallen out of favor recently, some scammers still block or make their number private. They accomplish this by listing the number as private or by pressing *67 before the call. This hides the number from your caller ID.
💡 Related: The 10 Best Spam Call Blockers of 2023 →
What Can Happen If You Answer a Call From a Random Number?
A call from a random number has no effect if you don't answer it. While you might miss a legitimate phone call or get an annoying voicemail, you won't put yourself in any danger by ignoring these calls.
But if you do answer, it can put you at risk. Here are a few of the dangers of answering a call from a random number:
- You could fall for a phone phishing scam. Scammers pose as government agencies or recognizable companies to trick you into providing your sensitive personal information. They may ask questions, offer unbelievable deals, or claim to be providing special giveaways — whatever it takes to pry away valuable information and steal your identity.
- You could end up giving a scammer money. Fraudsters use different tricks to get your money. They may try to sell you scam products and services or pose as an organization you know and claim you owe them money. They may even use AI voice cloning to mimic the voices of friends or family and ask for emergency funds [*].
- You open yourself up to more calls. Telemarketers and scammers use bots and autodialers to go through massive call sheets. When you answer one of these calls, the dialer switches to a live person. Fraudsters may then mark you down as someone who answers calls from unknown numbers.
- Your phone bill could go through the roof. If you return a call from a scammer, you could be dialing a costly number, such as an international or pay-per-call area code. In these schemes, the fraudster tries to keep you on the line as long as possible to rack up your phone service charges.
- Scammers could hack your online accounts. On a scam call, you might provide too much information or buy into a scheme that involves clicking on a link or installing malware. The end result could see your online accounts hacked and taken over.
- You could step into a voice scam. AI voice technology makes it possible for scammers to clone your voice and use it for fraudulent purposes. The more you say on a call, the more of your voice fraudsters have to work with. Some scams try to get you to say "yes," which scammers then use as permission to enroll you in a service or access your bank account [*].
The bottom line: Basic spam call protection can’t shield you against motivated spammers. Aura’s AI-powered Call Assistant screens incoming calls for known scam numbers and answers unknown numbers on your behalf — ensuring that only legitimate callers get through. Try Aura’s scam protection technology for yourself, today.
How To Get Random Numbers To Stop Targeting You
- Screen incoming calls with an AI-powered Call Assistant
- Silence unknown callers on your Android or iPhone
- Sign up for your carrier’s spam protection tools
- Try a third-party spam call-blocking tool
- Keep your phone number private
You're not alone in receiving phone calls from random numbers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fields more complaints about unwanted calls than anything else [*]. You likely receive many different types of calls, including overly persistent sales calls and phone scams.
Protecting yourself from these random or scam callers requires a combination of effective tools and changes to your habits. Here’s what to do to keep yourself safe:
1. Screen incoming calls with an AI-powered Call Assistant
You can manually screen your calls and block any numbers that appear to be spam, but the process may be unending.
Scammers have an unlimited amount of random numbers at their disposal. Aura's modern spam call protection uses AI to instantly block known spam numbers — as well as answer and screen unknown callers on your behalf before transferring them to you.
Here’s how Aura’s AI-powered scam call protection works:
- Checks incoming calls against constantly updated scam number databases. Aura checks every incoming call against the most up-to-date database of known scam and spam numbers. If a scammer calls you from a number on the list, Aura will block the call without you having to do anything.
- Screens unknown callers using AI. Aura's Call Assistant answers calls from unknown numbers and screens them for scam red flags. You can configure the screening process to ensure that the right calls get through.
- Scans incoming text messages. Aura scans texts for scam language and dangerous links. Suspicious messages get flagged and sent to a junk folder.
2. Silence unknown callers on your Android or iPhone
You can manually block individual spam calls, but most modern cell phones also allow you to automatically silence unknown callers altogether. With this feature enabled, your phone will direct any calls from people not in your contact list to your voicemail. You can then listen to the voicemail, determine if it's authentic, and add the caller to your contact list.
How to silence unknown callers on iPhones:
- Go to Settings, and tap on Phone.
- Scroll down, and tap on Silence unknown callers.
Note that any emergency calls made will deactivate this feature for 24 hours [*].
How to silence unknown callers on Android phones (Samsung, LG, etc):
- Tap on the three dots in the corner of your phone app to access the settings.
- You should see a Caller ID & Spam section, which may have a "block spam and scam calls" and/or "block numbers" option.
- Here is where you'll find "Block calls from unknown numbers."
How to Silence unknown callers on landlines:
On most landlines, you can block calls from anonymous users (who intentionally block their information) by dialing *77. This will automatically block all calls from people that hide both their name and number from caller ID [*].
3. Sign up for your carrier’s spam protection tools
Many phone carriers have additional spam protection tools that you can use to reduce the number of spam calls you receive. Depending on your carrier, you may need to download an additional app or pay a premium for the services.
How to get spam protection from your phone carrier:
- Verizon Call Filter. Verizon's free Call Filter provides customers with spam detection, filtering, and reporting. For an additional monthly fee, users get caller ID, custom block tools, and spam lookup and risk meters. Most Android devices have Call Filter built in, while iPhone users can download it from the Apple store and activate it through their account and plan options.
- AT&T ActiveArmor. ActiveArmor provides spam call flagging and blocking, data breach alerts, and device and app security scans. On premium plans, users can get identity monitoring, virtual private network (VPN) protection, and Safe Browsing tools. You can download ActiveArmor from the major app stores.
- T-Mobile's ScamShield. ScamShield provides T-Mobile customers with scam blocking and reporting, caller id, and a personal proxy number for sharing. For a premium, users can get reverse phone number lookup, custom blocking tools, and voicemail texts. Users can activate ScamShield by downloading the app or dialing #662#.
4. Try a third-party spam call-blocking tool
If your phone carrier doesn't offer an adequate spam-blocking tool, you may opt for one of the many third-party call-blocking apps. Available for Android and iOS devices, these apps specialize in limiting spam calls and protecting your devices, identity, and time.
Here's what you get from third-party spam call-blocking tools:
- Hiya. A free call-blocking service available in the app stores, Hiya claims to analyze nearly four billion calls each week to identify and flag scam and spam numbers. Hiya automatically blocks any flagged numbers and provides you with daily updates. For a fee, you can expand the app's functionality.
- Nomorobo. Nomorobo filters and blocks spam calls and texts on any phone line, even VoIP landlines. Users also get advanced call screening that weeds out all suspicious callers and texters.
- RoboKiller. RoboKiller claims to block 99% of spam calls and texts by using analytics and audio fingerprinting. Signing up for RoboKiller gives users access to a spam radar, call blocking customization options, and an answer bot service that wastes spammer's time.
Note: The products above are described for educational purposes only — not as a recommendation from Aura. For AI-powered protection against scam and spam calls on your iPhone, try Aura’s Call Assistant.
5. Keep your phone number private
While spam blocking tools can help protect your phone from annoying calls, the best form of protection is to keep your phone number private.
Scammers have many ways to obtain your number. They may get it from public profiles or directories and telemarketing lists. Perhaps you picked up and responded to a scam call in the past, or your phone number was involved in a data breach. Whatever the reason, you can reduce future calls by reclaiming your privacy.
How to keep your phone number private:
- Use an alternate phone number. Whenever you need to provide a phone number for a service or online account, consider using an alternate number. You may use a cloud-based proxy number, a VoIP number, or a Google Voice account. This will give you access to any calls, while keeping your personal phone number private.
- Remove your data from broker websites. By removing yourself from data broker sites, you can reduce your exposure to breaches and marketing sales. To opt out, you need to visit each individual broker website and follow its respective processes. Aura’s Privacy Assistant can also do this on your behalf.
- Reduce your digital footprint. Cut back on how much you share online, and you could see a reduction in spam calls. Clean up your social media profiles and make sure your number isn't attached to any public accounts. You might also delete unused accounts altogether.
What About the National Do Not Call Registry?
The National Do Not Call (DNC) Registry lets you control the number of telemarketing calls you receive [*], but it doesn't help with scam calls. After all, scammers break the law with every call; so it's unlikely they'll adhere to a do not call list.
If you want to block telemarketers from calling, visit DoNotCall.gov and register your phone number. You can also call toll free at 888-382-1222 to add your number to the list.
What To Do If You Answer a Call From a Random Number
While answering a call from a random number increases your risk, it doesn't mean all is lost. How you handle the call will determine what steps you need to take afterward to stop things from snowballing.
Here are some possible steps to take after answering a call from a random number.
- Wait until the other person speaks (and don’t respond with “yes”). If you answer a call from a random number, wait before saying anything. If there’s a pause before someone speaks, it’s a robocall. You might just hang up right there. If someone asks, “Can you hear me?” you definitely want to hang up. This is a known scam in which fraudsters record your response in order to access online banking accounts or authorize payments [*].
- Listen for the warning signs of a phone scammer. If you hear a delay when you answer the phone (and then a click), you've been autodialed. While this doesn't always indicate a phone scam, it can help warn you to be careful. Additional phone scammer red flags include unsolicited offers, threats of fines or jail time, and requests for personal information.
- Avoid giving out any information. You should never give out information on the phone unless you can be absolutely sure of the caller’s identity. If someone calls you requesting sensitive information, ask for an alternative method. You might even directly call the company that the caller claims to represent and ask for the person by name.
- Report the scam number to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If you suspect or know for sure that you just encountered a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC will help the government and law enforcement shut down the scammers.
- If you gave up personal information: File an official identity theft report. Scammers don't need much information to commit identity fraud — but giving up your Social Security number (SSN), license details, or banking information can be especially destructive. Immediately report this to the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov and receive a recovery plan to help you minimize damage.
- If you sent money or disclosed financial information: Contact your bank. If the scam involves your bank details, notify your bank of the potential for fraud. They will walk you through the fraud prevention process — such as closing accounts, disputing charges, and getting new cards.
- Consider signing up for an identity theft and scam protection provider. Even a close call might be enough to convince you to get an identity theft protection service. You now know that your phone number is in the wrong hands, and this might not be the last time you deal with fraud threats. Hackers can use your phone number for all kinds of devious acts, so it might be time for more thorough protection.
The Bottom Line: Keep Your Phone Safe From Scammers
You'll probably never eliminate spam calls completely. However, with a few steps, you can vastly reduce the risk of spam calls (and the number of scam calls that you receive).
For added security, consider Aura’s powerful scam protection features. With Aura, you get the most advanced, AI-powered scam protection and digital safety tools, award-winning identity theft protection, and 24/7 U.S.-based customer support.