Spam calls: how to stop the robots from calling your iPhone or Android

Mobile spam calls have been a nuisance for years. I get between 4 and 6 robocalls every day, and a fast survey of pals reveals that I’m not alone. Every waking day brings with it a brand new barrage.

Robocallers have upped their sport by masking their spam with native, genuine-looking cellphone numbers. Sometimes their nonsense is amusing — like while you get a threatening voicemail about your impending arrest over owed again taxes — however the overwhelming majority of the time, it’s an unwelcome distraction. It’s all too straightforward for these scammers to wield the energy of the web and hearth off numerous calls with ease. And as soon as even just some folks fall for a rip-off, they’ve made sufficient revenue to cowl their trivial bills.

Estimates put the variety of robocalls in 2019 at over 50 billion. Both the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission say they’re doing their finest to get a deal with on the scenario, and sure, there have been vital crackdowns. But real-world suggestions signifies that issues are getting worse — not higher — and it will probably usually really feel uncontrolled. The FCC has required that US carriers undertake a expertise that can go a great distance towards combatting spam calls. But we’re not fairly there but.



Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

So in case you’re as sick as I’m of pulling a vibrating cellphone out of your pocket solely to see a random, suspicious quantity, let’s go over the choices for preventing again and restoring some sense of peace.


First, I’ll evaluation some definitions since the carriers make necessary distinctions between these calls — even when they’re all unwelcome and annoying. Here’s how Verizon seems at issues:

  • Robocallers: Automated, prerecorded cellphone messages
  • Spammers: Unwanted callers that could be calling indiscriminately to a lot of recipients; generally contains callers to whom you’ve given consent to contact you
  • Fraud calls: An entity seemingly pretending to be somebody they’re not with malicious intent

Option A: Block particular person numbers one after the other

This might be a hopeless endeavor in case you’re aiming to fully eradicate robocalls, but when there’s a selected quantity that retains calling, it’s pretty straightforward to block it ceaselessly from your iPhone or Android cellphone.

On iOS, simply go to the Phone app, then your Recents, faucet the blue data icon to the proper of the quantity you need to block, and choose “Block this Caller.”

For Android, the course of isn’t a lot completely different: go to the Recents part of the Phone app, lengthy press on the bothersome quantity, and select “Block.”

Again, it will take a variety of persistent work on your half to maintain the spammers away — and it does no good towards blocked or non-public callers.

Option B: Trust (or pay) your service to defend you

Most of the main cellular suppliers have taken steps to insert themselves as a barrier between you and these annoying callers. They’ve executed this by means of behind-the-scenes community enhancements, together with the SHAKEN/STIR expertise that has began making it potential for carriers to confirm when a name is reputable and weed out the many spoofed numbers you’re most likely getting from your personal native space code. In actuality, these calls are most likely coming from throughout the globe, nevertheless it’s straightforward for robocallers to impersonate native numbers.

All of the main US carriers supply some degree of spam blocking without spending a dime as a part of your wi-fi plan.

AT&T: Call Protect
Available without spending a dime for all postpaid prospects. $3.99 / month for the Plus model.

Image: AT&T

AT&T has a free service, Call Protect, that’s designed to block fraudulent robocalls and sure spam dangers earlier than they attain you, and also you received’t have to do something in addition to set up the software program on your cellphone. Call Protect received’t fully stop telemarketer calls, however it is going to at the very least show a “nuisance warning” while you obtain these. The service additionally makes it straightforward to completely block callers, and you’ll construct a private block listing.

There can also be a Call Protect Plus service that provides caller ID, reverse quantity lookup, and the potential to block or ship calls to voicemail by class. These added options price $3.99 per 30 days, however the predominant Call Protect service comes free as a part of your plan.

Call Protect can also be accessible to pay as you go prospects in the event that they personal an AT&T HD Voice-capable cellphone.

Download for iPhone | Download for Android

T-Mobile: Scam Shield and Scam Block
Available without spending a dime for all postpaid prospects. $4 / month for Scam Shield Premium.

Image: T-Mobile

T-Mobile’s effort to fight annoying robocalls is named Scam Shield. The free-to-download Scam Shield app bundles all of T-Mobile’s numerous instruments — Scam ID, Scam Block, and Caller ID — so you’ll be able to simply configure no matter degree of safety is best for you. By default, suspicious calls are at all times flagged. Enabling Scam Block will forestall a lot of them from ever ringing your cellphone. And T-Mobile’s Caller ID service will ceaselessly present the data for whoever’s calling you, even when they’re not in your contacts.

You can at all times activate Scam Block with out the Scam Shield app. To accomplish that, dial #662# from your T-Mobile cellphone. To disable it, simply dial #632#.

Scam Shield goes past simply blocking dangerous calls: you can too request a secondary “proxy” quantity that you should use in situations the place you don’t need to share your non-public cellphone quantity. And if you end up hopelessly inundated, T-Mobile will allow you to change your precise quantity as soon as per yr without spending a dime.

For an added $4 per 30 days per line, you’ll be able to improve to Scam Shield Premium, which helps you to “send entire categories of unwanted robocalls directly to voicemail, like telemarketers; create ‘always block’ lists; and get voicemail-to-text for at-a-glance access to your voicemails.” (Customers with Magenta Max plans get Scam Shield Premium without spending a dime.)

Verizon Wireless: Call Filter
Available free for all postpaid prospects

Verizon’s Call Filter service, free for postpaid traces, permits prospects to “get alerts when a call is likely spam, report unsolicited numbers, and automatically block robocalls based on their preferred level of risk.”

For no cost, you’ll be able to block up to 5 cellphone numbers that you really want to forestall from contacting you. However, blocks expire after 90 days and aren’t very useful towards robocallers with numbers that change each day.

You can get extra options, equivalent to the potential to create a private block listing, for $2.99 a month per line. The Verizon Smart Family plan affords further options, together with parental controls and the potential to completely block as many as ten numbers, for $4.99 a month.

Option C: Protect your self with third-party apps

There are a variety of providers, equivalent to Nomorobo, RoboKiller, and Hiya, which are designed to forestall robocalls from ever ringing your cellphone. Most of them require a month-to-month (or annual) subscription. At their core, these providers depend on a continually updating listing of robocallers, spammers, and fraudsters and use that database to stop nuisance calls. (When I say “constantly updating,” I imply they’re figuring out 1000’s of dangerous numbers each day.) A name is available in, and the service runs it towards that vast listing of rip-off numbers. If it finds a match, the incoming name will get shut down earlier than it reaches you.

All of them permit you to keep your personal private blacklist of numbers that may be bothering you and whitelist these you need to get by means of. Some work by downloading a devoted contacts listing — separate from your common contacts — to your cellphone. But each iOS and Android have not too long ago given these providers extra leeway in taking management over your cellphone app and stopping the jerks from ever reaching you. On iPhone, you’ll have to allow them in the Settings app and provides them caller ID permissions earlier than they’ll begin working. Apple reveals you how to do this step-by-step right here.

I’d advocate wanting into every of those providers to see which one you want finest. All of them are largely well-reviewed by prospects, and all supply free trials to get began. One of those will finally be what you want to actually battle again towards the robocalls. It’s only a matter of discovering your favourite.

  • Nomorobo: 14-day free trial. After that, $1.99 / month. Free for landlines.

Download for iPhone | Download for Android

  • RoboKiller: Free 7-day trial. After that, $4.99 / month or $39.99 / yr

Download for iPhone | Download for Android

  • Hiya: Hiya companions with Samsung, AT&T, Spectrum Mobile, and others to present their spam ID providers. For people, the free iOS app affords spam detection and blocking; the Premium model provides a database of further names and extra frequent updates. The free Android app affords caller ID and spam detection; the Premium model provides spam blocking and reverse lookup. Hiya Premium for Android or iPhone: free seven-day trial. After that, $3.99 / month or $24.99 / yr.

Download for iPhone | Download for Android

Option D: Depend on your cellular OS to defend you


Many Android telephones — together with these from Samsung and Google — have built-in choices for flagging suspected spam calls. If you’ve received a Google Pixel system, the whole display screen will flip crimson when a spammer rings you, which is a straightforward means of figuring out to ignore the name in case you’re throughout the room from your cellphone. On Pixel telephones, you can too faucet the three dots in the higher proper nook of the Phone app after which go to Settings > Caller ID & spam; you’ll be able to then see spam IDs and filter spam calls. Other telephones can have related options.

iOS 13 launched its personal app referred to as Silence Unknown Callers, which blocks any callers that aren’t in your contact listing, haven’t been involved with, or haven’t texted. Instead, these calls will go straight to voicemail. You can allow it by choosing Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers.

Nuclear Option: Use Do Not Disturb to solely permit calls from your contacts

On each Android and iOS, you’ll be able to set every working system’s Do Not Disturb mode to permit cellphone calls from solely these folks and companies in your contacts listing. This is a fairly drastic, sledgehammer resolution to the drawback of robocalls, and also you’re virtually sure to miss calls that you’d’ve appreciated to have answered. But these calls will undergo to voicemail, after which you’ll be able to add that quantity to your contacts for the future. I’d nonetheless solely advocate this feature in case you’re fully fed up, and provided that you’re excellent and meticulous about conserving contacts up to date.

Why do an increasing number of spam calls appear like they’re coming from an area quantity?!

It’s tremendous annoying, is not it? It’s a trick referred to as neighborhood spoofing, and RoboKiller has a very good explainer on it right here. In quick, scammers suppose {that a} quantity matching your space code (and perhaps even the first digits of your personal quantity) will trick your mind and make you extra seemingly to reply. And it makes their deception really feel much more nefarious. What if it’s a household emergency? Maybe it’s your physician’s workplace or the pharmacy?

Thankfully, the robocall blocker apps have gotten higher at recognizing neighborhood spoofing. RoboKiller claims it’s been good at doing so since the starting, and Nomorobo has additionally made detecting neighborhood spoofing a serious focus.

Tip: Don’t overlook to add your self to the Do Not Call Registry

In principle, telemarketers are supposed to be honoring the National Do Not Call Registry. You can add your self to the listing by visiting The FTC says to permit 31 days for reputable telemarketer gross sales calls to stop. Once you’ve signed up, your presence on the Do Not Call Registry by no means lapses or expires, opposite to some latest rumors. There’s no purpose to renew or re-add your quantity to the listing.

The Do Not Call Registry solely covers gross sales calls. Charities, political teams, debt collectors, and surveys are nonetheless allowed to name you when you’ve signed up. The similar goes for firms that you just may’ve not too long ago executed enterprise with. (You may have the opportunity to stop this particular kind by verbally telling them to stop calling you.) Unfortunately, scammers / robocallers don’t pay the DNC Registry any thoughts and simply ignore the factor completely. These robots reply to nobody, so that you’re higher off circling again to one in all the options earlier on this article.

Tip: Never let the robots know you’re an actual human

Tempting because it may be to swear up and down at a robocaller or scammer, your finest plan of action is to go away them uncertain as to whether or not they linked with an precise particular person. Don’t say something. Don’t push buttons — even when the robotic voice says doing so will forestall additional calls. Put no religion or belief in the robotic voice. Either simply let it undergo to voicemail or grasp up instantly in case you mistakenly picked up.

Tip: Complain to the FTC

When all else fails and also you’re consumed by despair and anger over the endless interruptions, you’ll be able to at all times report callers to the FTC. They’re not going to pursue each particular person grievance, nevertheless it’s actually necessary to maintain the fee conscious of the magnitude of this drawback. And as I mentioned earlier, generally the FTC does actually take down a few of these scammers.

Even with all of those instruments in place, it’s unlikely you’ll keep away from each robocall or spammer. But it ought to assist ease the avalanche you’re most likely experiencing proper now. And hopefully, when all carriers get name verification up and working, you’ll have the opportunity to begin trusting your caller ID once more and truly reply calls as a rule. But at the very least in 2021, that’s nonetheless wishful pondering.

Update September tenth, 2020, 10AM ET: This article was initially revealed on March sixth, 2018, and it has been closely up to date.

Update October twenty second, 2021, 3PM ET: Updates for a few of the data.

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