How to protect yourself from annoying spam and robocalls calls

This year, Americans will receive roughly 52 billion spam and robocalls. Yes, that’s “billion” with a B.

These calls are not only annoying — they’re dangerous, too. Last year alone, scammers swindled a whopping $39.5 billion from unsuspecting Americans with increasingly sophisticated techniques.

We’re sick and tired of these aggravating calls, and we know you are too. Here are some ways you can protect yourself and reduce the number of spam calls you get.

Register your phone number with the National Do Not Call list

The Do Not Call Registry is an FTC initiative to stop unwanted telemarketing calls to landlines and mobile phones along with a mechanism to report bad actors. 

While this should reduce the number of calls you might receive from legitimate marketing campaigns, it won’t stop disreputable marketers or illegal scammers from calling your number. You can also legally receive calls from pollsters, political organizations, charities and debt collectors, however we do think it’s a good first step for everyone to take.

Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry here.

Stop answering calls you don’t recognize

If the caller doesn’t appear in your contacts list when you receive a call, it’s a good idea not to answer. This includes blocked numbers and numbers that show up as “Potential Spam.” Even if the number appears local, spammers can “spoof” phone numbers to make them look like they’re originating from your area, or even your bank.

When you answer or interact with a spam call, you’re letting the scammers know your number is real.

It’s true that the caller may be legitimate — say, a doctor confirming an appointment from a number you don’t recognize — but the caller will likely leave you a voicemail or send a text message if it’s important. 

Silence Unknown Callers on iPhone

You can silence all incoming calls to your phone that aren’t in your contact list and send them straight to voicemail. This won’t completely stop the calls coming in, but it will prevent your phone from ringing or vibrating from unwanted calls. Make sure important phone numbers are in your contacts before enabling this feature.

To turn on Silence Unknown Callers, go to Settings > Phone, then scroll down, tap Silence Unknown Callers, and turn on the feature. You will still see these calls in your call history and be able to access any voicemails the caller has left.

Turn caller ID & spam protection on for Android

Android includes a built-in feature that relies on Google data to help protect you from spam calls through its caller ID system (which is only available through third-party apps on iPhone, see below).

This feature is turned on by default on your Android device, so you’re likely already using it. But, if it’s not enabled, here’s how to turn the feature on or off:

  1. Open the Phone app
  2. Tap More options (the three dots) > Settings > Spam and Call Screen
  3. Toggle “See caller & spam ID” on or off.
  4. You can also turn on “Filter spam calls” to stop getting notifications for spam calls, but you will still see these calls in your call history and be able to access any voicemails the caller has left.

Block specific phone numbers

You may receive a spam call from the same phone number multiple times, so it’s probably a good idea to block that specific number. It’s a game of whack-a-mole, since scammers use nearly endless numbers, but this may help slow down some spam calls. Here’s how:

On iPhone:

  1. Open the Phone app
  2. Tap Recents > then tap the Info button next to the number you want to block. 
  3. Scroll down, then tap Block this Caller.

On Android (this may vary by model and manufacturer):

  1. Open the Phone app > then tap Recents.
  2. Long-press on the number you want to block > then tap Block/report spam.
  3. Check or uncheck the box that reads Report call as spam > then tap Block.

Use a Third-Party Spam Call & Text Blocker

The above steps are essential to protect yourself from these annoying calls, but they’re not foolproof by any means. Scammers are always one step ahead of the game, so if all else fails — and it might — a third-party app to identify and block annoying robocalls, spam calls and texts is a great option.

These apps enhance the caller ID functions of your phone, employ large blacklists of spam numbers to automatically block calls and texts in real time, along with other call blocking features. Some apps are free with limited bells and whistles, while the paid apps have more robust features and customer service, which also comes with a monthly or yearly user fee.

There are dozens of spam call blocker apps, so it may take a little research to find the right one for you (browse the App Store, Google Play and your favorite search engine). Some companies that provide popular spam call and text blocking include Truecaller, Hiya Protect, Nomorobo and Robokiller.