Introduction: The Scourge of Spam Calls
Spam calls are a bane for anyone with a mobile phone. These unsolicited phone calls often come from telemarketers, scammers, or robocallers, and can be a major distraction, annoyance, and even a security threat. Spam calls can waste our time, invade our privacy, and even trick us into giving away personal information, such as our credit card or social security number.
According to a survey by YouMail, a call-blocking app, Americans received over 58 billion spam calls in 2019, an increase of 22% from the previous year. That’s an average of 178 spam calls per person per year, or nearly one spam call every two days.
Fortunately, there are ways to block spam calls and protect ourselves from their harm. In this article, we’ll explore the best strategies and tools to stop spam calls in their tracks, and regain our peace of mind and privacy.
Why do we get spam calls?
The main reason why we get spam calls is that our phone numbers are available to third parties who use them for their own purposes, such as marketing, scams, or data harvesting. These third parties can obtain our phone numbers from various sources, such as:
|Public directories||Phone books, yellow pages, or online directories that list phone numbers and addresses of individuals and businesses.|
|Lead generators||Websites or apps that offer freebies, discounts, or contests in exchange for our personal information, including our phone numbers.|
|Data brokers||Companies that collect and sell data, including our phone numbers, to other companies for marketing or research purposes.|
|Hackers||Cybercriminals who steal or buy phone numbers from databases or dark web markets, and use them for fraud, phishing, or spamming.|
What are the risks of spam calls?
Spam calls can pose various risks to our personal and financial security:
- Identity theft: Scammers can use phishing techniques to trick us into revealing our personal information, such as our name, address, date of birth, or social security number, which they can use to open fraudulent accounts or steal our identity.
- Financial fraud: Scammers can pretend to be our bank, credit card company, or government agency, and ask us to provide our account information, password, or payment details, which they can use to drain our funds or make unauthorized purchases.
- Malware infection: Some spam calls can include links to malware or infected websites, which can infect our phone or computer with viruses, spyware, or ransomware, and steal our data or lock our device.
- Wasted time and energy: Spam calls can interrupt our work, sleep, or leisure time, and distract us from our priorities, causing stress, annoyance, and frustration.
- Missed calls: Spam calls can disguise themselves as legitimate calls or block our phone number, causing us to miss important calls from our family, friends, or colleagues.
Who are the main culprits of spam calls?
Spam calls can come from various sources, but the main culprits are:
- Telemarketers: Companies that use phone calls to promote their products or services, often in violation of the Do Not Call registry or the Federal Trade Commission’s rules.
- Robocallers: Automated systems that make thousands of calls per minute to random or targeted phone numbers, using pre-recorded messages or voice bots.
- Spammers: Individuals or organizations that send unsolicited messages, such as texts or emails, to our phones, often to promote scams or phishing attempts.
How can we block spam calls?
Blocking spam calls is not a foolproof solution, as some spammers can use spoofing techniques to hide their real phone numbers, or use different phone numbers for each call. However, there are several methods to reduce the frequency and impact of spam calls:
1. Use a Call Blocker App
One of the easiest and most effective ways to block spam calls is to use a call blocker app. Call blocker apps are software programs that can identify and block spam calls based on their phone numbers, patterns, or keywords, and provide you with a warning or a summary of the blocked calls.
Most call blocker apps can be downloaded for free or for a small fee from the App Store or Google Play, and can be customized to your needs and preferences, such as blocking specific numbers, creating custom filters, or setting up a whitelist of allowed numbers.
Some of the most popular call blocker apps include:
- YouMail: A free app that can block spam calls, provide caller ID, transcribe voicemails, and send automatic replies.
- Nomorobo: A paid app that can block robocalls and telemarketers, and integrate with your phone carrier.
- Hiya: A free app that can block spam calls, provide caller ID, and show you ratings and reviews of businesses.
- Truecaller: A free app that can block spam calls, identify unknown callers, and provide social media profiles and photos.
2. Enable Built-in Call Blocking Features
Most smartphones have built-in call blocking features that can help you limit the number of spam calls you receive. These features may vary depending on your phone brand and model, but typically include:
- Do Not Disturb mode: A mode that silences calls and notifications, except for the numbers in your favorites or your recent calls.
- Call blocking or rejection: A feature that allows you to block specific numbers or unknown numbers, or send them to voicemail.
- Crowd-sourced blocking: A feature that uses a database of known spam numbers and community reports to block them automatically.
To enable these features, go to your phone’s settings, and look for the Phone app or the Call settings. From there, you can activate the features you want and customize their options.
3. Sign Up for the National Do Not Call Registry
The National Do Not Call Registry is a free service provided by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that allows you to opt out of telemarketing calls. Once you register your phone number with the Do Not Call Registry, telemarketers are required by law to stop calling you, unless you give them permission to do so.
However, the Do Not Call Registry does not apply to all types of calls, such as political calls, charitable calls, or surveys. It also does not prevent robocalls or spam calls from scammers or spammers who ignore the law. Therefore, you should use other methods to block these calls, such as call blocker apps or built-in features.
To sign up for the National Do Not Call Registry, go to donotcall.gov, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. You will need to provide your name and email address, and verify your registration by clicking on a link sent to your email.
4. Use Call Screening or Caller ID Features
Some mobile carriers offer call screening or caller ID features that can help you identify and block spam calls, even if they are not in your contact list.
For example, AT&T offers a free app called Call Protect, which can block fraudulent calls, send them to voicemail, or show you a warning message. T-Mobile offers a feature called Scam Shield, which can block scam calls, provide caller ID, and show you a summary of blocked calls. Verizon offers a feature called Call Filter, which can block spam calls, provide caller ID, and show you the spam level of the call.
To use these features, check if your carrier offers them, and download the corresponding app or enable the feature from your account settings.
5. Be Cautious with Unknown Numbers and Suspicious Calls
One of the best ways to avoid spam calls is to be cautious with unknown numbers and suspicious calls, and avoid giving away your personal information or money.
Some tips to follow are:
- Don’t answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize or trust.
- If you answer a call and hear a pre-recorded message or a voice bot, hang up immediately.
- If you receive a call claiming to be from a government agency, a bank, or a credit card issuer, don’t provide any sensitive information, and verify the call’s legitimacy by calling the official number of the agency or company.
- If you receive a call requesting a payment, a donation, or a wire transfer, don’t comply without verifying the caller’s identity and intention, and don’t pay with gift cards, cryptocurrency, or other untraceable methods.
- If you receive a call threatening you with arrest, lawsuit, or other consequences, don’t panic or comply, and report the call to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the FTC, or your local law enforcement agency.
6. Report Spam Calls to Authorities and Service Providers
Reporting spam calls to authorities and service providers can help them track down and prosecute spammers, as well as improve their call blocking and filtering services.
You can report spam calls to:
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC): Use the FCC’s online complaint form at consumercomplaints.fcc.gov, or call 1-888-225-5322.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC): Use the FTC’s online complaint form at ftccomplaintassistant.gov, or call 1-877-382-4357.
- Your mobile carrier: Contact your mobile carrier’s customer service and report the spam calls you received, and ask them to block the numbers or investigate the source.
- Your call blocker app: Some call blocker apps allow you to report spam calls and contribute to their community database of spam numbers.
7. Keep Your Phone Number Private and Secure
One of the most effective ways to avoid spam calls in the first place is to keep your phone number private and secure, and avoid sharing it with untrusted sources.
Some tips to follow are:
- Don’t post your phone number on social media, online forums, or public directories.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited messages that ask for your phone number, such as emails or texts from unknown senders.
- Use a second phone number or a virtual phone number for online transactions or inquiries, and keep your main phone number for trusted contacts only.
- Consider using a privacy service, such as Google Voice, that allows you to screen calls, forward calls, or block calls without revealing your real phone number.
FAQs: Your Most Common Questions about Blocking Spam Calls
Q1. Can I block all spam calls?
A. Unfortunately, no. Some spam calls can use spoofing techniques to disguise their real phone numbers, or use different numbers for each call, making it difficult to block them all. However, using a call blocker app, enabling built-in call blocking features, and being cautious with unknown numbers and suspicious calls can reduce the frequency and impact of spam calls.
Q2. What is spoofing?
A. Spoofing is a technique that allows spammers to fake or mask their phone numbers, so that they appear to be legitimate or local numbers, or even your own number. Spoofing can make it harder to block spam calls or identify the source of the calls.
Q3. Can I block spam calls on a landline phone?
A. Yes. Many call blocker devices or services are available for landline phones, such as the CPR Call Blocker, the Digitone Call Blocker, or the Nomorobo for Landlines. These devices or services can block spam calls, robocalls, or telemarketing calls, and can be customized to your needs.
Q4. Can spam calls infect my phone with malware?
A. Yes. Some spam calls can include links to malware or infected websites, which can infect your phone with viruses, spyware, or ransomware. To protect your phone from malware, avoid clicking on suspicious links or downloading unknown apps, and keep your phone’s software up-to-date.
Q5. Can I sue spammers for violating my privacy or harassing me?
A. Yes. Some U.S. states have laws that allow consumers to sue spammers for damages, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). However, suing spammers can be a costly and time-consuming process, and may not guarantee a successful outcome.
Q6. How can I whitelist a number on my call blocker app?
A. Whitelisting a number means allowing the call blocker app to accept calls from that number, even if it is on your block list or your blacklist. To whitelist a number on your call blocker app, go to the app’s settings or options, and add the number to your whitelist, or mark it as a trusted contact or a VIP.
Q7. What is the difference between a call blocker app and a spam filter?
A. A call blocker app is a software program that can block incoming calls based on the phone number, pattern, or keyword of the calls, and can provide you with a warning or a summary of the blocked calls. A spam filter is a feature that can filter out unwanted messages, such as spam emails or texts, based on their content or sender, and can move them to a separate folder or delete them automatically. Some call blocker apps may include a spam filter feature, and vice versa.
Q8. Can I use more than one call blocker app on my phone?
A. Yes, but it may not be advisable. Using more than one call blocker app can cause conflicts, errors, or performance issues, and may not improve the effectiveness of blocking spam calls. It is better to choose one call blocker app that suits your needs and preferences, and use it consistently.
Q9. What should I do if my call blocker app does not block all spam calls?
A. If your call blocker app does not block all spam calls, try updating the app to the latest version, adding more filters or parameters, or resetting the app’s settings. You can also try using a different call blocker app, or enabling built-in call blocking features on your phone. If the problem persists, contact the app’s customer support or report the issue to the app’s developer.
Q10. Can I block international calls or calls from certain countries?
A. Yes. Some call blocker apps or mobile carriers allow you to block calls from certain countries, or to limit your incoming calls to your home country or area code. To use this feature, go to your call blocker app’s settings, or contact your mobile carrier’s customer service.
Q11. Can spam calls harm my phone or my network?
A. In most cases, spam calls cannot harm your phone or your network, as they are just voice calls that use a negligible amount of data or bandwidth. However, some spam calls can include links to malware or phishing sites, which can infect your phone or your network with viruses or spyware. To prevent this risk, avoid clicking on suspicious links, and keep your phone’s security software up-to-date.
Q12. How can I block spam texts or emails?
A. To block spam texts or emails, you can use a spam filter app or feature, such as Google’s Spam Protection for Messages, or Apple’s Message Filtering for iMessages. You can also mark the spam texts or emails as junk, spam, or phishing, and delete them without opening them. Be careful not to click on any links or attachments in the spam texts or emails, as they can be malicious.