20 Ways to Block Unwanted Phone Calls to Your Cell Phone
Estimates of the number of robocalls in 2020 were at 46 billion. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) both say they’re giving their best effort to learn how to block unwanted calls on cell phones. But, we’re still far from eliminating this problem. It’s time we figure out how to block unwanted calls on cell phones, for good.
If you’re as tired as I am of picking up my vibrating cell phone only to see an unfamiliar, random number, then you’ve probably been asking yourself, “Can I block unwanted calls on my mobile?”. Let’s look at how to block unwanted calls on Android, iPhone and other devices. Fortunately, there are ways to protect ourselves and restore a sense of peace.
How to Block Unwanted Calls on a Cell Phone – Robocall vs Spam Call vs Fraud Call
How do I block unwanted calls on my cell phone? Before I answer this question, I’ll first clarify the difference between robocalls, spam calls and fraud calls. Most service providers make a significant distinction between these types of calls, even if they’re all equally annoying.
Here’s how many carriers see it:
- Robocalls: Automatic, pre-recorded messages delivered by a recorded voice
- Spam calls: These usually target a large number of subscribers; sometimes, these can come from companies you’ve given consent to call you.
- Fraud calls: A person or entity often pretends to be from some business they’re not. Their intentions are malicious – often to steal money or private information from you.
Here’s how to stop robocalls and block spam calls on iPhone, Android and other devices via spam blockers, robocall apps and more.
20 Ways to Block Unwanted Phone Calls – How to block unwanted calls on a cell phone
Here’s how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone as well as some tips on how to protect the private information scammers try to steal from you.
1. Block Each Phone Number Individually
This is most likely not the ultimate solution to blocking unwanted calls to your cell phone each day. But, if there’s one number that continuously calls your iPhone or Android phone each day, it’s pretty simple to block it from your phone forever.
iOS: tap the Phone app > Recents > blue information icon next to the number you want to block > “Block this Caller”.
Android: Phone app > Recents > long press on the unwanted number > “Block”.
But again, this method requires constant effort to block unwanted calls on a cell phone and it doesn’t work for private numbers.
2. Trust (Pay) Your Carrier to Block Unwanted Calls on Your Cell Phone
You want to know how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, but many of us don’t know that our carriers can protect us, to some degree. Most of the major mobile carriers have taken steps to block unwanted calls to cell phones. They do this via different network improvements, such as the STIR/SHAKEN protocol mentioned above, which helps them weed out spoofed, spam, robo and other fraudulent calls – even ones disguised with local area codes.
All of the major US carriers also offer some level of spam blocking for free as part of their wireless plans.
For example, AT&T offers Call Protect for free to subscribers and Call Protect Plus for a fee. T-Mobile offers Scam Shield and Scam Block and Verizon offers Call Filter. Some show a “nuisance warning” on your screen when a potential scammer calls. Others let you block whole categories of numbers (i.e. telemarketers) or offer you a proxy number for situations when you don’t want to give away your number.
This is how you can block unwanted calls on a cell phone via your carrier. While they’re better than nothing, they each come with their limitations (i.e. some blocks expire after 90 days, a limited amount of blocked numbers, incomplete blocking of telemarketer numbers, etc.)
3. Third-Party Apps to Block Unwanted Calls on a Cell Phone
If you want to know how to block unwanted calls, there are several apps such as Robokiller, Nomorobo and Hiya, that were created to block unwanted phone calls from ever reaching your phone. Most of these apps require an annual or monthly subscription.
At their foundation, these apps rely on a regularly updated list of spammers, robocalls and fraudsters and use this list to block unwanted calls on cell phones. By ‘regularly updated’, I mean they are scanning and identifying thousands of fraudulent numbers each day.
A call begins and the app cross validates it with this list. If it matches, the phone call is blocked in real-time before it can connect to your cell phone.
Many of these apps for blocking unwanted calls have cool features like the option to create a blacklist to stop unwanted phone numbers and the option to create a whitelist for phone numbers you want to ensure can always reach you.
There are several ‘block unwanted calls apps’. I recommend anyone consider them if you’re willing to pay for such a service. They all generally have positive reviews from users and offer free trials to start. It’s safe to say that apps to block unwanted calls are some of the best tools available for those who want to know how to block unwanted calls on iPhone, Android and most other systems. It’s only a matter of finding which one you like the best.
4. Rely on Your Default OS to Block Unwanted Calls on Your Cell Phone
Here’s how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone with your OS. Many phones have a built-in feature for notifying you of scam calls or robocalls. For example, the Google Pixel devices light up with a red screen if the caller is a scammer. This makes it easy for you to see it’s a scam call and ignore it if you’re across the room from your phone.
iOS 13 features its own app, ‘Silence Unknown Callers’. This can block calls from numbers that aren’t in your contacts and that haven’t texted with you nor contacted you in any other way.
While your device’s OS doesn’t know how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone with absolute accuracy, it’s better than nothing.
5. Don’t Reveal Personal Information on Your Voicemail Recording
This tip doesn’t explain how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, but it does help you protect your private information. Scammers have ways to get private information from you that you may not expect.
For example, refrain from providing your full name on your outbound voicemail recording. This can just be an opportunity for scammers to get more information about you that they may not have.
6. Set up a Voicemail Password
This tip also doesn’t explain how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, but it can help you stay protected. If you use voicemail on your phone, set up an access password.
Some voicemail boxes can be accessed if you call from your own number. Scammers can spoof the caller ID to make it look like they’re calling from your number. If there’s no password, they could potentially access your messages and private information.
7. Don’t Give Your Phone Number Out if It’s Not Necessary
Another good tip, not on how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, but on how to stay protected: don’t give out your number to any company or person who doesn’t need to reach you right away. Especially if they can store it in their database. Instead, you can offer your email, which is convenient if you are accessing your email on your phone.
8. Get a Secondary Number to Stop Unwanted Calls to Your Personal Number
This is a pretty effective way to block unwanted calls on a cell phone. Sometimes you need to give a business your number. In these cases, consider getting a secondary number to connect to your device.
With some services, you can get a second number and require callers to state their name before being connected, giving you the choice to answer the call or send it to your voicemail.
Using a secondary number also prevents companies from getting your real number when you call their toll-free numbers.
9. If a Business Calls You, Hang Up and Call Them Back
If a person from a business calls you and tells you they are from a company that you do business with, just ask to hang up so you can call them back at a number you find independently.
As a general rule of thumb, never provide personal information to any caller you weren’t expecting, no matter what. Not your name, shoe size, not anything.
10. Talk With a Friend
If someone calls you claiming to be the IRS or the local tax authority in your country saying you owe taxes or that your grandson is in jail, end the conversation and contact a friend. Explaining the situation out loud can help you see it’s a scam. Sometimes, the most important strategies aren’t on how to block unwanted calls to your cell phone. It’s as important to know how to identify unwanted calls so you can end them as soon as possible.
11. Beware of Pressure
If a caller pressures you into doing anything immediately like making a payment or tells you not to tell anyone else about their call, immediately hang up. Again, talking with a trusted friend or relative can help you clearly understand it was a scam.
12. Never Respond in the Affirmative
Never give an affirmative response to an unknown caller who asks something like, “Can you hear me?”. Scammers can record your voice giving an affirmative response and use it to bypass security checks with other businesses and services that contain your valuable or sensitive private information.
While this doesn’t explain how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, it’s an important tip for how to behave when scam callers connect with you. It’s always best to say nothing.
13. Never Speak or Press Any Buttons
As tempting as it is to shout at a scammer or try to confuse them with verbal games to exact revenge, your best course of action is to leave them uncertain as to whether they reached a person or not at your number. Don’t say a word and don’t press buttons.
Even if the voice tells you to press a number to be removed from their call list – don’t do it. Put no trust in these robocalls. Either let these calls go to voicemail or, if you mistakenly answer, hang up.
Like the tip above this one, it doesn’t explain how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, but it’s a crucial tip for knowing how to behave when they do connect.
14. Don’t Always Trust Caller ID
Why do so many robocalls seem to come from a local number? It’s really annoying, isn’t it?
This is a trick called CLI Spoofing, or neighborhood spoofing. In short, fraudsters believe your brain can be tricked into answering a call from your local area code, or even one with the same first digits as your number.
What if it’s a call from a doctor’s office? Maybe it’s a pharmacy? Thankfully, some of the third-party apps I mentioned earlier in the article have improved at catching caller ID spoofing.
If you answer a call from an unknown local number and it sounds suspicious, just hang up and call a friend to talk about it.
15. Don’t Be Fooled if They Know Your Personal Information
Don’t be fooled if a caller knows your personal details like name, family members’ names, address and even your Social Security number (Tax ID number). This type of information and more have been exposed for about half of the US adult population in different hacks like the Equifax hack of 2017 and many others.
16. Ask for More Help From Your Carrier to Block Unwanted Calls
If you are still getting too many calls and want to know how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, you can always contact your carrier and ask what more they can do for you to protect you.
Each carrier has its own set of tools and they can fill you in on the full range of their services, including some that we haven’t mentioned in this article.
17. Spread Awareness and Help Friends and Relatives
This tip doesn’t explain how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, but it’s extremely important for the long-term fight against this problem.
Spread the word about how we can stay protected from scam calls, especially to those you know are most vulnerable.
We suggest striking up conversations with the people in our lives about the threat of scams and checking if they know about the many ways to stay protected.
Also, let them know that you are always available to talk with them if they receive a suspicious call or text.
Most importantly, we shouldn’t belittle anyone who falls for a scam. This makes people afraid to ask for help. We should work to remove this stigma and encourage people to ask for help. This can bring us closer to solving the problem.
18. Nuclear Option: DO NOT DISTURB to stop all unwanted calls
If you want to know how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, this is one absolute way to do it. On most phones, you can set a Do Not Disturb mode, which allows only calls from numbers in your contact list.
This is a drastic, inefficient response that will completely block unwanted phone calls, but you’ll likely miss some legitimate calls. They’ll go to voicemail and you can add their number to your contacts and then can call them back if you need.
I recommend Do Not Disturb mode if you’re too fed up to take it anymore and if you meticulously update your contacts list.
19. Register Your Number in the ‘Do Not Call Registry’ to Block Unwanted Calls on a Cell Phone
If you’re not only looking to protect yourself but you want to know how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, this is another option to consider. If you’re in the US, you can register your number with the federal Do Not Call Registry (DNC). Legitimate businesses won’t call you or other numbers on this list because it’s the law.
Unfortunately, scam callers pay no attention to the DNC Registry and ignore it entirely. To more effectively block unwanted phone calls, you’re better off choosing any of the other solutions I mention in this article.
20. Report Illegal Robocalls or ‘Do Not Call List’ Violations
When all else fails and you’re pushed beyond your limit with constant annoyances, you can always report scam calls to the trade commission of your country, if they offer services for addressing illegal scam calls.
If you are in the US, you can call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP or submit a complaint on the FTC’s website.
If a legitimate business violates the ‘Do Not Call List’, you can also submit a complaint on the DNC Registry’s site. You should have the number that called you and any other numbers they may have left you to call them back.
If you want to know how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone, the truth is that the FTC won’t pursue every single complaint. However, it’s important to keep the commission aware of the magnitude of people who receive unwanted calls to their cell phones. Sometimes the FTC does take down some scammers.
Many of us want to know how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone as well as how to better protect our private information. Even with all of these strategies in place, it’s unlikely you’ll stop every scam caller. But these tips should help ease the avalanche of unwanted calls to your cell phone and help keep you protected.
Hopefully, when the right technology comes along, carriers will be able to identify all robocalls and eliminate them, for good, and you’ll be able to start trusting your caller ID again. But for now, that’s still wishful thinking. In the meantime, try some of the tips above to learn how to block unwanted calls on a cell phone.