There are no perfect solutions (yet). Fortunately, these tips can help you avoid those pesky, unwanted calls as much as possible.

By Dan Nosowitz /
August 12, 2019
Stressed woman using cell phone
Credit: Getty Images/Tetra images RF

This story originally appeared on

It’s not your imagination. Unwanted calls—from robots, scammers, and identity thieves—are growing more and more frequent each year. According to one study, in 2018, almost 48 billion robocalls were made to Americans. The FTC, which deals with this kind of thing, fields over half a million complaints every month.

There are multiple kinds of unwanted calls, most of which are merely annoying, though some can result in fraud and identity theft. A few of the most common types of robocalls are designed to get you to pay money directly over the phone for things like bogus IRS debts, made-up credit card bills, or phony investment scams. Others pose as tech support, hoping to trick you into handing over digital passwords, so they can commit some identity theft. These ;callers have a few tricks, one of which being “neighborhood spoofing,” which uses a number similar to your own, with your same area code, in the interest of tricking you into thinking you’re getting a call from someone at home.

What to Do if You Answer a Spam Call

For starters, don’t press any buttons or bother waiting to yell at a real human to take your name off a list. Hang up instead. The companies behind these spam calls have no obligation to take your name off a list; in fact, according to some experts, all you’ve done is confirm that your phone number is connected to a real person, which could make you even more likely to receive further spam calls.

How to Block Unwanted Calls

There are, unfortunately, no easy or guaranteed ways to block spam callers (if only it was that simple!), but there are a few ways you can cut down the number of unwanted calls you receive.

1. Block Calls from Numbers Not In Your Contacts List

Both iOS, which runs on iPhones, and Android, which runs on Samsung, Google, and other phones, allow you to filter your calls. One completely effective—maybe too effective—method is to simply block out calls from anyone not in your contacts list. On iPhones, go into your Settings app, then hit “Do Not Disturb.” There you’ll find the option to only allow calls from your contacts.

On Android, the process is similar: go to Settings, then Sound, then Do Not Disturb.

The benefit of this option is that you really won’t get any unwanted calls. The downside? You’ll miss some wanted calls from people or businesses you don’t have in your contacts list, like your doctor, or a friend of a friend. Those callers will have an opportunity to leave you a voicemail though, so if you do inadvertently screen an important call, you'll be able to listen to your messages and call them back.

2. Enlist Call-Blocking Apps

There are some free apps that work to block unwanted calls, but the good free apps are only available to those on certain networks. AT&T has one called Call Protect, and T-Mobile has a pair of apps, Scam ID and Scam Block. Both are fairly, though not completely, effective.

Verizon and Sprint both offer their own apps, but they’re not free Verizon’s Call Filter and Sprint’s Premium Caller ID both cost $2.99 a month.

You can also go for a third-party app. The best reviewed are Nomorobo, $1.99 per month, and RoboKiller, $2.99 a month. These work by constantly updating a massive list of suspected spam callers, and they’re both available on iOS and Android.

3. Add Your Number to a Do Not Call List

The FTC maintains a national Do Not Call Registry you can add your number to. It lets you report unwanted calls and will stop telemarketers from calling you. The downside is, it won’t stop the vast majority of spam callers since they don't abide by the Do Not Call list rules; the Do Not Call list is designed for normal salespeople who follow laws, not scamming robots.

Given how drastically the number of spam calls has swelled, there's still room for improvement for robocall-blocking apps and do not call lists. Still, you do have a few workarounds. They might not be foolproof, but they’re better than no options at all.