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What is “spam risk”? Why it shows up and how to stop the calls

A “spam risk” call is from a number that your mobile carrier has flagged as a potential source of spam. They’re unwanted calls from unknown callers, who have either looked up your phone number online or accessed it through call detail records. You can generally ignore such calls without any repercussions. However, this system isn’t perfect. Carriers may sometimes flag unknown, legitimate calls as potential spam or fail to block spam callers entirely. In these situations, there are steps that you can take to improve your spam protection and decrease the likelihood of getting spam calls.

What is “spam risk”? Why it shows up and how to stop the calls

Why “spam risk” calls show up on your phone

Spamming involves sending unsolicited messages in an excessive manner. Spam calls are one of the most common ways attackers try to commit fraud. Phone scams accounted for over $19 billion in damages in the US alone in 2020. The aim of these spam/scam calls can vary depending on the scam, but they all rely on you answering incoming calls from unknown numbers.

In most cases, attackers get your phone number via number generators or a leaked list of phone numbers from a legitimate source. More sophisticated schemes involve stealing numbers from your phone carrier, using social engineering to obtain your phone number, or hacking the phone itself.

How your mobile carrier can detect a spam call

Your mobile carrier detects a spam risk call via machine learning, which uses behavioral analytics to check an incoming call and its associated phone number for suspicious activity. This can include huge volumes of calls in a short time or unusual call history. Once verified, the number is automatically tagged with a “spam risk” label.

Mobile carriers maintain extensive records of these suspicious phone numbers and label them as “spam risks.” This helps their users easily identify suspicious incoming calls and block spam risk calls with a few adjustments in their phone settings.

Is the “spam risk” label reliable?

Calls labeled as “spam risk” are likely from spam callers. However, given that phone carriers use machine learning to label unknown calls with “spam risk” warnings, there can be times when the system may mistakenly label a legitimate call as potential spam. This can’t be avoided — especially with the high volume of spam call operations.

One way to deal with this is by manually checking the call history on your Phone app for important numbers that may not be in your contacts. You can also use other ways to verify someone’s identity if you’re expecting a call from them, like text messages.

How to stop “spam risk” calls

Most people generally ignore spam risk calls and go about their day. However, you can take a more proactive step in addressing an incoming call that you think is spam.

Some features on your phone silence unknown callers, send phone numbers not in your contacts straight to voicemail, or silence notifications. These features are useful options if you’re thinking of how to get rid of spam calls and robocalls.

How to stop “spam risk” calls on iPhone

On iPhones running iOS 13 or newer, you can enable the “Silence unknown callers” feature by doing the following:

  1. Open “Settings.”
  2. Tap on “Phone.”
  3. Toggle “Silence unknown callers.”

How to stop “spam risk” calls on Android

Android also has capabilities to screen for suspicious calls, but you should block calls with the “spam risk” label altogether for a secure Android phone. This requires you to set the “Phone by Google” app as your default phone app. To do this, you should:

  1. Open “Settings.”
  2. Navigate to “Apps and notifications.”
  3. Tap “Default apps.”
  4. Under “Default apps,” tap “Phone by Google” to select it as your default.

After this, you can access the app’s settings to enable spam filtering:

  1. Open the “Phone by Google” app and navigate to “Settings.”
  2. Tap the three-dotted icon right beside the search bar.
  3. Select “Spam and call screen.”
  4. Enable “See caller and spam ID.”
  5. Toggle “Filter spam calls” on.

How to stop “spam risk” calls on a landline

Alternatively, you can add your phone number to a specific registry for telemarketers to avoid. To do this, register your number with the National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.

This may not stop all spam calls, especially from scammers. It also only covers US territories, which can still leave you vulnerable to spam calls from abroad.

What happens if you answer a “spam risk” call?

Even with the automated systems set in place by mobile carriers, some phone calls can still be accidentally picked up by their users. Picking up any spam risk call can have significant consequences for your number:

  • Charge for overseas calls: If the call is coming from outside the United States.
  • Social engineering attacks: If you give away personal information of any kind during the call.
  • Risk of voice recording scams: Attackers can record your voice and use it for further scams .
  • Increased risk of future scams: Attacks can further target your number with schemes like a tech support scam.

If you’re receiving a call from an unknown number that you suspect is a scam risk, you can try using number checker websites or services to verify if it’s part of a database of spam numbers.

To resolve most cases of spam risk calls, you can safely ignore them as they come in because your mobile carrier will already automatically identify them for you. In other cases, you can just change the settings on your phone to screen for unknown numbers.

“Spam risk” calls FAQ


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