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How to block unwanted calls

Unwanted calls are unpleasant, disruptive, and potentially dangerous. Sometimes, callers contact you to market a new product or service. Other times, they may be shamelessly attempting to scam you. The good news is that you can stop unwanted calls in several effective ways. Here’s how to block spam calls once and for all.

How to block unwanted calls

What are the types of unwanted calls?

The first step in protecting yourself is understanding the main types of unwanted calls. Let’s look at the three most common types: spam calls, robocalls, and fraud calls.

Robocalls

A robocall is an automated phone call generated using computerized systems. A robocall is typically used to deliver pre-recorded messages to hundreds of people at once. These calls can be made for various purposes, from telemarketing and political campaigns to more harmful fraudulent activities.

Spam calls

Spam calls are similar to spam emails. They are typically unwanted calls from an organization (like a retailer or a charity) trying to sell you a product or get you to do something.

Spam calls usually go out to a long list of recipients, some of whom may have consented to be contacted without meaning to.

However, spam calls are not always made by legitimate organizations — they could be scammer attempts to steal your money or information.

Fraud calls

A fraud call (or a scam call) is when someone contacts you pretending to be someone they’re not — like a bank, university, or workplace — and attempts to defraud you.

These scammers may try to get your bank details, account passwords, or other sensitive information, which they can use for malicious activities.

Fraud calls are often difficult to spot because the scammers are skilled at disguising themselves. They may sound professional and convincing, so people often believe they’re getting a call from a legitimate business or organization.

However, remember that legitimate organizations will never ask you to provide your entire password or secret answer over the phone. They’ll use a combination of security measures to ensure you’re the account owner. So if someone asks you for sensitive information while you’re on a call, don’t share it — it’s most likely an attempt to defraud you.

How do spammers get your phone number?

Spammers can get your contact information in many ways, some more concerning than others.

We may not realize it, but we often share our phone numbers online. For example, we may enter it when signing up for a subscription, confirming our identity, or finalizing a purchase. Our phone numbers are among the most common forms of personal information we use and share daily.

Scammers use this as an opportunity. Getting hold of your phone number isn’t as difficult as you think, which is why so many of us get unwanted calls. Here are some of the most common ways scammers can get your phone number:

Purchase phone numbers on the dark web

This may sound alarming, but your phone number may be up for sale on the dark web. Spammers and fraudsters can purchase personal information, including phone numbers, in bulk. Doing so allows them to target many people at once — and it probably won’t cost them much.

How does your phone number end up on the dark web? It can happen in many ways: Your information may be featured in a data breach of a service you’ve used, or malicious software may access it as you visit an unsafe website.

From the web (including social media)

Sometimes, all hackers need to do is check your social media platforms or look up phone directories. Your phone number could be linked to your name and available for anyone looking to contact you.

Fraudsters may also use web scraping tools that run automated scripts to extract phone numbers from websites and online sources. This way, they can speed up their search and find more phone numbers in a short time.

Use a number generator

Scammers may use auto-diallers or phone number generators, which are tools designed to automate phone number creation.

These tools generate random or sequential phone numbers that can be used to contact a large number of recipients. Companies (e.g., call centers or sales agents) may use them for legitimate purposes, like generating call lists to promote their products and services.

However, scammers can use phone number generators to create large volumes of random phone numbers for phishing attacks.

Trick people into providing phone numbers

Scammers may also launch social engineering attacks to get your phone number. They can use various techniques — from setting up fake charities, contests, or giveaways to whaling attacks.

The rise of social media has made it easy for scammers to reach large audiences at once. They can use this to their advantage by posting about fake giveaways and contests and getting a lot of participants. People get excited about the prospect of winning a prize and may submit their email address and phone number without thinking twice.

A whaling attack typically targets high-ranking employees. The cybercriminal pretends to be a senior executive and asks the employee to urgently provide something (access to a system, the employee’s password or phone number).

Be very cautious if you receive a message from a senior coworker on social media, especially if it sounds unusually urgent. Check before you provide any information — your colleagues would probably know better than to ask for sensitive information on instant messaging.

How to block spam calls [+Video]

If your number has already gotten out and you received an unwanted phone call, you can take several steps to avoid this situation in the future. Here’s a video version of how to block unwanted calls on the most common devices.

How to block spam calls on iPhone

Here’s how to block an unwanted caller on your iPhone device:

    1. Go to the Phone app.
    2. Tap on “Recents.”
    3. Find the number you want to block and tap on the blue information icon to the right of the number.
    4. Select “Block this caller.”

They won’t be able to contact you from this number again, either by call or text. Here’s how to block spam text messages.

How to block spam calls on Android

Here’s how to stop a number from calling you again on your Android device.

    1. Go to the Phone app.
    2. Tap on “Recents.”
    3. Tap on the number you wish to block and then choose the info icon.
    4. Tap the “Block” button.

How to block spam calls on a landline

The best way to block spam calls on your landline is by preventing them in the first place.

In the United States, you can prevent spam calls by registering your landline number on the national Do Not Call list for free. To do this, call 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY) from the number you want to register and follow the instructions. Alternatively, you can register your phone number on donotcall.gov.

After you’ve registered, sales agents will have to remove your phone numbers from their call lists or stop calling you within 31 days from the date you registered.

Whether you’re on the list or not, you can also tell unwanted callers to remove you from their internal call list while you’re on the phone with them. You should note the phone number that called: If the calls don’t stop, you can file a complaint with the FCC.

How to block spam calls on T-Mobile

If you’re a T-Mobile customer, you can get a handy app that blocks unwanted calls. The Scam Shield app uses advanced technology and machine learning to analyze every call you receive and warn you about potential unwanted calls.

The app offers useful features like caller ID access, an extra PROXY number you can use when you don’t want to share your private one, and built-in Scam Block protection that identifies and stops scam calls before your phone rings.

How to block spam calls on Verizon

Blocking unwanted calls with Verizon is relatively simple. The first step is using the call filter function. Here’s how to enable call filtering:

Verizon includes a note on the provider’s website stating that this function may sometimes block wanted calls, so keep that in mind.

    1. Log in to My Verizon account.
    2. Go to the “Manage your phone” page.
    3. Scroll down and click on “Call filter.”
    4. Select “Blocked call setting,” then click “Activate.”

Verizon includes a note on the provider’s website stating that this function may sometimes block wanted calls, so keep that in mind.

With Verizon, you also get spam alerts. If a call you’re getting has been identified as possibly unsolicited, you’ll see “Spam?” written before the caller’s name. When you see this, you can decide whether to answer the call or reject it and block the number on your device.

How to avoid spam and robocalls

Though preventing all unwanted calls would be difficult, you can take several actions to minimize the chances of getting one. Let’s look at how you can prevent them:

    1. Don’t share your information with unknown parties. Check the company’s privacy policy when signing up for an app or creating an online account. Quite often, you’ll be signing up to receive phone calls, emails, and text messages about its services and even allowing it to pass on your information to third parties. That’s how many of the unwanted callers get your phone number. The less you share, the better.
    2. Add yourself to the National Do Not Call Registry. As mentioned above, when you register, sales agents and telemarketing companies must respect your privacy. However, the Do Not Call Registry only stops sales calls. Charities, political groups, debt collectors, or those collecting survey responses can still call you. Robocallers and fraudsters won’t respect the Do Not Call Registry, so you’ll need extra protection to block them.
    3. Use an app for spam protection. Apps like Truecaller, YouMail, Hiya, UnknownPhone, and Calls Blacklist can identify spam and robocalls, block malicious phone numbers, and even let you create a personal blocklist. Most of these apps require a monthly or annual subscription, relying on a constantly updated list of robocallers, spammers, and fraudsters to stop nuisance calls.
    4. Use your network provider’s anti-spam services. Some mobile network providers offer some level of spam blocking as part of their plans offered to customers. Improvements to the network and machine learning technologies make it possible to verify legitimate calls and detect spoofed numbers from your local area code.
    5. Don’t click on suspicious links. Some phishing emails are designed to steal your details (e.g., by directing you to a scam website). Be mindful of any links sent your way, and don’t click on them unless you’re sure they’re legitimate.
    6. Consider using NordVPN’s Threat Protection to block access to malicious sites. Scammers may try and steal your phone number as you visit a compromised website. NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature enhances your online security: If the feature detects that a website you’re about to visit is unsafe, it will stop you from accessing it and show you a warning message.

Online security starts with a click.

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