How to Stop Unwanted Calls on Your Cellphone or Landline

Take these steps to outwit marketers, politicians, and other unwanted callers

Angry bearded businessman annoyed with phone call in office

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Even if you register your phone number in the National Do Not Call Registry with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), chances are good you'll still get unwanted calls and texts occasionally. Robocallers are relentless; they can not only disrupt your day but also scam you out of money if they gain your trust.

A Microsoft tech support scam, for example, attempts to make people believe there's a software license issue with their computers; the unscrupulous caller aims to convince the person to allow access to someone who turns out to be a hacker. Likewise, malicious text messages attempt to get people to click through to malicious sites or volunteer information that's best kept private (such as addresses and other personally identifiable information). Even if the callers don't succeed, such texts and phone calls are annoying and harassing. Here are a few ways you can stop them.

Android: Use an App to Block Junk Calls and Text Messages

A few call-blocking apps are available for Android. One example is PrivacyStar (also available for iOS; free for 30 days). It gives you control over calls and texts from not just individual numbers (e.g., that nutso ex-boyfriend/ex-girlfriend who won't leave you alone) but also numbers that are unknown or private.

PrivacyStar in Google Play store

PrivacyStar's crowdsourced database of blocked numbers can expand your blocked list to include the worst offenders, and you can file complaints with the government for calls and text messages that are spam.

PrivacyStar works best on Android. On iPhones, call and text blocking aren't available because of app restrictions, but reverse phone lookup and complaint filing work well.

iPhone: Use a "Do Not Answer" List 

iOS users can block numbers on a case-by-case basis. Another method is to create a distinct "do not answer" group in your contacts, and set a specific or silent ringtone for it to ignore these people.

Screenshot of iPhone call blocking and identification list with red circles and dashes on the left side by each number
Find a list of all of the contacts you have blocked on your iPhone.

Landline: Block Specific and Unknown Numbers

If you still have a landline (regular) phone number from your phone company, you might have more robust blocking capabilities. For example, you might be able to enter specific phone numbers you want to block permanently on your service provider's website.

Verizon, for example, has an option to block anonymous callers, but it's not very reliable; "unavailable" phone calls still come through. If worse comes to worst and spammy robocallers are driving you crazy, contact your phone company with the numbers on hand to have them blocked permanently.

Best Practices for Everyone

Annoyances aside, unwanted and anonymous calls can be as much of a security risk as they are aggravating. Avoid the worst that could happen by dealing with these threats wisely:

  • Don't respond to unwanted calls, the FTC advises — even if the call prompts you to press a number to opt out of future messages. All that will do is verify to the spammer or scammer that your number is valid.
  • Similarly, don't respond to unwanted text messages or click on any links. (This holds true for text messages, emails, voicemails, and phone calls.)
  • Register your phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Don't enter your phone number in online or offline forms unless it's really necessary. Burner is a great privacy app for iPhone and Android that provides disposable phone numbers so you can protect your privacy.

Telemarketers have been around since the dawn of the telephone, but as yet, there's no way to prevent their intrusions completely — so it remains up to phone users to be proactive.

If you receive a harassing or threatening call, notify the police.