How to Stop Unwanted & Spam Calls on Your Cellphone or Landline

Follow these tips to outwit marketers, scammers, and unwanted callers

What to Know

  • Even if you register your phone number in the National Do Not Call Registry, you are still likely to get some unwanted calls and texts.
  • Call-blocking apps like PrivacyStar use crowd-sourced databases to help you control calls and texts from specific numbers.
  • You can block specific numbers on iPhones on a case-by-case basis

This article explains how to stop unwanted phone calls on smartphones (even from private numbers) and landlines as well as how to block malicious text messages on smartphones.

Information in this article applies to landlines, iPhones, and Android phones made by various manufacturers.

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

While it's possible to block numbers on Android phones, the process differs depending on the phone's manufacturer. If you wish to block telemarketers and robocalls altogether, consider one of the many call-blocking apps that are available for Android.

One example is PrivacyStar, which is also available for iOS. PrivacyStar gives you control over calls and texts from specific numbers and those that are unknown or private. Its 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.

The PrivacyStar app for Android

Call and text blocking for iOS aren't available because of iPhone app restrictions. However, reverse phone lookup and complaint filing work fine.

iPhone: Silence Unknown Callers 

You can block numbers on iPhones on a case-by-case basis. Another method is to create a Do Not Answer group in your contacts and set a specific or silent ringtone to ignore certain callers. For preemptively blocking unwanted callers, apps like RoboKiller can purportedly block 99 percent of spam calls.

Additionally, iOS 13 has a feature called Silence Unknown Callers. To enable this feature, go to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers. Any unknown numbers are sent to your voicemail and are visible in your list of recent calls.

Landlines: Block Specific and Unknown Numbers

If you have a landline phone number, you may have even more robust blocking capabilities. For example, you may be able to enter specific phone numbers you want to block permanently on your service provider's website.

For example, Verizon has an option to block anonymous callers. However, it's not very reliable since private numbers can still come through. If the robocalls don't stop, contact your phone company with the numbers on hand to block those permanently.

How to Block Private Numbers

You have the option to block unknown callers when you set up Do Not Disturb on iPhone. If you have caller ID set up for your landline, you can usually block private numbers by dialing *77. You should hear a confirmation message. If a number shows up as Anonymous, Private Name, or Unknown, the caller receives a message saying that you are not taking unknown calls.

It's also possible to block unknown numbers on most Android phones, although the process is different for each manufacturer. Tap the three-dot menu in the Phone app and choose Settings, then look for an option to block unknown callers. If your phone doesn't have this option, use an app like PrivacyStar.

How to block unknown callers on an Android phone

Google Pixel: Spam Call Blocking

Google Pixel phones have Call Screen enabled by default. So, when you get a call from an unknown number, Google Assistant answers for you. If the call is legitimate, your phone rings. However, if it's a robocall, the call is dropped. You'll receive a notification, and you can review the call in your call log.

Samsung: Smart Call

If you have a Samsung phone, it may have a feature called Smart Call depending on the model. Smart Call lets you know the identity of unknown callers. To turn on Smart Call, open the Phone app's setting and enable Caller ID and spam protection.

Best Practices for Everyone

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, even if the call prompts you to press a number to opt-out of future messages. All that does is verify to the scammer that your number is valid.
  • Don't respond to unwanted text messages or follow any unsolicited links.
  • Register with the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • File a complaint with the FTC if you've been scammed by a robocall.
  • Avoid inputting your phone number in online or offline forms unless you absolutely must.

Burner is a great privacy app for iPhone and Android that provides disposable phone numbers to protect your privacy.