How to Stop Unwanted Calls on Your Cellphone or Landline

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

Even if you register your phone number in the National Do Not Call Registry, the chances are good that you will still get some unwanted calls and texts. Robocallers are relentless; they can disrupt your day and scam you out of money if they gain your trust. Likewise, malicious text messages may attempt to solicit information that's best kept private. Even if callers and hackers don't succeed, such texts and phone calls are annoying. 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). It gives you control over calls and texts from specific numbers and those 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. Call and text blocking aren't available on iPhones 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 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 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, but it's not very reliable; "unavailable" phone calls can still come through. If worse comes to worst and robocalls won't stop, contact your phone company with the numbers on hand to block them 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, 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 for text messages, emails, voicemails, and phone calls.)
  • Register with the National Do Not Call Registry.
  • Avoid inputting your phone number in online or offline forms unless you must. Burner is a great privacy app for iPhone and Android that provides disposable phone numbers to protect your privacy.

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