Sick of having your phone blown up with unsolicited phone calls and texts? Here’s how to stop spam calls to your home phone and cellphone.
Sign Up for the Do Not Call Registry
Add your home phone and cellphone numbers to the FTC’s Do Not Call Registry, to opt out of unsolicited calls from telemarketers. This will put a stop to unwanted sales calls from any company that plays by the rules, but it won’t stop calls from political groups, charities, debt collectors and survey companies; unfortunately, the government doesn’t allow you to opt out of these types of calls. It also won’t prevent a company that you’ve done business with from calling you. You’ll have to ask those companies to take you off their call list.
Expect most calls to stop within 31 days of registering. Once you’re on the list, there’s no need to renew. Numbers on the registry do not expire.
How to Block Robocalls to Your Home Phone
While the Do Not Call Registry will help to reduce the number of unwanted calls that you receive, it won’t do anything to stop illegal calls. To make a dent in those, you need to find a way to block robocalls. That’s the term used to describe any call where a computer dials your number and delivers a pre-recorded message. Not all robocalls are illegal, some can even be useful. School use robocalls to notify parents of school closings, and doctor’s offices often use them to remind patients about upcoming appointments. You probably want to continue to receive those types of calls, so really what you need is a way to block just the illegal robocalls. Fortunately, there are several tools that you can use to do that (and many of them are free).
Your phone service provider may already have call blocking features in place that you just need to activate, so that’s a good place to start. Here’s a breakdown of what each landline/VOIP provider offers. All of these were free at the time of writing. Keep reading for a list that covers cellphone providers.
Landline/VOIP Call Blocking Features
|1-VOIP||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Adams Cable||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|AT&T (Landline)||No robocall blocking offered. Can block anonymous calls by dialing *77||Activation Instructions|
|AT&T (U-verse)||Activate Call Protect||Activation Instructions|
|Century Link||Offers several call blocking services.||Activation Instructions|
|Comcast||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Cox||No robocall blocking offered. Can block anonymous calls by dialing *77.||Activation Instructions|
|ECFiber.net||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Frontier||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Ooma||Offers several call blocking services.||Activation Instructions|
|Optimum||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|RCN||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|SELCO||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Service Electric||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Sonic.net||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Spectrum||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Verizon Fios||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Voip.Ms||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Voipo||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Vonage||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
|Wave||Activate Nomorobo||Activation Instructions|
What is Nomorobo?
As you can see from the table, many VOIP providers use something called Nomorobo to block robocalls. It’s a free third-party service that uses your phone’s simultaneous ring feature to screen calls. Any time your phone rings, it’ll also ring Nomorobo, and if an illegal robocaller is detected, it’ll hang up for you before the second ring. So, just wait for your phone to ring twice before you pick up, and you shouldn’t have to deal with many spammers.
What If My Home Phone Provider Doesn’t Offer Call Blocking?
If you’re using a phone company that doesn’t offer call blocking, as is the case for AT&T landline subscribers, consider purchasing a call blocking device. It plugs into your phone, and screens calls for known spammers, just like any other call blocker.
I recommend the Call Control Home call blocker. It receives automatic updates to keep up with the latest list of known spammers. Most call blocker devices only block numbers that you manually enter. Please note that Call Control Home requires caller ID to work.
How to Block Robocalls to Your Cellphone
Most cellphone companies offer a way to block robocallers. In most cases, it requires downloading an app. Some companies provide the app and service for free, others charge a monthly fee for it (boo!). Here’s what all the major cellphone providers offer.
Cellphone Call Blocking Apps Offered by Providers
|AT&T||Download Call Protect App||Activation Instructions|
|Boost||Download Call Watch app. Basic version is free. Premium version is $2).||Activation Instructions
Includes seven-day free trial of premium.
|Consumer Cellular||No feature offered. Recommends Mr. Numbers app.||Activation Instructions|
|Cricket Wireless||Download Hiya app.||Activation Instructions|
|Metro PCS||Scam ID should already be active. To activate Scam Block, dial #662#.||Activation Instructions|
|Sprint||Add Premium Caller ID ($2.99 per month)||Activation Instructions|
|Sprint Prepaid||Download Call Watch app. Basic version is free. Premium version is $2).||Activation Instructions
Includes seven-day free trial of premium.
|T-Mobile||Enable Scam Block and Scam ID||Activation Instructions|
|U.S. Cellular||Download Call Guardian app. Basic spam protection is free; premium is $3.99/month.||Activation Instructions
Includes 14-day free trial of premium.
|Verizon||Download Call Name ID app ($2.99 per month/per line)||Activation Instructions|
|Virgin Mobile||Download Call Watch app. Basic version is free. Premium version is $2).||Activation Instructions
Includes seven-day free trial of premium.
*Prices subject to change. Be sure to cancel any free trials before you’re billed for the next month.
Free Robocall Blocking Apps for Cellphones
If your provider charges a monthly fee for call blocking, you may be able to use a free third-party app to block spam calls. Here are several options ranked from best to worst, based on features, user reviews and frequency of updates. All of these apps identify spam and unknown callers, so I’ve only highlighted the things you should know about each app.
- Works offline, so you don’t have to be connected to data or wi-fi to use it
- Can view each spam warning, or set it to block unwanted calls without bothering you
- Blocks spammers, without bothering you
- Works on calls and texts
- Oldest name in the industry
- Makers of the Call Control Home for landlines (mentioned earlier in this article)
- Identifies source of calls and text messages
- Automatically blocks spam
- Identifies unknown text senders
- Over 250 million users
- Blocks spam calls and texts
- Automatic caller lookup, so you can see who you need to block
- Recent reviews suggest it isn’t working as well as it used to
- App hasn’t been updated in several months
One big drawback of using a call blocking app, whether its one offered by your provider or a third-party, is that it will, more than likely, require you to have your data turned on at all times. If you don’t have unlimited data, this could prove to be quite expensive. It could also be problematic, if you have one of those “free” unlimited data plans that slows your service down to a crawl after you’ve used a certain amount of data. If this is a concern, consider the Should I Answer? app. It works offline.
How to Stop Spam Texts
Install one of the call blocker apps recommended above as a first line of defense against spam texts.
If you signed up to receive text messages from a business, and you no longer want to receive texts from them, just follow the unsubscribe instructions included in each message.
If you’re receiving texts from someone that you don’t recognize, do not reply to the message – even if it includes an unsubscribe link or instructions. This will just result in more messages, and could trigger fake charges on your cellphone bill or result in your phone being infected with vicious malware.
Ignore all offer of freebies from numbers that you don’t recognize. It’s illegal to send unsolicited texts messages, so these types of offers are almost definitely scams designed to steal your money or identity. Under no circumstances should you share any personal information via text or a link provided in a text.
To report a spam text, forward the message to 7726 (SPAM). According to the FTC, this works for AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and Sprint subscribers, but it may work for additional carriers, so try it, and see what happens. If your message doesn’t go through, check with your carrier to find out what you need to do to report spam messages.