Does your phone ring constantly? And if it does, how often is the caller someone you actually know? Unwanted phone calls plague mobile and landline users alike and put you at risk for falling for a scam. Here are a few tips on how to spot unwanted calls, what to do if you accidentally answer them, and how to block them.

Unfortunately fraudsters and bad actors are always working to get through to consumers. While you may not be able to block robocalls completely, these practices are good steps toward minimizing unwanted calls.

Depending on your phone type and service provider, your caller ID might signal that an incoming call is one you don’t want to take. If the call is labeled “telemarketer,” “spam,” or “unknown,” let voicemail take it. Don’t be tricked by a local area code — many robocalls or fraudulent calls are practicing neighbor “spoofing,” where they use someone else’s local number to try to hide their identity.

If you do accidentally answer an unwanted call, hang up as soon as you realize the error. Clues include a robotic voice or a delay in a response to your voice. Be wary of any special promotions, announcements that you’ve won a prize, or threatening behavior. Do not respond to any prompts or answer any questions, even if the voice promises that doing so will stop unwanted calls, and never give out your personal information. Don’t be fooled by the caller using the name of a familiar organization. If you are at all unsure about the legitimacy of the call, hang up, then look up the organization’s phone number from an official source, such as a bill, receipt, or official website.

While you may not be able to completely block robocalls and other unwanted calls, consider the following options to help minimize them:

Get on the National Do Not Call Registry. Run by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), this registry tells telemarketers that you do not want their call. You can register landlines and mobile numbers, and you only have to register a phone number once.

Check with your phone service carrier. Most major phone service carriers have tools to help reduce unwanted calls. Some are free, and some are offered as part of a premium fee service.

Check the settings on your mobile phone. iPhones with iOS 13 or higher can activate the “Silence Unknown Callers” feature. Many Android phones also have a feature to block unknown callers. You also can set your mobile phone to “Do Not Disturb.” Both features only let calls ring through if the incoming call matches a phone number in your contact list. If you use either of these features, make sure any important phone numbers — such as doctors’ offices or your child’s school — are saved in your contact list.

Use call-blocking apps and devices. The CTIA, an organization that represents the US wireless industry, has a list of call-blocking apps for mobile phones. For landlines, you can look into purchasing a call-blocking device.

Block individual calls. Using the features on your mobile phone or star codes on your landline, you can block individual phone numbers from ringing through to your phone in the future.

Report robocalls and fraudulent calls. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the FTC, and the Better Business Bureau’s ScamTracker are all places where you can report robocalls and phone spam.
You don’t have to take unwanted phone calls lying down. Fight back with these tips, and enjoy knowing that a ring tone means the phone call is actually for you.