Repeated spam calls interrupt your day, create an inconvenience, and probably make you wonder what list your phone number is on. In an ideal world, spam calls wouldn't even exist, or at least reporting them would stop them once and for all. But in reality, we’ll always have to deal with phone privacy problems.
Spam calls are just all too common, as Americans received over 6 billion of these nuisances in October 2022 alone. Learning to report spam calls empowers you to take action and reduce the risk of continuous spam threats. This way, you actively help to ensure the government is aware of the offender and does its part to prevent others from becoming victims.
Before you can learn how to avoid and report spam calls, you need to be sure the incoming phone call is, in fact, spam.
"Spam call" is a widely used umbrella term for unsolicited and potentially illegal calls with the underlying motivation to obtain money or personal data. Other terms you probably might have heard of are "phone scams" and "robocalls," which are specific and dangerous types of spam.
The typical spam call usually comes from telemarketers, live agents, or businesses who try to sell you a product or service. While their product or service often may be legitimate, it’s still unsolicited. Recipients of these calls have never expressed interest in being contacted by these companies or people. These types of calls are, generally speaking, not illegal but must stay within specific boundaries.
The situation quickly changes when those annoying spam calls turn out to be dangerous scams, or fraudulent activities. The primary purpose of these calls is to trick you into handing out sensitive information or sending money to scammers. Scammers often demand payment for actions the victim never did or services that no one ever ordered. Conversations with scammers can become heated when the victim is threatened with ultimatums. Although scams are illegal, it’s difficult to halt these calls and messages, since criminals are getting smarter and frequently switch their numbers to avoid detection.
At last, we take a look at "robocalls." Instead of a real person speaking at the other end of the line, you'll listen to a pre-recorded message. While many robocalls act as sales calls, they usually are intended to deceive and steal sensitive information and money, so they share the same characteristics as phone scams. However, not all robocalls are scams or even negatively intended. Indeed, some are legitimate when they come from healthcare providers, charities, or even airlines.
When you get a call from an unknown number, it's not easy to identify its true intentions until you pick up the phone. However, there are specific cues and phrases that may help identify the call as spam or a scam.
So, if the suspicious call you've received fits any of the above descriptions, file a complaint with the FCC. Here’s how:
At this point, you are reasonably confident that the caller is not someone you want to talk to. Instead, you figure the person is seeking to gather your information or take advantage of you. So, what do you do now to silence unwanted callers?
Finding out where and how to report spam calls can be a bit overwhelming. The only thing you know for sure is that you want them to stop from happening at all. This guide explains step by step how to avoid spam calls altogether.
To file your complaint online, go to www.fcc.gov/consumer. This is the official FCC page to file an online complaint about incidents having to do with the phone, TV, radio, internet, emergency communication, or access for people with disabilities.
Click on the "Consumer Complaint Center" button on the left-hand side of the screen.
Select “File a Complaint: Phone” to ensure you report abuse for the appropriate communication channel.
Complete the form. As you become more specific in your complaint, the form will expand with additional fields. Make sure to be as transparent as possible by providing the phone number, date, and time of the call, as well as whether or not you have previously opted out of communication from this number and if the caller had been advertising any products or services.
You will receive an email from the FCC immediately after filing your complaint, which will provide your complaint ticket number and additional helpful consumer information.
If you have an iPhone, you have a few options for stopping these unwanted calls. One is to turn on "Silence Unknown Callers." By enabling this feature, your phone will automatically stop presenting calls to you from unknown numbers. Your phone doesn’t even ring. This is one of the most aggressive options when you want to avoid putting your number on a registry.
To locate this feature, go into your "Settings" app and tap on the "Phone" icon. Then, scroll until you see "Silence Unknown Callers."
Another way to avoid spam calls is by filtering out unknown messages from senders you do not know in your iMessage app.
For Android users, there's a just as aggressive and reliable option to stop receiving unwanted calls from unknown numbers. By opening your "Phone" app, moving forward to "Settings," and then landing on the "Blocking" menu, you can easily enable the "Block Unknown Numbers" feature. Similarly, you can also block unknown numbers from sending you text messages.
As the name suggests, these features block all unknown numbers except those from your contacts. While this might sound like the most expedient solution to a constant disturbance by spam calls or messages, it certainly isn't a practical answer in the long run. In the end, you still want to receive legitimate calls and messages from people you trust but haven't added to your contacts yet.
As mentioned above, the blocking features of your phone are a rather unsatisfying solution to your spam problem since they can still filter out the wrong types of calls. But you can do a few other things to stop unwanted calls from reaching your phone.
The National Do Not Call Registry is, simply speaking, a tool you can use to tell people not to call you. It sounds easy and is indeed pretty straightforward to put into place. The registry is set up by the FCC. You just need to visit their website and fill out the information requested. The process of using the registry takes about five minutes.
Once your phone number is on the registry, federal law requires that all telemarketers stop calling you. Within 31 days, the calls from a phone number like this should stop. If they don’t, you can report the caller to the FTC (follow the directions listed above).
Unfortunately, it's a flawed solution — scammers outside the United States and telemarketers who don't follow the rules can still reach you via caller ID spoofing.
Let's say you get a call from an unknown number. It could be someone you actually want to talk to, but it could also be a telemarketer trying to sell you something. This is the ideal situation where you would screen the incoming call instead of answering immediately and finding out for yourself.
Call screening allows you to deliver a prompt to the caller. Suppose they are indeed legitimate and have a genuine reason to talk to you, they will positively respond to the message. If they, on the other hand, do not respond or hang up at any point, you can take the step to then block that unwanted call. That's how you know that number is likely associated with spam.
There's also another quite simple way to screen calls. When receiving a call from an unknown number, let it go straight to voicemail. A legitimate caller will likely leave you a message. This practice allows you to listen to the voicemail and decide if it's someone you want to talk to or not. If it is, you can add them to your contacts; if it isn't, you can block the phone number.
In general, it's unwise to answer a call from an unwanted number. Because if you pick up the phone and the caller turns out to be a spammer, they learn that the phone number is "live" and will continue calling it. So if you keep answering out of frustration just to tell them to stop calling you, it often worsens the situation.
Unlike other call blocking solutions that rely solely on user feedback, Robokiller uses a predictive spam call blocking algorithm that proactively analyzes each incoming call before it rings your phone and determines whether it's spam — all in less than a millisecond. It also audio fingerprints the call and stores it in its global database so the caller can't strike again.
The app offers the most customizable call blocking on the market. Control the level of blocking you want, create custom block/allow lists, pause blocking when you're expecting an important call, pre-screen safe but unknown numbers, set phone number range blocking to reduce spoofed calls, and more.
Robokiller is available for iOS and Android, so you can finally fight back against spam calls and texts, no matter your device.
In addition to downloading the Robokiller app, be sure to report spam calls to the FTC. Doing this is crucial since it ensures other people receive the same protection you do. Check out the FTC website to learn more about filing a complaint (as noted in this piece).
Learning where to report spam calls is a must, especially when they happen regularly. To report spam calls, visit FTC.gov/calls and fill out the information requested.
Does the effort of reporting a spam call matter? Yes, it does. It can do more than stop unwanted calls. When you report a spam call, you will no longer receive phone calls from that unwanted number. In some situations, the FTC will also take steps to find out what is happening. For example, if it receives numerous complaints from a single number, the FTC is then able to investigate what's occurring. If the FTC finds illegal behavior, they will take action against those parties.
You can do this. Let's say you have a call coming in, and your phone's software tells you that it’s a "suspected spam caller." However, you learn it’s a legitimate company that’s calling you that you want to do business with. How can you stop them from being considered spam?
In this situation, you can alert your phone's software by going through your call history and following the steps on the screen. You can also add the phone number to your contacts, which will also help to keep them from being marked as spam.
If you’re receiving phone calls from an unwanted number, you may want to install an app that will stop them from reaching you. The problem is most spammers use dozens of phone numbers and continue finding ways around getting blocked.
In this situation, we recommend downloading Robokiller. It's the ideal way to stop spam calls from happening in the first place. Not only does the app allow you to stop getting calls from unwanted callers, but there's also a long blocklist of known or suspected spam callers within the system. With Robokiller, you can stop them from reaching you automatically.
Robokiller is unlike any other call-blocking app. It doesn't just stop spam calls from occurring but also allows you to finally fight back against those unnerving and annoying unwanted calls. Check out what our Answer Bots can do when a spammer calls you.