Everyone can agree that spam calls are annoying and disruptive, but depending on where you live, it can be a downright nightmare! Did you know that in some countries, more than half the calls people get are some form of spam? I know it certainly feels that way sometimes.
The methods I’ll be going over range from quick and painless, like signing up for the Do Not Call registry, to a bit more labor-intensive, like removing your phone number from data brokers and people search sites. However, like me, you might be happy to hear that you can use a data removal service to do it for you automatically!
- 1 What are spam calls and why they’re worse than you think
- 2 Why we get spam calls
- 3 How to stop spam calls
- 4 Conclusion
What are spam calls and why they’re worse than you think
First, let’s go over the basics. Spam calls come in many different forms, including telemarketing, phone surveys, robocalls, and even phone scams. Essentially, spam calls encompass all forms of unwanted calls. Annoying, yes. But also dangerous.
Depending on the type of scam caller you encounter, you’ll be left with a range of possible consequences to deal with.
In the best cases, you’ll have wasted your time and maybe come away from the experience a little shorter of temper. In the worst cases, you can suffer loss of funds, identity theft, serious reputational damage, and possibly jail time. That’s right. Who knew?
Apparently, phone scams are the favorite method employed by fraudsters. If they get enough of your data, say, by pretending to call from your bank and asking you to confirm some details to resolve an URGENT and CATOSTROFIC problem, they can easily assume your identity.
Never mind the outrageous purchases they can make with your money—they can also use your identity to commit crimes. It’s happened.
In short, the problem is bigger than many people think it is and shouldn’t be left unaddressed.
Why we get spam calls
Now that I’ve covered the way (and before we get to the how), let’s go over the why. It’s important to understand why you’re getting so many spam calls if you want to prevent getting more in the future.
Here are the main culprits:
- Data breaches;
- Scammer groups sharing your phone number;
- Answering spam calls, confirming your number is active;
- Sharing your phone number online;
- Data brokers and people search sights selling your data.
How to stop spam calls
Remove your phone number from data broker databases
The first thing you should do is opt out of data brokers and people search sites. These companies collect your personal information, including your phone number, and quite literally sell them to spammers.
Sometimes those spammers are your run-of-the-mill marketers. Sometimes they’re fraudsters.
To make it clear—the data broker industry is completely legal, and they aren’t “supposed” to be selling your data to criminals. And yet, there have been several cases against data brokers knowingly selling info to scammers.
Just google “data brokers elder fraud,” and you might be as shocked as I was.
Removing your phone number (and other information) from these sites is just a tad tricky. They definitely don’t make it easy for you. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Google your name, phone number, or address. The websites displaying your info that come up in the search results are all people search sites. Note them down.
2. Research which data brokers are active in your area. Note these down too. These won’t show up when you google yourself so you’ll just have to assume they have your data if they are registered in your state (or country).
3. Find the opt-out pages of each data broker and people search site on your hit list. You’ll usually find an “opt-out” or “remove my personal information” link somewhere at the bottom of the website.
4. Follow the opt-out procedure of each data broker and people search site. In most cases, this will be a form you’ll either have to submit online or print out and send through regular mail.
5. Do it all again in a couple of months. Turns out, these companies just collect your data again after a while. So if you want to keep them from selling your phone number to spammers, you’ll have to keep opting out before they get the chance.
If that sounds like a LOT of work, I don’t blame you. With how much money data brokers make selling your information to spammers, it’s no wonder. There are automatic solutions too, though.
A Personal information removal service like Incogni can do all the legwork for you—tracking down data brokers and people search sites and conducting regular sweeps of their databases so your personal information stays private.
You can get a 1-year subscription to Incogni at a 50% discount, saving you both the time it takes to opt-out several times a year and money.
Sign up for the national Do Not Call registry
With the hardest (but among the most essential) steps out of the way, let’s move on to something a bit less painful. You can actually stop a decent portion of spam calls just by signing up for the national Do Not Call registry. As long as you live in the US, that is.
Unfortunately, this will only stop the regular spammers like telemarketers. It won’t do anything about fraudsters.
Block spam on Android and iPhone devices
Whether you’re in the Android or iPhone camp, both operating systems give you several options to block spam callers.
If you have an iPhone, you can either silence junk callers, silence unknown callers, or block specific phone numbers. You can find both of the “silence” features in your settings app and the block feature in your phone app directly.
Silencing junk callers will send any phone call from a phone number associated with spam straight to voicemail. Silencing unknown callers is a bit more extreme. Anyone not saved to your contacts goes straight to voicemail hell.
Blocking specific phone numbers is exactly what it sounds like. If one specific spammer is giving you grief, you know what to do.
If you have an Android, you can also block unknown callers or specific numbers. Unfortunately, there’s no way to block all spam calls automatically. Blocking all unknown callers will send them straight to voicemail, meaning you might miss some important calls.
The decision is up to you, but both options are available through your phone app.
Use spam blocking apps by your mobile carrier
There are also plenty of spam blocking apps available on both Google Play and the Apple Store. You can download the app developed by your mobile carrier or choose a third party app instead.
Apps by mobile carrier:
If you have the same issue on your landline phone, you can use the star code *60 to block spam callers.
Simply dial *60 and press send. Then dial #01# to instantly block the last incoming caller or dial #, the area code and phone number another number you want to block, and # again.
We don’t need to let spam calls ruin your life (only a slight exaggeration, until it’s not). There’s a lot we can do to stop them.
It both is and isn’t easy. If you go about it the good old-fashioned, manual way, it might take a little time to deal with the data broker problem. You can bypass that, though, by using a data removal service.
But the rest of the steps are also quick and painless. So there’s really no reason you should be putting up with spam calls anymore.