Telemarketers… phone solicitors… scammers… if you’re like me you probably get a handful of these unwanted callers each day. Most of the people that call me want to inform me that my auto warranty is about to expire or that I’ve won a free something-or-other and if I just stay on the line I will be able to claim my amazing prize. Most days I just hit ignore for any number I don’t recognize or have saved in my contacts and forget about it. Emily, on the other hand, definitely gets these calls more than I do. Depending on her mood that day, she might just simply block them or make a game of it and try to keep the scammer on the phone for as long as possible until they finally hang up.
She received one this morning that bordered on threatening and made us both say “enough.” It’s so frustrating to think that there are people out there being taken advantage of by these scammers and their threats. Equally frustrating is that Emily and I are both on the “do not call” list. (You can add yourself to the free National Do Not Call Registry here.) Though scammers now are even impersonating representatives from the Do Not Call Registry! The registry may work to help reduce the sales calls from legitimate companies, but it obviously doesn’t combat the issue of those who choose the ignore the list. And how many honest, legitimate scammers do you know? About as many as there are Nigerian princes that just want to send you your large sum of money… for a small upfront and totally reasonable fee.
We decided to call our cell service provider and ask if there was anything they could do on their end to stop these unwanted calls. (They are sometimes able to block these calls, however, there may be a small fee involved so be sure to ask.) Unfortunately, he informed us that there is no way to retroactively block a call from an unknown number.
The solution: create a contact for “unknown” callers.
You may have noticed you are unable to block calls in your iPhone settings if they come through as ‘Unknown’ (as seen in the middle pic below). When you scroll down after the call comes through, the feature simply isn’t there. One way to get around this is by creating a contact in your phone for “Unknown” (no need to enter a phone number, because you obvsiouly don’t have one to go with it, so just create the name only). In order to do this you have to wait until you receive one of these calls, don’t answer it, and instead go to your contacts and create a new contact for exactly the name you just received. (Sometimes they come through simply as “Unknown” or sometimes as “Unknown Caller”.) Then go back to that listing in your recent call history, click on it, and BOOM! the option to “block this caller” is now available. Emily and I have both done this now and not received a single “unknown” call since. (Remember: you have to do this after receiving the call, because if you create the contact first, you still won’t have the option to block it.)
Another solution: Do Not Disturb.
Do Not Disturb effectively silences almost all notifications while you aren’t actively using your phone. (Settings -> Do Not Disturb) This works great for phone calls, text messages, emails, etc but no need to worry, it won’t prevent your alarm from going off. Certain notifications get through no matter what, such as timers and alarms set through the Clock app. You may still receive various government alerts too, such as emergency alerts and AMBER alerts.
I already used Do Not Disturb to prevent notifications during scheduled nighttime hours that I had set from 11pm-7am. Emily used it at certain times (like if she was in a meeting) to only allow select callers through (the kids’ schools, me, etc) by using the “Allow Calls From” feature set to the “Favorites” list. To set it to block unwanted calls toggle the “Manual” button at the very top and switch “Allow Calls From” to “All Contacts”. This will prevent any calls from numbers not already saved in your contact list from coming through. What if you receive a call from a legitimate phone number that you just don’t have saved? No worries. All of the silenced calls will go straight to voicemail as if your phone was turned off. I choose to leave my “Repeated Calls” function enabled, which means that if I receive a second call from the same person within three minutes it will not be silenced.
Also note: By default, iOS’s Do Not Disturb will silence notifications only when your phone is locked but when you’re actively using it you will receive notifications as usual. You can easily toggle this setting so that all notifications get silenced at all times. Just scroll down to the Silence section then tap “Always”. As usual, certain notifications, such as alarms, timers, and government alerts, will sound no matter what.
What if I don’t have an iPhone? You can look into apps or services that block unwanted or unknown calls. I would suggest you first research whether the call blocking service costs money and if it’s effective. And remember, the FTC recommends that if you do get a call from a scammer or illegal robocaller, it’s best to not interact in any way. Don’t press buttons to be taken off the call list or to talk to a live person as doing so will probably lead to more unwanted calls. Instead, hang up and file a complaint with the FTC if you so desire.