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There are all sorts of reasons to block a number: an ex who can’t take a hint, relentless telemarketers, those scammers who love spoofing, or a relative who wants to see why you’re still not married. When your phone has buzzed one more time than you can take, it’s time to block that number. But how? Here are the steps to take depending on your OS and carrier.
Do Not Call List
The first way to reduce the number of unwanted calls coming to any phone is to ditch telemarketers by putting the number into the National Do Not Call Registry. On DoNotCall.gov, you can register up to three numbers at once or check if your digits are already there. You’ll need to include an email address to confirm your registration. Or call 1-888-382-1222 (TTY: 1-866-290-4236) from the phone you want to register.
According to the FTC, which runs the registry, your phone number will be added to the registry within 24 hours, but it will likely take up to 31 days for sales calls to stop. If telemarketers persist in calling, file a complaint.
Don’t expect this to end unwanted calls, though. Robocalls are still rampant, although the FCC has taken measures to cut down on them, like having mobile carriers implement an authentication system. While you wait for real results, there are other steps you can take to reduce your phone ringing off the hook.
In iOS 13 and above, you can silence calls from unknown callers by going into Settings > Phone and turning on Silence Unknown Callers. Anyone who is not in your contacts list, Siri Suggestions, or recent outgoing calls will be automatically directed to voicemail. You’ll get a notification of the call afterward.
You can also funnel text messages from numbers that are not in your contacts to a separate list. Go to Settings > Messages and turn on Filter Unknown Senders.
To block a number that called you, open the Phone app and tap Recent. Find the number and tap the Info icon (it looks like a lowercase letter ”i” in a circle). Scroll down and tap Block this Caller. Confirm and that number will automatically go to voicemail if it calls again.
To block someone in your Contacts lists, go to Settings > Phone > Blocked Contacts. Scroll to the bottom and tap Add New. That will bring up your Contacts list; select those you want to block. You can also get there via Settings > Messages > Blocked Contacts > Add New.
To block someone from a text, tap the number or name on the top of the screen, which will produce a drop-down menu with three options: audio, FaceTime, and Info. Tap Info. Tap Info again, scroll down and tap Block this Caller.
If you think they’ll sneak a peek at you with FaceTime, go to that app, find the last FaceTime conversation you had with them, and click the Info icon. You’ll get a screen with information about the call and actions to take; scroll down to Block this Caller. If it’s someone in your Contacts, go to Settings > FaceTime > Blocked Contacts. Scroll to the bottom, tap Add New, and select the name or names to block.
In related news: If you think you’ve been blocked, signs include being sent directly to voicemail for calls, never seeing the Delivered message appear under your messages, and having your text turn green (as opposed to blue) when you’re messaging other iOS users. (These things can also happen if the person you’re trying to contact does not have a connection, so don’t freak out right away. But if it’s been a while and you’re still not getting through, well.)
Android allows phone makers some freedom when it comes to customization, so if you have an Android device, the process for blocking a number might vary from device to device.
In general, you should be able to tap the phone number and either scroll to the bottom to block the call, or tap the ellipsis icon and select Block Number to add a number.
Some Android phones have a feature called Call Screen, which enables Google Assistant to screen calls from anyone not in your contacts. Go to Settings > Spam > Call Screen. Select Call Screen and under Unknown Call Settings, select what types of callers you’d like to screen (spam, possible fake numbers, etc.). Google Assistant will tell any callers in those categories that you’re using a call screener and will ask them why they’re calling. You’ll be sent a real-time transcript of the chat and can decide whether to pick it up or not.
Wireless carriers have apps that can be used to block calls. AT&T has Call Protect for iOS and Android (available to set it up from the AT&T Mobile Security app as well). You can pay $3.99 a month for a Plus version that has even more security like a VPN, personal ID monitor, and theft alerts (if you use an Android device). Verizon has a few options that let you block possible scammers as well as specific numbers, all for a price. T-Mobile has a Scam Shield app (it used to be called Name ID) that lets you block and report scam calls; it also has a premium version for $4 per line per month.
All the carriers (and even land-line providers) are now required by the FCC to be part of the aforementioned authentication system for real calls, called the STIR/SHAKEN protocols. AT&T and T-Mobile actually turned it on in 2020. That system should already be cutting way down on the number of spoofed calls you get that look legit but aren’t. But it won’t make them go away entirely.