Although mobile phones have become a major part of most people's lives, they can also become a nuisance. Many people receive numerous scam calls and texts from unknown numbers on a daily or weekly basis.
Although scam calls have been around for decades, most of the population seems to be receiving more nuisance calls now than ever before. In 2021, it was reported that 82% of people in the UK received a suspicious call or text to their landline or mobile phone. This equates to approximately 44.6 million adults in the UK.
If you're receiving a large volume of unwanted phone calls, you likely want to find a way to block them. Luckily, there are several ways you can prevent unwanted domestic and international callers from ringing you.
In this article, we'll look at how you can block international calls through your phone's internal system or by downloading a third-party app. We'll also tell you how to avoid paying unexpected fees and how to report nuisance calls to the relevant authorities.
The best way to reduce the number of nuisance and scam calls to your phone is to register your number with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This free service allows you to opt out of receiving live marketing and sales calls. It's illegal for companies in the UK and abroad to call numbers that are listed on the TPS service.
You can also install call-blocking apps onto your phone, which should limit the number of nuisance calls you receive. It's advisable to contact your phone provider and enquire whether they offer a service that allows you to block certain numbers (such as international ones).
Continue reading for other ways to block unwanted numbers from calling your landline or mobile phone.
Below are some of the best ways to block numbers from being able to contact your landline or mobile phone.
This is when a phone carrier identifies a number as spam and blacklists them. The phone carrier
blocks companies from making outgoing calls. They won't even be able to leave voicemails.
The best way to achieve carrier-level blocking is to contact your carrier and identify the numbers you believe to be used for spam calls. It's a good idea to include evidence in your complaint, such as how often the phone number has been in contact or if you were phoned during unsociable hours (late at night or early in the morning).
If your phone carrier thinks that the owner of the phone number is acting illegally or irresponsibly, they will block the number and stop them from making any more calls. However, if your carrier doesn't think there's a case, they won't block the number, and you will have to manually block it.
Most mobile and landline phones can block specific or groups of numbers (such as international calls). On iPhone models that use iOS 7 or later, you will need to go to your list of recent calls. Next, you will need to select the 'i' symbol next to the desired number and tap 'Block this caller' from the options.
You can look at your blocked contacts list on your iPhone in your phone settings. After clicking on the Phone option in the settings, you should be shown a list of blocked numbers. While you won't get notified when a blocked number rings you, the caller can still leave a voicemail. You won't be notified of voicemails left from blocked numbers.
iPhones with iOS 13 or later installed have an option called Silence Unknown Callers. By selecting this feature, you will no longer get calls from numbers you don't know. However, if your phone has ever called or sent texts to a number, the number won't be blocked, even if it isn't saved on your device.
If you have an Android phone, you can block numbers through your call log. You will need to select the number and click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner of the screen. You can then select the Block button, which will prevent the number from being able to contact you in the future. Your Android phones may also allow you to block the number after you end the call.
To block international calls on your Android device, you need to click on your phone app and go into your settings. From here, you will need to go into Call Barring and choose Voice Call. You will need to uncheck the International Calls section, which will block international numbers from contacting you in the future.
Third-party call-blocking apps
Although you should be able to block numbers from within your phone's settings, you may decide to download a call-blocking app too. There are plenty of free third-party call-blocking apps, including:
- Mr Number
- Call Control
The above apps allow you to block incoming international calls from specified numbers. Some apps also block numbers that feature on a shared database that have been identified as nuisance callers. The databases rely on people like you to flag and report numbers as being nuisance callers.
The Truecaller app lets you search through its international database to see which company has called you. This is helpful if you want to report the company and nuisance phone number to your phone carrier.
You can block numbers based on their area codes with the Mr Number app. This is helpful if you want to block certain cities (such as London or Birmingham) because you keep receiving a large volume of calls from the same cities.
The Hiya app uses systems that can automatically detect and block scam calls. It can warn users that an incoming call may be a scam or a spam call, which can help you decide whether you want to answer the phone.
Unlike blocking numbers through your device's settings, the Call Control app prevents blocked numbers from leaving voicemails. However, this feature is only included in the premium package.
A scheme called the One Ring Scam (also called Wangiri)affects many people in the country. An unknown international number rings your mobile phone but hangs up after only one or two rings. Scammers rely on the notion that you will phone the number back out of curiosity or politeness.
The problem with phoning back these numbers is that you will likely face a huge phone bill. These numbers are often charged at a premium rate, which means you'll be slapped with an expensive charge. The scammers will try to keep you on the phone for as long as possible to ramp up your phone bill. They may play music to make you think you are on hold so that you stay waiting on the call for a long time.
The calls often come from countries where you may not recognise the international code, such as Libya and Uganda. It's advisable to avoid calling an unknown international number back, even if they phone you multiple times. You can look the number up online to see if it has been flagged as a scam caller in the past.
You won't be able to reclaim the money you were charged for making the international call because you phoned voluntarily. The scammers haven't technically broken the law. They offer you bait, and it's your responsibility if you call them back of your own accord.
You should stop getting nuisance calls if you register with TPS. However, if you are still receiving scam calls over 28 days after registering, you should report the numbers to TPS.
It's important to remember that registering with TPS won't stop you from receiving scam texts. If you are sent a scam text, you should forward the text to 7726 (which spells SPAM on a phone dial pad). You won't be charged for forwarding texts to this number.
You can also report scam calls and texts to Ofcom. While the regulatory authority can't look into individual cases, any complaints you make will help provide evidence for Ofcom investigations into scam callers.
It's also a good idea to report any scam calls or texts you have received to Action Fraud, the reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This can be done via their website or by calling them on 0300 123 2040.While Action Fraud won't investigate your case or provide you with updates, they will pass the details on to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau.
Will I be charged to receive an international call?
Although you will be charged for making an international call, you won't be charged for receiving one if you are within your home network country. For example, if you live in the UK and receive a call from the US, you won't be charged for answering the call. However, if you travel to the US and receive a call from the UK, you may be charged for receiving the call.
Your phone provider may offer a roaming service that allows you to make and receive calls when you are abroad. This will usually be charged additional costs to your usual phone contract.
How do scammers get my phone number?
Most scammers use number generators to find phone numbers. The automated dialling system tries to phone multiple number patterns until someone answers. Once you answer, the system will flag your number as live, and scammers will try to call you again.
Cybercriminals may try to convince you to disclose your personal and bank details over the phone. Alternatively, they may ring and then hang up, hoping you will phone them back. You will then be charged at a premium rate for phoning the scammers back. If they successfully scam money or details out of you, they may pass your details on to other scammers who will try the same thing.
You can block domestic and overseas incoming calls by adding specific numbers to your phone's block list. This will prevent the number from calling you again, although they can still leave a voicemail. Another option is to install a third-party app that can block unwanted calls to your mobile phone.
It's a good idea to report suspected spam calls and texts to your phone carrier service, TPS, Action Fraud and Ofcom. Although they won't directly be able to block calls to your phone, the evidence you provide can help these authorities investigate the specified numbers.
You should avoid answering incoming calls from international numbers as they may be from scammers. Some scammers calling from international numbers will hang up after a few rings to tempt you to ring them back. However, you will likely be charged a premium rate for phoning the number, which you won't be able to claim back.