Private numbers are calls made from phones that have withheld the caller ID. Although there are many innocent reasons why a caller would do this, private numbers are often associated with spam and nuisance calls, and if you regularly receive such calls, you will be pleased to know that you can block them.
There was a surge in the reported levels of cybercrime both during and after the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, as fraudsters sought to capitalise on the confusion and uncertainty brought about by the virus. So, with this in mind, there has never been a better time to learn how to block private and unwanted callers from calling or messaging your phone.
There are several options for blocking private number calls, each of with advantages and disadvantages.
So read on as we take you through the different methods of stopping calls from private numbers.
The most effective ways of stopping calls from private numbers are:
- Do not answer
- Block private number calls from your device
- Contact your network service provider
- Install a call-blocking app
- Take preventative steps to protect your number
Let's jump in and take a closer at each of these options.
Do not answer
The simplest way to stop calls from private numbers is not to answer them. If you see that you are getting a call from a caller who has withheld their caller ID, you can just silence the call and ignore it.
However, spam callers can be very persistent. If you repeatedly receive calls from private numbers, you may find this tactic ineffective as you will have to continually silence your phone. Also, if you do pick up at any time and the call is from a spam caller, you are showing them that your number is active, which means they could sell your details to other scammers and scam networks.
This tactic is also not a good idea for business or work phones, as repeated calls from private numbers can clog up your lines and prevent genuine callers from getting through.
Block private numbers on your phone
Most phones allow you to block calls from private numbers made to your device directly from your phone.
Find the call settings either by searching in your wider settings or by going into your calls and locating the setting cog. Once you have the call settings up, there should be an option to block specific or private numbers. You can also block any calls from unknown callers that you don't have saved on your phone.
This is a more robust option than the previous one. However, it does mean that you may also block calls from non-spam callers who have withheld their numbers for their own reasons.
Contact your service provider
Another method for blocking all private numbers is to contact your network service provider and request that they block private calls to your sim. This means that private numbers will still be blocked even if you get a new phone, provided you keep the same sim.
The downside of this option is that only some network providers offer this service, and you may be charged for adding it to your contract.
Install a call-blocking app
Call-blocking apps allow you to block calls to your phone from specific numbers and private numbers. They can also block non-private numbers that are known to be associated with spam or nuisance callers. Call-blocking apps build up databases of numbers that their users report as spam, which means you are protected against even more malicious callers than just ones that hide behind a withheld number.
There are many call-blocking apps available, and some offer features that are unique to that particular app. For example, some will also sort your SMS messages into different categories. And some call-blocking apps will send scam callers to a fake voicemail, so their voice and the content of their call will be recorded, and their time will be wasted.
Call-blocking apps build up databases of numbers their users report as spam, which means you are protected against even more malicious callers than those that hide behind a withheld number. However, you will likely have to pay a subscription fee to access some of the more advanced features.
Prevention of future private number calls
The best way of stopping private number calls is to prevent them from happening in the first place. So let's see what preventative measures you can take to keep your phone safe from private scam callers.
Keep your number private
Ironically, one of the best ways to prevent future calls from private numbers is to withhold your number. By withholding your number, you ensure that whenever you call people, companies, or organisations, you may not be familiar with, there is no chance of your number being stored on a database that could one day be hacked or shared with untrustworthy networks.
There are two ways of keeping your number private. The first is to prefix any private call you want to make with the number 141, followed by the number you want to dial. This will withhold your number for this call only, so it is a good option if you only want certain calls to be private.
The other way of keeping your number private is to change the settings on your phone so that your number is withheld on all the calls you make. You can do this by going to your call settings and selecting the option to withhold your number. This is a good option if you want to keep all your calls private and your number withheld.
Keeping your number private is a simple method of preventing future calls from private numbers, but it does mean that your number will be blocked from other people's phones who have also chosen to block private numbers.
Be careful what you share online
Being careful with the information you share online is another effective way of preventing future calls from private numbers. Most scammers get the phone numbers they call from online database hacks, so keeping your number off the internet is a simple way of reducing the likelihood of your number being picked up in any such hack.
Most sites that require you to input personal information will leave the phone number box as optional. If a site does need your number for some reason, then only put it in if the web page is secure.
You can check the security of the page by seeing if it starts with 'HTTP' or 'HTTPS.' The additional 's' means the page is secured, and while no site is entirely impervious to hacks, HTTPS sites are far more secure.
Why private numbers call
There are many reasons why you may receive a call from a private number. And while some private callers have malicious intent, many private callers withhold their numbers for perfectly innocent reasons.
For example, some people choose to withhold their numbers because they use their personal phones for work, and they don't want to be open to receiving work calls when they are not working. Others may withhold their number because they don't want people to know their numbers for privacy reasons.
However, some callers withhold their numbers because they are spamming you, intend to commit a crime, and don't want to be traced. Over-the-phone scams have become increasingly common in recent years. Many people associate a private number with fraudulent and nuisance calls and are quick to reject them, even if the real caller withheld their number for legitimate reasons.
When would I need to block a private caller
You can choose to block private callers whenever you want, but you may feel particularly inclined to do so if you have recently started to receive more spam or nuisance calls. This can happen if your number is stored on a database that has been hacked or if one spammer has found your details and sold them to other spammers.
Although a blanket block on private numbers will mean that legitimate private callers will also be blocked, it may be worth doing if you get too many spam calls.
Can I block texts from private numbers?
Most phones allow you to block texts from private numbers in the same way you block calls. Head into your message settings and select the option to block numbers. You should then be able to choose specific numbers you want to block messages from, as well as private and unknown numbers.
Most call-blocking apps have message-blocking features as well. They can also sort your messages into work, personal, other, and spam. This means that any potentially harmful message is flagged, and you can judge whether you want to open it or not instead of just having an outright block on any such messages.
Scam texts have become a big problem over the last few years. Known as 'smishing' (SMS phishing), scam texts often contain malicious links or demand you make payments to certain fake organisations. Because there is no robot or fake caller on the other line, scam texts can be particularly hard to detect. Many people who are otherwise savvy about the dangers of cybercrime have fallen prey to them.
Private calls are phone calls in which the caller has withheld their ID to keep their number anonymous. Although many people do this for legitimate reasons, withheld numbers are often affiliated with unwanted calls from fraudulent actors. The number of scam and nuisance calls has risen dramatically in recent years, which means now is as good a time as any to block private calls from your phone.
Try our different methods for blocking private calls and preventing future scam calls. The positives and negatives to each, but protecting yourself against cybercrime should be a priority.