Unwanted phone calls can be hugely frustrating for anyone, whether they are telemarketing calls, robocalls, or even more serious harassment calls. But whatever form they take, they can prove to be annoying at best and distressing at worst.

Many people don’t know the first steps to take when they want to put an end to unwanted calls, and as a result, they end up simply living with them without taking action to stop the calls.

But the good news is that there are various options for dealing with unwanted calls that can help to improve your quality of life by reducing or stopping completely those bothersome calls that are so frustrating.

Here’s a guide to the various steps you can take to deal with everything from telemarketing calls to harassment calls at home and on your cell phone.

Sign Up to the National Do Not Call Registry

The most common types of unwanted calls are those that relate to sales and marketing. Telemarketers have found that calling people up out of the blue to offer them services and products over the phone is a great way to make sales, and the practice has been around for many years.

The problem is, sometimes you can receive so many of these calls that it starts to become incredibly frustrating. Even worse, sometimes you pick up the phone only to hear silence on the other end, which might make you think that you are the target of a hoax call or even a threatening call.

These silent calls occur when your phone is automatically dialed by the telemarketing company but no agents are free to speak to you. These can be especially distressing for elderly people or those living on their own because there is no way to tell who is calling.

While some people like to receive calls about special offers and discounts, many people hate being bothered by telemarketers and they see them as nothing more than a nuisance. Fortunately, these are also some of the easiest unwanted phone calls to stop.

The most important thing you have to do is sign up to the National Do Not Call Registry.

This is a list set up by the FTC that anyone can sign up to. Once on the list, telemarketers will no longer be able to call your number to promote their products and services.

Even better, registering is easy to do. You can register your number (or numbers) at the website for free by clicking on “Register Your Phone” on the home page.

Your number will stay on the list indefinitely until you decide to take it off. There is no time limit, so once on the list, you don’t have to worry about renewing anything.

After 31 days of being on the list, telemarketers will have to remove your number and will be unable to contact you any longer.

Being on the list blocks nearly all telephone solicitations. The only calls not blocked are calls made with your express permission and some calls from non-profit organizations.

You might also be able to add your number to a state list. Contact your public service commission to find out if you have one and how to register (visit the NARUC website to find the details for your state’s public service commission).

If you keep on receiving calls even after 31 days of signing up to the National Do Not Call Registry, you can file a complaint with the FTC, and they can then take action, including fining the companies or giving them a warning. You can file your complaint directly from the website.

You may also find that companies have their own do-not-call lists, and you can get your number onto these as well. If a company calls you up and you don’t want to receive any more calls, tell them when they call you, and they should remove your name and number. The FCC says that they have to remove your number for five years.

Prevent Automatic Calls

Another frustrating type of unwanted call is the automatic call. These calls, often called “robocalls,” are a form of unsolicited telemarketing or political calls where you hear a recorded message rather than a real person on the end of the line.

Almost no one likes these calls. And while some are permitted if you have given your prior consent to receiving them, most are not. Indeed, companies cannot use robocalls to contact you even if you have an existing commercial relationship with them.

Phone companies can offer robocall blocking technologies, and they are encouraged to do so. If you are being affected by these automatic calls, ask your phone company about your options. You should also record the details of any numbers that call you so you can inform your telephone company about these.

Get Solutions from Your Phone Company

For any types of nuisance calls that you want to stop, your first option will normally be to contact your phone company, whether you are receiving prank calls, marketing calls, or even harassing calls.

If you are receiving calls that are bothering you, simply call up your phone company and ask to speak to the “annoyance department.” This is a specialist department that every phone company has, and it is dedicated to resolving problems faced by people who want to stop certain calls from getting through.

They might provide a range of custom calling services that can help you to deal with the situation. While sometimes these tools are provided for free, you might have to pay for others, which can involve a one-off or monthly fee.

One of the services they might offer is a privacy manager, which goes by various names including anonymous call rejection (ACR). This is a common service from phone companies, and there’s a good chance you will be able to use this.

It works by using Caller ID to identify incoming calls to your phone that do not identify their number. This is a common tactic used by telemarketers, and you will often see the number show up as “Private” or something similar.

Using an ACR service, anyone calling your phone without displaying their own telephone number will have to identify themselves before they can make the call. This happens before your phone rings, so you won’t even know that anyone is calling until they have identified their number.

If the caller identifies their number, your phone will ring. You can then see the identity of the caller, and you can decide what to do with the call. For example, you could reject it without ever answering it, or you could direct it to your voicemail. You could even set up a voicemail for telemarketers to instruct them to add you to their “do not call” list.

A call screen service is another type of call-blocking option that your phone company may be able to provide you with for a fee. It can also be called different names depending on your phone company, but the principle is the same.

Using this, you can set up specific telephone numbers that you want to block so that you never have to hear your phone ringing. When the caller makes the call to your number, instead of getting through to you, they will receive an automatic message telling them that you won’t take the call.

One very useful feature of this tool is that you can set it to reject calls from the number that called last. So if you receive a telemarketing call or a prank call but the identity of the caller is not revealed, you can quickly set it to block repeat calls from that number even if you don’t know what the number is.

However, with this tool, you should be aware that it does have its limitations. For example, it will not usually work for long-distance calls. And if you are using it to block calls from a prank caller or someone who is harassing you, the caller can easily switch numbers to continue calling you.

Call return is another tool that allows you to take action even if a caller does not reveal their telephone number when they call you. This allows you to call back the number after you receive a call even if the number is blocked. The idea is that you can contact the caller directly, which they might not be expecting because they have hidden their number, and tell them to stop calling you.

This might be useful for telemarketing calls, but you should be careful if you are receiving harassing calls. It could be that calling back the person who is making the calls could actually make the problem worse, and it might be better to take a different type of action, as covered later in the guide.

Finally, priority ringing is a tool that your phone company might be able to provide you with. This is where you can simply set a ringtone for specific numbers, such as those from family and friends, so you immediately know whether you want to take the call or not. You could then simply divert all other calls to voicemail so you don’t have to deal with them.

Use an Inbound Call Blocker

If none of the above options looks suitable for your needs, you might want to consider investing in an inbound call blocker.

This is a device that you attach to your phone, and it works by forcing the caller to enter a code in order to get through to you. You can set your own personal code, and then you can simply provide this code to anyone who you want to be able to reach you, such as friends and family members.

Whenever your trusted friends and family call up, they will have to enter the code. This might be a bit annoying for them, but it also means that no one can contact you unless you want them to, getting rid of any prank calls or marketing calls that are making your life a misery.

Of course, the downside to this is that it can make it impossible for people to contact you even if they have a good reason for doing so, and this makes it a more drastic option.

You might miss important calls that are not from telemarketers, such as calls from the emergency services or calls from your bank alerting you to problems in your account. But if you don’t mind that, an inbound call blocker can be a very effective solution.

Deal with Problem Calls Yourself

Another option that you might want to consider is to take action yourself without resorting to inbound call blockers or the various options provided by your phone company.

One way to do this is to buy an answering machine and create your own voice message that you can then use to screen your calls.

You can then create a voice message explaining that you are receiving prank phone calls and that you have set up a trap on the line to track prank calls.

You will then never have to answer the phone if you don’t want to, and you can simply call back whoever you want to in your own time. It might also help to scare off prank callers.

Prevent Unwanted Cell Phone Calls

If you are receiving unwanted calls on your cell phone, you have some extra options to consider. Cell phones are actually easier to deal with because there are various call-blocking apps available that you can simply download to your device, and these are very effective.

There are many of these apps available for both Android and iOS phones, and you can use them to block unknown numbers automatically.

One of the most popular apps on Android is Calls Blacklist. You can download this to your phone and then quickly set it up to block both calls and text messages from any numbers, including unknown numbers. Another similar app is Call Control.

A similar app for iOS devices is Call Bliss, which allows you to stop or silence unwanted calls with ease.

Alternatively, you can change the settings on your phone so that you only accept calls from people you want to including family and friends. Again, the problem is that you might miss important calls from numbers that you have not added to your list, but that’s something you might be happy to do.

Another popular app is TrapCall, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. This makes it easy to block calls from unknown numbers and set up a list of numbers you want to block, providing you with more control over who calls you.

How to Deal with More Serious Harassment Calls

So far, we’ve looked at nuisance calls like prank calls and marketing calls, and there are many effective ways to stop receiving such calls. But another more serious issue is where unwanted calls turn into harassment, and these need to be treated slightly differently.

Harassing calls can include any type of calls that cause significant concern to the receiver. They could be obscene calls or threatening calls, or the caller might simply breathe heavily but not speak. Such calls can understandably cause serious distress to the receiver, and if you are receiving such calls, you will want to do something about it.

Even one call can be a harassing call, but usually, they are characterized by repeat calls, sometimes late at night. It is hard to get your phone company to take action if you just receive one or two calls unless a direct threat is made. But if calls become more regular, it might become easier to get your phone company to take action.

There are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you receive a harassing call that causes you distress. Firstly, you should always hang up. If you are receiving regular calls, don’t say anything, don’t get angry or try to talk to the caller. They want to wind you up or upset you, and the best way to react is to say nothing at all.

However, you might want to use a different tactic. As soon as you realize the phone call is being made by a prank caller or someone trying to harass you, you could say “trap” followed by the date and time. This might help to put off prank callers because it suggests your line is trapped in order to trace the caller.

Alternatively, you could set up a real trap, which your phone company should be able to do for you. This is where your company can find out which telephone number is making the calls. You simply log the dates and times that you receive harassing calls over a period of a few weeks, and the company can then try and find out where the calls are being made.

If you start receiving calls regularly that you find threatening, you might want to change your number. Once you have a new number, make sure you only give it to family and friends and keep it secret from everyone else. Although annoying, this can immediately put an end to the problem.

Another option is to change your number but keep your old number active. You can then direct all calls from your old number to voicemail and turn off the ringer. As such, you can then use this for the sole purpose of capturing the harassing calls.

The harasser will continue calling and will think that they are getting to you, but in reality, you are just recording the calls for evidence that you can pass onto the authorities.

If you ever feel threatened by a call, even if it’s just one call, contact the police immediately. This is especially important if there is a direct threat made to you or your family.

File a formal complaint and provide the police with as much information as you can. If they call back, write down the time of the call and anything that was said, describe their voice, any accents you picked up on, background noise, and anything else, all of which could be useful for the police during their investigation.

Unwanted Call Prevention Tips

We’ve now looked at the various options available to deal with unwanted calls. While these can be very effective, you can also take steps in advance to prevent unwanted calls from becoming a problem.

Women are usually targeted with obscene prank calls more than men. As a result, if you are a woman and you want to list your number in the phone directory, one option is to include only your first initial. This will help to prevent random callers. Alternatively, simply have an unlisted number instead.

If you have a voicemail service, don’t include your telephone number in your message, and keep it private instead. Otherwise, you will be giving out your number to people who are calling randomly.

Another good bit of advice is to avoid giving out any personal information when someone you don’t know calls your phone. For example, they might simply be calling to find out who lives there.

If the caller asks which number they have called, don’t give it to them. Instead, ask them which number they dialed. And if your children answer the phone in your home, instruct them never to give away any information either.

Stop Unwanted Calls from Being a Problem

While most of us will only ever get unwanted calls from telemarketers, which are annoying more than anything, some people receive calls that are very distressing. But whichever type of unwanted calls you are receiving, know that there are steps you can take to stop them.

Whether you are receiving unwanted calls at home or on your cell phone, and whether these are telemarketing calls, robocalls, prank calls, or harassing calls, make sure you consider all of your options for stopping them.

This guide covers the main options available to you, so use this information to stop calls from becoming a problem, and avoid the frustration and distress that they can cause.