Protecting your phone number from scammers and spammers is a delicate balancing act. On one hand, if you get a call from an unknown number, you want to make sure you know who it is. On the other hand, calling can put you on a list that only puts you front and center for even more annoying calls. So what's a person to do in order to keep their number safe?
There's a whole host of reasons to consider blocking your number before making an outbound call. You're not only keeping your identity and personal information private, you're also giving yourself peace of mind that you're not going to be interrupted with an annoying ring when you're in the middle of bigger and better things.
Here are the top three reasons you should consider blocking your number when making an outbound call, as well as how to do it no matter which kind of operating system your smartphone is using. And for those of you with landlines, don't worry — there's a handy trick just for you, too.
1. Block your number to call back a number you don't recognize
You've been in this situation before: A strange number dials your phone, rings for a couple of seconds and ends without leaving so much as a message. Now, this may not always be cause for alarm, but we live in a hyper-connected society where anyone from a credit card company, to the IRS and even a robocall could be behind that string of digits. To avoid the call is to miss out on potentially valuable information, but if you do choose to answer, you're putting yourself at risk of the entity on the other line knowing your number.
And, naturally, they will. Calling is a two-way street, after all.
Thankfully, there's a quick fix you can try on nearly every phone you own — including landline handsets. All you need to do is open your phone's dialing pad, dial *67, then the number you want to dial and tap the call button. On a landline, simply dial *67 followed by the number you want to call. That's all it takes!
Now, the recipient of your call will only see "Blocked" or "Private" instead of your number on their own caller ID.
2. Block your number to keep yourself off of 'call lists'
Let's say you weren't aware of the risks of sharing your phone number with third-party entities, and you accidentally dialed back a phone number that turned out to be a robocall hotline. At this point, your number is essentially forfeit — it's on a list now. This list will allow the robocallers to dial you back and in many cases, these companies make extra money by selling the phone numbers they've acquired while conducting their "business."
At this point, you'll want to contact your carrier or phone provider to have your number placed on a "Do not call" list. For outbound calls, however, there's another method you can try to shield your number from prying eyes. This one goes a little deeper to the core of your phone's operating system and will block your number permanently on any type of caller ID. Best of all, you can turn your phone number back on at any time if you choose to.
On iOS, navigate to your phone's Settings and scroll down until you see the option Phone. Tap it, and select Show my Caller ID. Here, you'll see a toggle switch which is in the On position by default. Turn it Off to hide your number for good.
On Android, open the Phone app and tap the three dot icon near the search bar. On the drop down menu that appears, select Settings, followed by Calls. Next, tap Additional Settings, then Caller ID. On the pop up menu that appears, select Hide Number to disable your number from Caller ID.
3. Block your number online to keep your phone number out of the hands of hackers
One of the biggest risks from sharing your number online these days doesn't come from robocalls, mind you. Those are just annoying and scammy at their worst, but hackers pose a unique and persistent threat to all types of private data. One of the worst and most common methods of attacking a person with phishing schemes actually involves stealing a legitimate phone number and signing up for a service with it for verification purposes. This can essentially pin the blame on you for any illegal activity and can grant permission to private accounts like with your mobile carrier.
You'll even see hackers reverse engineer your phone number to harass where you work or live, or sometimes it may even become a spoofed number that hackers and robocallers use to hide their true identities. This is especially risky any time you share your phone number online, such as when you sign up for a website or service. Even if the website is legitimate, if a keylogger malware is installed on your system, you'll still have your number pilfered with no issue.
To circumvent this, as well as stay safe online, a popular option is signing up for a VoIP service like Google Voice, which uses the internet to relay audio. Google Voice is especially useful, as it will let you choose a number that's different from your own that you can use for signups and the like. Just keep in mind you will have to give your true phone number to Google in order to sign up for the service.
To sign up for Google voice, simply download the Google Voice app for iOS or Android. The program will guide you through the setup steps, but you will need to link your Google Account to proceed. If you do not have one, you'll be prompted to create one within the app.
After your account is linked, the app will prompt you to choose a Google Voice number. From here, you can even enter a ZIP code or city to pick a number that feels right for you, but for privacy's sake, we'd recommend one with a different area code than your own.
Once you've selected a number, Google will text a code to your phone to verify your account. And that's it! You're ready to start sharing your number (without really sharing your number).
As we always state with any security-related tips, make sure you're sticking to safer or more familiar parts of the internet when sharing any of your personal info. No matter how smart you think your defenses are, some hacker or scammer probably has you beat. If not, they're working on it. We're better off giving them nothing to work with, in the end.
Stop annoying robocalls and telemarketers for good
Unsolicited robocalls have become a serious epidemic lately. A recent study shows that the number of spam calls has been rising across the country at an alarmingly rapid pace. People in the U.S. receive an average of just under 19 spam calls every month. Yikes! One way to try and stop these intrusive calls is with robocall blocking apps.