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How do I block calls on my cell phone?

Traditional Do Not Call Lists can be very effective at preventing legitimate businesses from performing telemarketing to landlines (wireless numbers do not need to be included to avoid unsolicited calls). However, they do little to prevent scammers and robocalls. An estimated 65% of complaints to the FTC in 2016 were for recorded messages. In 2015, the FCC clarified rules that made it possible for cell phone carriers to start offering call blocking services and continues to push for additional changes in 2017.

AT&T offers Call Protect for free to customers with eligible devices and plans.
Verizon offers Call Filter for free to customers with supported devices bought through Verizon.
T-Mobile offers Scam Block for free on all postpaid plans.
Sprint offers to identify but not automatically block spammers through its Premium Caller ID service for $2.99/month

How do I get the caller's name on my cell phone?

Most major cell phone companies in the U.S. will transmit the calling number but not the name of the caller without paying an extra fee.

Caller Center allows you to look up the via Caller ID for free without the need to pay a fee, sign up for a service, or download an app. Just search for the number.

AT&T calls it Caller Name ID which is only available pre-installed on select devices. They do offer enhanced caller id as part of their apps for $3.99/month.
Verizon has bundled it as part of their Call Filter app for $2.99/month (FAQ).
T-Mobile calls it Name ID for $3.99/month (More Info).
Sprint calls it Premium Caller ID for $2.99/month (FAQ).

Why doesn't caller id work on cell phones? Why does it cost extra?

Both the phone number and name are often available, but are not included with the basic free caller id service provided by phone companies.

When placing a call, the phone company that is placing the call sends the calling number when placing the call. The receiving carrier is responsible for providing the name to the destination phone. The problem is that the carrier knows the name of their own customers, but the name of the caller may not be known. They find the name information by subscribing to several available databases that contain calling name information for subscribers of other phone companies. These databases are not free and each time a caller's name is queried (or dipped) via the CNAM service, they are charged a small fee. Phone companies typically pass this fee on to consumers. Caller Center provides the service for free and supports the cost through advertising. The result is 15 characters describing the owner of a phone number.

Part of the reason caller id with a name was supported on landlines for free involves a bit of a history lesson. With landlines, most calls were local and dominated by a single phone carrier so they could easily lookup the names of their existing customers so costs were much lower. Even the earliest cell phones also included a list of contacts so the name of most callers is already known. Also, wireless consumers have their phone number distributed to far fewer people (because they aren't in the phone book) so they receive fewer unknown calls. Today, the demand for accurate caller id has shifted from consumers to businesses. Most consumers simply will not answer unknown callers that are not in their address book. Businesses that want to have their name shown to distinguish themselves from the telemarketers and robocalls simply have no authority to complain: they can complain to their phone company, but it's the consumer's phone company that provides the service.

Is Caller ID always accurate? What is Caller ID spoofing?

While caller id spoofing is typically used as a negative term, it does have completely valid reasons for existing. For instance, the customer service center for a large company may want the generic customer support line to be shown to consumer's instead of the number to a specific desk. This practice ensures that someone will be available should the consumer return the call. As mentioned in the previous question, the calling number is provided by the caller's phone company and not the receivers so there is no guarantee of accuracy. In the U.S., the Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009 makes it illegal to provide false caller id info "with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value." Even though it is illegal, scammers have taken to providing a false call back number via caller id. Often, calling these numbers back results in the familiar message that "the number you have dialed is not a working number."

Can 911 tell who is calling and where they are calling from?

911 can use a different service called Automatic Location Information (ALI) which is independent of caller ID as is permitted through privacy legislation. Location information is not only used for getting emergency services to the scene of the incident. It is also used to determine which 911 call center to route the call. For wireline calls, 911 operators can see your number, address, and even the floor or apartment number if you are in a multiple occupancy and provided that information to your phone company. For wireless calls, phone companies are required to report latitude and longitude coordinates (using GPS or cell tower triangulation) within 300 meters within 6 minutes of a request by 911 operators. Caller ID blocking does not change any information provided to 911.

Do Not Call Lists

United States: National Do Not Call Registry

While wireless numbers do not need to be included on the registry to avoid unsolicited calls, consumers may still add their wireless number to the list.

While the DNC list is not growing at the same rate as when it first launched in 2003, more and more people are signing up every day. At the end of 2010, the FCC report estimates approximately 672 million phone numbers are assigned to a person or company. The FTC also estimates that over 183 million numbers were on the National Do Not Call list by 2010. From these numbers, it is estimated that over 25% of the assigned phone numbers in the US are signed up for the National Registry. A report by the Bush Administration in 2007 estimates that up to 72% of Americans had registered on the list. During the same period, the CTIA estimates approximately 303 million of those phone numbers were wireless meaning that approximately 45% of issued numbers are wireless. FCC regulations prohibit the use of automatic dialers from calling cellular numbes under any circumstance. Learn more about the Do Not Call list including how to sign up. Since 2005, any number added to the Natiional Registry will remain unless the number becomes invalid, disconnected, reassigned, or the owner of the number requests removal.

Active Registrations

New Registrations

Popularity by State

The map below shows the percent of residents registered on the DNC list as of September 30, 2018.

* Registrations are reported according to the FTC fiscal year which ends on September 30th.

Recorded Messages: The Rise of the Robocall

While the growth of new registrations has slowed, the number of complaints filed is growing every year. Over 5 million complaints were filed with the FTC in 2018 - less than the 7 million in 2017.

On September 1, 2009, the National Registry began accepting all complaints regarding calls using a recorded message, regardless of the registration status of the called number. As you can see from the graphs below, a great deal of those complaints were filed against auto-dialed calls that play a recorded message (aka. robocalls). While around 43% of complaints reported in 2010 were due to robocalls, that percentage skyrocketed over the next few years to 66% in 2018.

Total Complaints by Year

Complaints for Recorded Messages

* Stats are only available prior to Oct 2018. The remainder of the year is estimated.


The DNC list will not stop all unsolicited calls. The following types of calls are still legal.

  • The registry applies to residential lines only (no business lines can be registered)
  • Calls from political organizations
  • Calls from non-profits
  • Calls for surveys
  • Calls from companies which the consumer contacted in the past 31 days unless the company is asked not to call
  • Calls from debt collectors

Canada: National Do Not Call List

The Canadian Do Not Call list has been administered by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) since 2006. Like the DNC list in the US, phone numbers do not need to be resubmitted, but there are exemptions for some unsolicited calls like charities, political organizations, pollsters, and businesses with a prior relationship just like in the US. In addition to registering with the national list, Canadians are encouraged to request to be added to each internal company's list of numbers not to call each time they receive an unwanted call. Click here to add your number to DNC CA

United Kingdom: Telephone Preference Service (TPS)

The TPS was introduced in 2009 and revised in 2003. It is regulated by the Office of Communications (Ofcomm), enforced by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), and run by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA). Like the Do Not Call lists of the US and Canada, resubmitting or renewing a number already on the list is not necessary. Unlike other countries, the TPS prohibits charities, voluntary organizations, and political parties from making calls to numbers on the TPS with prior consent to do so. However, exceptions do exist for debt collectors. They are not required to screen the numbers that they call through the TPS. Learn more about the Telephone Preference Service including how to sign up.

Numbers with the Most Complaints to the FTC on Feb 20, 2020

Numbers with the Most Complaints This Week

Recent Complaints

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