How to block and filter phone numbers on your iPhone with the tools in iOS

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in iOS
Unwanted phone calls are a part of everyday life, but the iPhone offers a number of ways to stop them from being a nuisance. AppleInsider explains how to block phone numbers on iOS, as well as other ways to keep those calls and messages from coming through to your mobile devices.




There are a wide number of reasons why someone would prefer not to receive calls, but at the top of the list is probably telemarketers. Cold callers looking for a sale and other organizations seeking to acquire new customers or to change people's minds during an election can be bothersome, especially if they attempt to ring multiple times a day.

While there are official "do not call" registries in a number of countries, such as in the United States and the United Kingdom, these do help limit calls from legitimate sources, but not all. Certain types of calls are exempt from the rules, while some unscrupulous firms and scam artists simply ignore the list altogether.

The final defense against these calls ends up being a user's smartphone, which can be set up in a variety of ways to respond to calls in different ways. This includes the built-in blocking system in iOS, as well as third-party apps and in some cases, out-of-the-box thinking.

Blocking in Phone, FaceTime, Messages

There are numerous messaging systems available, each with their own take on blocking systems, but for this guide, we will be focusing on the three main sources of unwanted communications: the Phone app, FaceTime, and Messages. All three also work in roughly the same way.

In the Phone app, go to Recents and find the contact or number that you wish to block, then tap the "i" icon near to it. Scroll down to the bottom to find the option to Block this Caller.



For FaceTime, tap the "i" icon next to the contact, scroll to the bottom, and tap Block this Caller.



In Messages, tap a conversation involving the number or contact, and tap the "i" icon next to it. In the next panel, tap the name or phone number, scroll to the bottom of the contact details to find Block this Caller, and tap it.



Once blocked, calls from select contacts will not show a notification on the iPhone, but the caller will still have the option of leaving a voicemail. Messages for blocked contacts and numbers will also fail to come through onscreen.

Block management

To see a list of all blocked contacts for these three apps, you will need to enter Settings. Select Phone, FaceTime, or Messages from the list, then either Blocked or Call Blocking & Identification.



To remove people from the list, click Edit in the top left corner, then the red minus symbol on the left of the contact or number, then Unblock.



This screen also offers another way to prevent communications from contacts. Select Block Contact or Add New to bring up the contacts list, then select the contact you wish to block.

Spam extras in iMessage

If you are getting communications though Messages that pass through Apple's iMessage system, you also block messages from non-contacts.

In the Settings app, select Messages, then under Message Filtering, turn on Filter Unknown Senders. This will create a new tab for Unknown Senders in Messages, which will hold all communications of this type, but crucially without notifying you when they arrive.




You can also report iMessage spam from unknown contacts directly to Apple. A warning below the message will advise "The sender is not in your contact list," with an option to Report Junk.

Tapping this will forward the sender's information to Apple and automatically delete the message, but it will not block the contact. Ideally, block the number before reporting to Apple.

For SMS and MMS messages, this reporting option will not inform your carrier of the message. It is up to the reader to check their carrier's support services to find out how to report the spam messages.

Call filtering with third-party services

If manually blocking unwanted calls from unidentified numbers is too much work, or you want advance warning of whether an unknown number is safe to answer or not, it is possible to automate the process by installing one of a number of third-party screening services. Apps like RoboKiller, and Mr Number can, for a charge, automatically look up the identities behind the numbers, warning if the call is likely to belong to some sort of scam or used to commit fraud.

Some carriers are also providing similar services to their customers, such as AT&T Call Protect. While it only works for AT&T customers in the carrier's coverage areas, as well as some other limitations on blocks, the app itself is free, making it an option for some iPhone users.




Once installed, the apps can be enabled and disabled via the Settings app, under Phone then Call Blocking & Identification. Under the section labeled Allow These Apps to Block Calls and Provide Caller ID, tick each toggle to turn the individual apps on and off.

If you tap Edit on this screen, you can also drag the apps into an order of priority, with the second or later enabled apps showing its results if the first app fails to find the number.

An alternative: Whitelisting

If you only want to get notifications on your phone from people you know, consider having Do Not Disturb enabled as an extreme form of whitelisting.

Within the Settings app, select Do Not Disturb, then navigate down to Allow Calls From. Tap this and select All Contacts, or the group you wish to call you. This will automatically suppress notifications from unknown numbers while Do Not Disturb is active. .



There is an option to allow Repeated Calls to come through. As this will permit a second call from an unknown number to automatically pass through if it occurs within three minutes of the previous call, this could be left on if spam or telemarketing callers that try to contact you have a longer gap between contact attempts.

Note that this method may interfere with other notifications you may want to see on your iPhone or iPad.

Another alternative is to make a silent ringtone, and use that for the default tone on your iPhone. At the same time, you give a custom non-silent tone to those that you want to hear your phone ring for. This doesn't block the calls, but your iPhone won't disturb you when you get the nuisance calls, at least.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    Don’t block numbers. That does nothing to stop the scourge that is scammers and unsolicited phone calls. Similar to spam e-mails, ignoring or blocking scammers doesn’t cost the caller anything, so they have no incentive to stop.

    Sign up for Jolly Roger Telephone if you’re annoyed at scammers calling you. They have robots that will get a real person on the line and waste their time. There’s a TED talk from the guy that started Jolly Roger Telephone. For $6/year, they handle the voicemail on my cell phone and waste the time of any scammer that attempts to call me. With this service, it’s fun to receive scammer calls, not a drag.
    racerhomie3muthuk_vanalingamGeorgeBMacpscooter63kuduwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 23
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,730member
    I use AT&T Call Protect and it seems to work reasonably well. Some calls get through, but I assume they're new numbers. I occasionally check the app history and I'm amazed at the amount of calls that were automatically blocked. When a call does get through, I flag it and then block it on both the app and the phone.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 23
    TomETomE Posts: 104member
    Last week VZ Customer service told me they had a way to block these calls, messages etc from people who fake in the phone number & the city. Imagine that.  They said they can determine this and would apply these techniques to the phones on our account. This was after much interrogation of the CS Representative.  They did Not.  Providers have a responsibility to their Paying Customers that exceeds their responsibility to the Spammers.  They need to quickly intercept the incoming numbers, cities, locations, IP addresses, etc. , since they claimed to be able to do it, and block.

    If they do not have a valid Company , Name, Location, Telephone Number, the Cell Providers need to route the calls to somewhere else.  Perhaps theirLegal & the VP of Revenue Streams can handle the calls - they are complicit in this problem.  They allow it. It makes money.

    I don't want calls from impersonators & Con-Artists.  None of the ideas above in the Article are very effective. VZ must have written this Article.
    I want to propose an effort for Apple, who values privacy, to support that VZ, ATT, etc be Automatically Back Charged a minimum of $1 USD for each bogus call & we be given a credit on our Monthly Bill Automatically.  2nd Offense is $5 USD credit to our monthly bill.  If it continues, I will attempt a Court Order against VZ.  I freely give the Intellectual Property of this Idea to Apple, Inc.

    dysamoriajony0
  • Reply 4 of 23
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,241member
    After ages of dealing with unwanted phone calls, I tried AT&T Call Protect, and was amazed at how well it blocks calls.  My phone which I would ignore answering, I can now answer with relative peace.

    It's a shame we have to do this, but at least it's an additional weapon in my salvo against these miscreants.
    mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 23
    Why haven’t you dealt with the huge inconvenience that stems from Apples ignorant approach? That to block people, you have to make a contact for them, thus filling your contact page with randoms you don’t want or know anything about?

    i get over 1000 spam every 3 days, and half a dozen or more iMessages and FaceTimes from randoms who are ‘finding’ me because they’re too stupid to know they’re calling the wrong person.

    yet Apple makes me add each one as a contact in order to block it, but I’m still left with them in my bloated contacts list.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 6 of 23
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,302administrator
    Why haven’t you dealt with the huge inconvenience that stems from Apples ignorant approach? That to block people, you have to make a contact for them, thus filling your contact page with randoms you don’t want or know anything about?

    i get over 1000 spam every 3 days, and half a dozen or more iMessages and FaceTimes from randoms who are ‘finding’ me because they’re too stupid to know they’re calling the wrong person.

    yet Apple makes me add each one as a contact in order to block it, but I’m still left with them in my bloated contacts list.
    Solvable by using a carrier-based tool, like AT&T Call Protect or similar for Verizon and others, like we talked about in the middle of the article.

    Alternatively, the silent ringtone for randoms, and a regular one for your actual contacts, like we spoke about in the tail end of the article.
    stanthemandamn_its_hot
  • Reply 7 of 23
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,679member
    The methods described in this article are useful but it's like using a BB gun against a shotgun. Every single day at least one of my family members gets a robocall from some sort of scammer or an agency granted unrestricted access to the phone network with no fear of blocking or Do Not Call prosecution. The phone companies (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, et al) are 100% complicit in allowing robocallers and scammers to remain in business and relegate the rest of us phone company victims to a never ending game of whack-a-mole. The fact that AT&T Call Protect works as well as it does on newer model phones is clear evidence that the only useful line of defense lies with the phone companies themselves who are profiting from the robocallers, scammers, spammers, and organizations who are allowed to circumvent Do Not Call regulations. If you have an older phone that AT&T Call Protect does not support, e.g., iPhone 4s, the calls are persistent and constantly shifting through ranges of numbers so as to fill up your contact list with hundreds of blocking contacts.

    At the very least Apple should allow wildcards in blocking contacts and allow blocking of unknown callers, i.e., those who suppress Caller Id. Unfortunately Apple itself uses Caller Id blocking as part of its customer support callback system to prevent customers from obtaining the phone numbers of its support personnel. Ok, but something like "Apple Support" instead of "Unknown Caller" would be far more reasonable. I answer zero percent of "Unknown Caller" calls, which creates some issues when dealing with Apple but the current phone system is in such a dysfunctional state and is bordering on being useless when it is used in raw/unfiltered mode.  

    I'll have to check out the Jolly Roger thing. I have no expectation that the phone companies are going to slaughter this cash cow any sooner than the US Postal System is going to allow blocking of junk mail. These myopic organizations have decided that their profits are far more important than our constant annoyances.  
    dysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 23
    I wish Apple would create a setting for phone calls where you can simply block everyone except for those in your contact list. All others would simply go to voicemail. If no voicemail was left then the user would never even know a call was attempted. Yes I realize you can use the Do Not Disturb feature to approximate this but the problem is.. it messes up all your other apps and notifications in the process. I still want notifications for all my other messages and apps! The best part about this is that Apple does not need carrier permission to do this, they can just simply make it a function of iOS irregardless of users carrier
    GeorgeBMac
  • Reply 9 of 23
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 1,813member
    Like other commentators have pointed out, none of these methods do the job against scam callers. It is the telephone carriers' job to deal with this and they have zero incentive to do so. This is another example of why regulation is necessary... but don't hold your breath with the current administration getting around to compelling the telcos to deal with it, since they're currently destroying every regulation they can get their grubby protuberances on.
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Apple really didn't put much effort into this. It works for me, but fills up my contacts with hundreds of numbers. I'm not paying for a service that should be included with my cellular plan. 25 years ago this problem was solved by several software companies. The company I worked for blocked not just numbers, but area codes, prefixes and Unknown Callers. It played a message for the caller that the number was blocked and was able to simply hang up on them, send them to voicemail, or send them to another number.

    I don't know why this has changed for cellular phones. It would be easy to implement, but AT&T wants you to pay for it every month.
  • Reply 11 of 23
    mwhitemwhite Posts: 156member
    One question for the Author when you block a caller in the phone app can you delete that phone number in the recent or do you need to leave that number in recent calls?
  • Reply 12 of 23
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 5,587member
    Why haven’t you dealt with the huge inconvenience that stems from Apples ignorant approach? That to block people, you have to make a contact for them, thus filling your contact page with randoms you don’t want or know anything about?

    i get over 1000 spam every 3 days, and half a dozen or more iMessages and FaceTimes from randoms who are ‘finding’ me because they’re too stupid to know they’re calling the wrong person.

    yet Apple makes me add each one as a contact in order to block it, but I’m still left with them in my bloated contacts list.
    Huh? I block spam callers and never have to create a contact for them. I blocked one just today. You are confused.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 23
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 5,587member
    Sometime I'd like the article to cover -- using the iOS block flag, what is the experience for a person (not a spammer) that you've blocked? Do their calls to you go to your voicemail, or to a carrier message? What about iMessages and SMS, does it tell them anything or do they just assume you got it and never replied?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 23
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 3,302administrator
    Sometime I'd like the article to cover -- using the iOS block flag, what is the experience for a person (not a spammer) that you've blocked? Do their calls to you go to your voicemail, or to a carrier message? What about iMessages and SMS, does it tell them anything or do they just assume you got it and never replied?
    With iMessages and SMS, they just assume you got it and never replied. We'll check on the rest for sure -- but I'm 90% certain that they don't get sent to voicemail, nor get a "you're blocked" notification.
    edited April 19 StrangeDays
  • Reply 15 of 23
    Apple really didn't put much effort into this. It works for me, but fills up my contacts with hundreds of numbers. I'm not paying for a service that should be included with my cellular plan. 25 years ago this problem was solved by several software companies. The company I worked for blocked not just numbers, but area codes, prefixes and Unknown Callers. It played a message for the caller that the number was blocked and was able to simply hang up on them, send them to voicemail, or send them to another number.

    I don't know why this has changed for cellular phones. It would be easy to implement, but AT&T wants you to pay for it every month.
    I had a similar software on an HTC Windows Mobile 5 handset like 10 years ago. I could even block calls with no ID! In Europe there is an iPhone app called truecaller, not sure if it works in the US: at least in my case, it is quite good at detecting spammers, although I only receive a handful of these a year.
  • Reply 16 of 23
    bluefire1bluefire1 Posts: 816member
    Until Verizon starts siding with its customers, I'll continue to use Hiya.
  • Reply 17 of 23
    What I would really like, and fairly simple for Apple to do, is a recorded message when somebody who withholds their number rings me :
         
    "this telephone does not accept anonymous calls" 
  • Reply 18 of 23
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 2,869member
    Apple could do a much better job with this...   Essentially, they've pretty much ignored the spam problem.   But I hope they address it soon.

    In the meantime, I keep a landline just to hand out a number to various businesses, etc that request my phone number and only provide my cell number to a very select few...   It's not fool proof, but it does cut down on the spam... 
  • Reply 19 of 23
    You do realize that marketing bots poll for numbers and if you do not respond they use your phone number to show on marketing call to potential customer, right? That is how it works. There is no identity protection on phone numbers. What you see on your caller ID is not number of the marketing caller. Your blocking does not do anything. I tried that, caught some marketing, spoke with actual phone line subscribers few minutes after call (call back) who actually never called me (their phone number showed on caller ID only). I reported scam to FCC... and received response that FCC is not to resolve the issue, but track the trends only. Go figure. Good luck with blocking. BTW when do we get ability to block entire groups of numbers in iOS? I would like to block a few thousand of numbers with one entry that I do not want to talk to. I can do this on landline using DigitOne device, but still no solution on mobile.
  • Reply 20 of 23
    J-J-J-J- Posts: 3member
    Sometime I'd like the article to cover -- using the iOS block flag, what is the experience for a person (not a spammer) that you've blocked? Do their calls to you go to your voicemail, or to a carrier message? What about iMessages and SMS, does it tell them anything or do they just assume you got it and never replied?
    With iMessages and SMS, they just assume you got it and never replied. We'll check on the rest for sure -- but I'm 90% certain that they don't get sent to voicemail, nor get a "you're blocked" notification.
    they can still leave Voicemail on AT&T!  (but it never rings the phone and never alerts you)
    If you scroll down through your Voicemail, you will see DELETED MESSAGES and then under that is BLOCKED MESSAGES
    This is mine from just now.  I have 3 BLOCKED messages from yesterday and today:



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