How to use iOS 13’s new Silence Unknown Callers feature to fight phone spam

It’s harder than ever to get away from unsolicited calls, but a new feature in iOS 13 can at least send them right to voice mail.

iphone phone app ios13
Jason Cross/IDG

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Spam calls have gotten way out of hand. It used to be that you could simply ignore anything with a caller ID of “unknown caller” or a distant or toll-free area code. Today, thanks to automated systems that spoof phone numbers, scammers and spammers can call you from numbers that look like they’re from right in your neighborhood. Many people now get several spam calls every day.

Fortunately, iOS 13 brings with it a feature that can help combat this nuisance, and it’s really easy to enable and disable.

Turn on Silence Unknown Callers

First, open Settings. Then tap on Phone

Scroll down to the section labeled “Call Silencing and Blocked Callers” and look for the toggle switch Silence Unknown Callers. Turn that on, and you’re good to go!

iphone phone unknown ios13 IDG

iOS 13 makes it really easy to send those unknown calls to voice mail.

What this does

With this feature enabled, your iPhone will use “Siri intelligence” to determine whether a call is from a known number or not. If a phone number is found in your Contacts, Messages, or Mail, it comes through as usual.

If it’s not found there, whether it’s a real phone number or an unlisted number, it will go straight to voice mail without ever even ringing (even silently). In that sense, the setting is not quite properly named...calls are more than merely “silenced.”

You may find that, while this cuts way down on unwanted calls, you miss some calls you were expecting. You may get in touch with a repair person on the web, only to find later that they tried to call you and your phone didn’t ring, for example. If you don’t want to send these sort of calls straight to voicemail, disabling the feature is as easy as flipping the switch back off again.

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