Unwanted calls, including robocalls and texts, are consistently among the top problems consumers cite when filing complaints with the FCC each year. The FCC is committed to protecting consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls and text messages, and is working closely with an industry-led strike force to give consumers more control over the calls and texts they receive.
The Commission has tackled robocalls on as many fronts as possible, whether by implementing new rules, ruling on questions raised about the law, taking enforcement action, keeping consumers informed, encouraging new pro-consumer innovation or urging the private sector to step up and stop this scourge.
Click the tabs below for more information on FCC rules and consumer rights, call-blocking resources and additional FAQs.
You can also file a complaint with the FCC if you believe you have received an illegal call, text or fax.
Robocalls are unsolicited prerecorded telemarketing calls to landline home telephones, and all autodialed or prerecorded calls or text messages to wireless numbers, emergency numbers, and patient rooms at health care facilities.
Latest FCC Action
On Nov. 16, 2017, the FCC adopted new rules to allow voice service providers to proactively block certain types of robocalls that are likely to be fraudulent because they come from certain types of phone numbers, including those that do not or cannot make outgoing calls. For example, perpetrators have used IRS phone numbers that don't dial out to impersonate the tax agency, informing the people who answer that they are calling to collect money owed to the U.S. government. Such calls appear to be legitimate to those who receive them and can result in fraud or identity theft. Service providers now can block such calls, as well as calls from invalid numbers, like those with area codes that don't exist, from numbers that have not been assigned to a provider, and from numbers allocated to a provider but not currently in use.
- FCC rules limit many types of robocalls, though some calls are permissible if prior consent is given.
- Rules differ between landline and wireless phones; however, calls and text messages have the same protection under FCC rules.
- Wireless and landline home phones are protected against telemarketing robocalls made without prior written consent from the recipient.
- An existing commercial relationship does not constitute permission to be robocalled or texted.
- Consent to be called or texted cannot be a condition of a sale or other commercial transaction.
- Consumers can take back their permission to be called or texted in any reasonable way. A calling company cannot require someone to fill out a form and mail it in as the only way to revoke consent.
- All non-emergency robocalls, both telemarketing and informational, require a consumer's permission to be made to a wireless phone. These calls can include political, polling, and other non-telemarketing robocalls.
- Telemarketers and robocallers are allowed to call a wrong number only once before updating their lists. This most commonly comes up when someone who consented to be called or texted gave up that number, which was reassigned to someone else. Callers have resources available to them to help them know ahead of time if a number's "owner" has changed.
- Urgent calls or texts specifically for health or fraud alerts may be allowed without prior consent. They must be free, and consumers can say "stop" at any time.
- Phone companies face no legal barriers to offering consumers the use of technologies that block robocalls to any phone. The FCC encourages companies to offer this resource.
- To block telemarketing calls, register your number on the Do Not Call list - which protects both landline and wireless phone numbers: www.donotcall.gov,
- Ask your phone company to offer robocall-blocking technology.
- If you use robocall-blocking technology already, it often helps to let that company know which numbers are producing unwanted calls so they can help block those calls for you and others.
- Tell unwanted callers that you do not consent to the call, make a record of the caller's number and when you made your request not to be called, and let the FCC know if the caller does not comply with your request.
What are the rules for robocalls?
FCC rules require a business to obtain your written consent – on paper or through electronic means, including website forms, a telephone keypress – or a recording of your oral consent before it may make a prerecorded telemarketing call to your residential phone number or make an autodialed or prerecorded telemarketing call or text to your wireless number.
What are the consent requirements for telemarketers calling my landline?
Businesses must have your prior express written consent before making telemarketing robocalls. Telemarketers are no longer able to make telemarketing robocalls to your landline home telephone based solely on an "established business relationship" that you may have established when purchasing something from a business or contacting the business to ask questions.
Are robocalls to wireless phones permissible?
Your written or oral consent is required for ALL autodialed or prerecorded calls or texts made to your wireless number. Telemarketers have never been permitted to make robocalls to your wireless phone based solely on an "established business relationship" with you.
Do all prerecorded autodialed calls to my landline violate FCC rules?
Not always. Informational messages such as school closings or flight information are permissible without prior written consent.
What other autodialed calls are permitted under FCC robocall rules?
Market research or polling calls to residential wireline numbers are not restricted by FCC rules, nor are calls on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit groups. The rules do require all prerecorded calls, including market research or polling calls, to identify the caller at the beginning of the message and include a contact phone number. All autodialed or prerecorded non-emergency calls to wireless phones are prohibited without prior expressed consent, regardless of the call's content.
Can I opt out of autodialed calls?
FCC rules require telemarketers to allow you to opt out of receiving additional telemarketing robocalls immediately during a prerecorded telemarketing call through an automated menu. The opt-out mechanism must be announced at the outset of the message and must be available throughout the duration of the call.
How can schools get more information about compliance?
For schools who have questions about compliance with the Commission's robocalls rules, please contact Richard.Smith@fcc.gov
Call Blocking Resources
To arm consumers with information they can use to block or filter unwanted calls, below are resources to help consumers of wireless, traditional landline, and VoIP voice services to stop annoying robocalls.
The descriptions and links below are provided for informational purposes only. The FCC does not endorse any non-FCC product or service, and is not responsible for the content of non-FCC websites, including their accuracy, completeness or timeliness.
Hints for dealing with robocalls have been collected for fixed and mobile (cellular) services.
- AT&T Here are ways we can all prevent, stop, and protect one another from fraud.
- CTIA Blocking robocalls resources page.
- CTIA Step-by-step instructions on how to block individual numbers based on Android, Blackberry, iOS, and Windows operating systems; and list of third party apps to block unwanted calls.
- Google Play Update for phone app for Android Marshmallow device.
- Google Project Fi Call blocking help page for Project Fi wireless service.
- T-Mobile Name ID app for identifying and blocking dangerous calls and texts.
- U.S. Cellular Consumer information and tips for stopping robocalls.
- US Telecom Trade association's consumer education, tools and resources for stopping robocalls.
- Verizon Customer support page for stopping robocalls (includes wireline resources).
- AT&T Nomorobo is a free, third-party service that helps put an end to pre-recorded, automated telemarketing calls.
- AT&T Call Protect service is now available to wireline VoIP customers.
- CenturyLink Customer tips and links to block unwanted calls from home.
- Charter Nomorobo: Block Telemarketers and Robo-Callers.
- Charter (Brighthouse) Can I block calls from specific numbers on my Home Phone?
- Charter (TimeWarner) Get detailed instructions for managing your Phone features.
- Comcast XFINITY customer support on how to set up blocking service for unsolicited robocalls to home.
- Comcast Customer support: call types that can be blocked with XFINITY Voice.
- Cox Customer support video and instructions for managing calls using digital telephone service.
- Frontier Communications Consumer guides on call block and priority calling features.
- NCTA The Internet & TV Association's consumer education resources for preventing robocalls.
- NTCA The Rural Broadband Association's robocall resources for consumers.
- US Telecom Trade association's consumer education, tools and resources for stopping robocalls.
- Verizon Customer support page for stopping robocalls (includes wireless resources).
- West Telecom Services Customer tips for blocking calls and suggestions for reporting "nuisance" calls.
- Federal Trade Commission Consumer information on robocalls from consumer protection agency.
- Federal Trade Commission Limiting unwanted calls and emails.
- Federal Trade Commission What is a Robocall?
- Federal Trade Commission Blocking Unwanted Calls.
- Internal Revenue Service IRS warning on automated phone scam calls; requests for fake tax payments using iTunes gift cards.
- National Do Not Call Registry Registered personal numbers must be removed from telemarketers calls lists.
- National Do Not Call Registry You may file a complaint if you received an unwanted call after your number was on the National Registry for 31 days and you may also file a complaint if you received a call that used a recorded message instead of a live person.
- Consumers Union Join campaign to end illegal robocalls.
- National Consumers League Scammers using robocalls to prey on consumers
Robocall Strike Force Materials
Below are resources and materials relating to the Robocall Strike Force, an industry-led initiative formed in response to a call to action by Chairman Wheeler in July 2016 directing industry to develop an action plan for making available comprehensive solutions to prevent, detect, and filter unwanted robocalls.
- Chairman Pai's Statement on Robocall Strike Force Report (PDF, April 28, 2017)
- Robocall Strike Force Report (PDF, April 28, 2017)
- Robocall Strike Force Report (PDF, Oct. 26, 2016)
- Chairman Wheeler's Analysis of Oct. 26, 2016 Robocall Strike Force Report (PDF)
- Oct. 26, 2016 Robocall Strike Force Meeting
- Aug. 19, 2016 Robocall Strike Force Kickoff Meeting
What is spoofing and how does it work?
"Spoofing" occurs when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Spoofing is often used as part of an attempt to trick someone into giving away valuable personal information so it can be used in fraudulent activity or sold illegally. U.S. law and FCC rules prohibit most types of spoofing.
Caller ID lets consumers avoid unwanted phone calls by displaying caller names and phone numbers, but the caller ID feature is sometimes manipulated by spoofers who masquerade as representatives of banks, creditors, insurance companies, or even the government.
What you can do if you think you're being spoofed
You may not be able to tell right away if an incoming call is spoofed. Be careful about responding to any request for personal identifying information.
- Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother's maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
- If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency seeking personal information, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book or on the company's or government agency's website to verify the authenticity of the request.
- Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
- If you have a voice mail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voice mail if you do not set a password.
Is spoofing illegal?
Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, FCC rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value. If no harm is intended or caused, spoofing is not illegal. Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation. In some cases, spoofing can be permitted by courts for people who have legitimate reasons to hide their information, such as law enforcement agencies working on cases, victims of domestic abuse or doctors who wish to discuss private medical matters.
Is blocking a phone number the same thing as spoofing?
Spoofing is not the same thing as blocking a phone number. FCC rules require telephone companies to make phone number blocking available and free for all calls between states (each state makes its own rules about calls that stay within the state). If you receive a phone call from an "unknown number," that phone number has been blocked, but not necessarily spoofed. Also, you can legally block the transmission of your phone number when you make calls, so your number will appear as "unknown."
What are the FCC rules regarding caller ID for telemarketers?
FCC rules specifically require that a telemarketer:
- Transmit or display its telephone number or the telephone number on whose behalf the call is being made, and, if possible, its name or the name of the company for which it is selling products or services.
- Display a telephone number you can call during regular business hours to ask to no longer be called. This rule applies even to companies that already have an established business relationship with you.
How do I report suspected spoofing?
If you receive a call and you suspect caller ID information has been falsified, or you think the rules for protecting the privacy of your telephone number have been violated, you can file a complaint with the FCC.
'Do Not Call' List
Under FCC rules, anyone making a telephone solicitation call to your home must provide his or her name, the name of the person or entity on whose behalf the call is being made, and the telephone number and address where that person or entity can be contacted. Telephone solicitation calls to your home are prohibited before 8 am or after 9 pm, and telemarketers are required to comply immediately with any do-not-call request you make during a call.
The national Do Not Call list protects home voice or personal wireless phone numbers. You can register your numbers on the national Do Not Call list by phone or on the Internet at no cost.
- To register via the Internet, go to www.donotcall.gov .
- To register by phone, call 1-888-382-1222 (voice) or 1-866-290-4236 (TTY). You must call from the phone number you wish to register.
Callers are prohibited from making telephone solicitations to any numbers on the Do Not Call list. Your numbers will remain on the list until you remove them or discontinue service – there is no need to re-register numbers. Telemarketers must remove your numbers from their call lists and stop calling you within 31 days from the date you register.
What is a telephone solicitation?
A telephone solicitation is a telephone call that acts as an advertisement. However, some phone solicitations are permissible under FCC rules, including: calls or messages placed with your express prior permission, by or on behalf of a tax-exempt non-profit organization, or from a person or organization. However, having an established business relationship no longer meets the rules for permissible unsolicited calls to your landline phone. Companies and telemarketers must have your express permission to call.
Are there any other lists I can register my number with?
Yes. Additionally, many states now have statewide do-not-call lists for residents. Contact your state's public service commission or consumer protection office to see if your state has such a list, and to find out how to register your number or numbers. For contact information for your state public service commission, check the government listings or blue pages of your local phone directory.
If I continue to receive such calls, what can I do?
If you receive a telephone solicitation that you think violates any of the FCC rules, you can file a complaint with the FCC. The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the do-not-call rules, but does not award individual damages.
Unwanted messages to email accounts and texts to mobile phones and other mobile devices – commonly known as "spam" - may seem unavoidable, but FCC rules offer consumers protection and there are steps you can take to reduce the volume of spam you receive.
To reduce the number of unwanted email and texts you receive:
- Be careful about giving out your mobile phone number, email address or any other personal information.
- Read through commercial web forms. Some websites allow you to opt out of receiving email from partners – but you may have to uncheck a preselected box if you want to do so.
- Do not respond to unwanted texts or emails from questionable sources. Several mobile service providers allow you to block the sender by forwarding unwanted texts to 7726 (or "SPAM"). Check with your provider about other options.
- Use a "junk mail" or "spam" email filter.
FCC rules ban text messages sent to a mobile phone using an autodialer unless you previously gave consent to receive the message or the message is sent for emergency purposes. The ban applies even if you have not placed your mobile phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list.
For email and texts sent to your mobile phone:
- For commercial texts, your consent must be in writing.
- For non-commercial, informational texts (such as those sent by or on behalf of tax-exempt non-profit organizations, those for political purposes, and other noncommercial purposes, such as school closings), your consent may be oral.
For commercial email:
- Your consent may be oral or written.
- Senders must tell you the name of the entity that will be sending the messages and, if different, the name of the entity advertising products or services.
- All commercial email messages sent to you after you've given your authorization must allow you to "opt out" of receiving future messages. You must be allowed to opt out the same way you opted in, such as responding with a short code. Senders have 10 days to honor requests to opt out.
While most unsolicited commercial emails and text messages are not banned by law, they are required to include three elements:
- Honest and relevant content about who is sending the message, what the subject is, and a physical address for the marketer.
- A method to "unsubscribe" from future spam.
- Compliance with a set of "sending behavior" practices to help inform and protect consumers, such as including at least one sentence of text and a valid header in each email.
You can file a complaint with the FCC if you receive:
- An unwanted commercial email message sent to your mobile phone.
- An autodialed or prerecorded voice message or text message sent to your mobile phone if you didn't consent to the message previously (or it doesn't involve an emergency).
- Any autodialed text message on your wireless device, or an unwanted commercial message to a non-wireless device from a telecommunications company or advertising a telecommunications company's products or services, if sent without your prior consent.
Federal Trade Commission rules restrict sending unwanted commercial email messages to computers. To find out more or report any spam you believe is fraudulent or deceptive, visit www.ftc.gov/spam.
File a Complaint
You have multiple options for filing complaint with the FCC:
- File your complaint online
- By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL Videophone: 1-844-432-2275
- By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554
Download printable files that can be posted or shared at events or by email to spread the word about what you can do to help stop unwanted calls. All files are in PDF format.
Provides information about the issue, what the FCC is doing about it and what you can do. Two-page format is suitable for front-and-back printing.
Offers similar information as the Consumer Guide in an abbreviated, one-page format that's easier to digest at a glance.
A perfect takeaway for events. Tip cards can either be printed on office or home copiers and folded for distribution, or professionally printed on heavier stock paper.