Caller ID has been helping us screen calls from telemarketers, ex-partners, and overly chatty relatives since the late 1980s.

Nevertheless, spam callers keep finding new ways to get around it.

In fact, it’s gotten so bad that a prevailing opinion these days is to avoid picking up any call that doesn’t come from one of your contacts—and even new phones are coming out with stock features that can send unknown callers directly to voicemail.

But what if you miss an emergency call from someone at your kid’s school, or an important call from your doctor’s new office number?

For unpredictable reasons like these, many people continue to rely on traditional caller ID and its available alternatives to help keep unwanted calls at bay. 

Using Your Carrier’s Caller ID

Despite its shortcomings, traditional caller ID is still included in most modern phones and service plans these days.

Meanwhile, lower-tier plans from major providers and smaller or regional providers tend to offer base-level caller ID services that only show the number that’s calling. 

In an attempt to address the pitfalls of traditional caller ID, large cell providers are now offering enhanced caller ID services as part of their higher-tiered plans.

These services vary between carriers, but they generally offer a better caller ID database and more features to combat spam. Here’s an overview of what some of the major U.S. carriers offer:

Verizon: Verizon’s Call Filter is a service that identifies incoming callers by name and provides spam warnings. It also lets customers block unwanted calls.

AT&T: AT&T’s ActiveArmor service offers automatic fraud blocking and suspected spam warnings. Customers can also customize call-blocking settings based on their preferences.

T-Mobile: T-Mobile’s Scam Shield includes Scam ID and Scam Block features, which help customers identify and block potential scam calls.

Sprint: Sprint’s Premium Caller ID service gives customers caller ID information, including the name, city, and state of the caller.

All in all, these features may offer greater protection from spam callers, but they still have their flaws. 

One significant issue with carrier caller ID is a lack of standardization. Each carrier manages its own caller ID database, which means caller ID information is often outdated and unable to keep up with the capabilities of Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) technology used by many spam callers.

In any case, relying on carrier-based solutions alone might never be enough because spam callers frequently change up their tactics.

Number spoofing is one such tactic that keeps popping back up. It’s a technique scammers use to manipulate caller ID information so that your phone shows you a trusted number in hopes of tricking you into answering a call you might otherwise ignore.

How to enable caller ID on your phone

No matter how weak or flawed caller ID might be, it’s still better than nothing. It also only works if you have it turned on, so it’s a good idea to know how to enable it on your device. 


  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap on Phone.
  3. Under the Calls section, ensure that Show My Caller ID is toggled to the on position.


  1. Open the Phone app.
  2. Tap the three-dot menu icon and select Settings.
  3. Look for Caller ID & Spam or a similar option and ensure it’s enabled or toggled on.

Caller ID Apps

If you’re frustrated by all the spam calls making it through your carrier’s caller ID, there are other third-party apps that can help. These provide advanced features that can potentially identify and block the spam calls that get through the cracks. 

Keep in mind that most of these apps require a subscription to access their best features without ads—so you’ll have to pay if you want better defense against unwanted calls without interruptions. 

Here’s an overview of some caller ID apps we recommend testing out:


Claiming to be the “World’s best caller ID and spam blocking app,” Truecaller offers a free version of its app to identify calls and block spam. Ultimately, the price you pay for access to these features is having to tolerate in-app advertising.

Truecaller’s premium plans start at $9.99 per year, which includes the basic feature listed above, only ad-free. The company also offers other more expensive plans that include features like contact management, call recording, advanced spam blocking, call screening, incognito mode, and more. 

Availability: iOS and Android


Hiya is a simple but powerful app with a free version that lets you identify the calls you want and block the numbers you want to avoid. 

Hiya also offers a package of premium features for $3.99 per month or $24.99 annually. These features include call screening, voicemail protection, spoofed call protection, and reverse phone lookup. 

Availability: iOS and Android


CallApp is another caller ID and spam-blocking app that offers additional features for paid users.

The free version of this app comes with impressive features beyond caller ID and spam blocking. These include call recording, video ringtones, and the ability to send a WhatsApp message to any number, even if you haven’t saved it as a contact.

The premium features cost $1.99 per month, including unlimited custom video ringtones, unlimited call recordings, and access to app profile views and calling insights.

Availability: Android only

Mr. Number Lookup and Call Block

From the makers of Hiya, Mr. Number is an app that combines advanced caller ID and spam blocking features with a phone number lookup feature.

Mr. Number also lets you manage your own call block list and help others by reporting spam. It includes a native integration for the iOS incoming call screen, call logs, and call blocking.

The above features are only available for paid users. Subscriptions start at $3.99 annually or a one-time payment of $74.99 for lifetime access. 

Availability: iOS and Android


Whoscall is a caller ID app with a suite of advanced spam-management features in its free version.

It lets you block spam and screen unknown callers so you can pick up only calls you want. The app offers a green badge system for verified callers from its extensive database and an unknown numbers search feature.

The premium version of Whoscall costs $1.99 per month or $19.99 annually. This fee removes ads and gets you two more features: an auto spam call blocker and a number database that updates automatically. If you stick with the free version, you must manually screen calls and update the database.

Availability: iOS and Android


TrapCall is a caller ID unmasking service that reveals the identity of blocked and unknown numbers. It also includes automatic spam blocking to stop unwanted calls before you have to deal with them.

Along with the above, Trapcall also features voicemail transcription, allows users to create their own blacklist to block specific numbers from calling, and provides missed call alerts.

TrapCall offers a fully-featured trial for one week. After that, you can buy a subscription for a one-time payment of $9.99.

Availability: iOS and Android

Remember to consider one of these apps if you’re experiencing frustration from a high volume of spam calls that your carrier’s built-in features aren’t able to weed out. 

Even if you’re not dealing with a ton of spammers, but you value your privacy, these apps will give more control over who can contact you.

Manual Caller ID Options

If you want to take a more hands-on approach to blocking spam calls or dig deeper into the origins of unknown calls, manual options like reverse phone lookup services can help.

Reverse phone lookup services are valuable tools that can give you information about the owner of a phone number—but the specific details available and accuracy can vary depending on what service you use.

Here are some manual lookup options to consider:

Unknown number lookup apps

Several of the third-party apps above also offer features that let you look up unknown callers. When a caller you don’t recognize shows up on your phone, you can use the apps to look up the number and instantly get details about who is calling.

Google Phone App

For Android users, the Google Phone app includes a built-in caller ID feature that identifies businesses and spam calls. It also gives real-time information about incoming calls, allowing you to choose whether to answer or decline.

For Google Pixel users specifically, Google has been including a call screening feature since 2018 that speaks to the caller and asks for more information before answering the phone. The screening service also provides a live-transcript of anything the caller says, allowing the user to have Google’s assistant ask the caller to state the reason for their call, call back later, or even remove the user from their call list—all without having to say a word. 


WhitePages is a comprehensive online directory that offers reverse phone lookup services. When a phone number you don’t recognize shows up on your phone, you can enter it into the WhitePages directory to discover the associated name and location.


If you’re looking for a group of people as committed to stopping spam as you are, WhoCallsMe might be a good choice. It’s a community-driven platform where members share information about unknown numbers.

When you search for a number, you access a collective database of experiences that will help you decide whether to pick up a call from it.

Create your spam-blocking strategy

When it comes to blocking spam calls, carrier caller ID services clearly have much room for improvement. 

Caller ID apps, on the other hand, are often much more responsive to the ever-changing tactics of spammers. They typically have advanced features, better databases, and narrower scopes to protect you from unwanted calls. 

Alternatively, for those with the extra time or interest, looking up numbers and blocking them manually can add another level of protection. 

Still, at the end of the day, your best bet for combating spam calls may be to develop a multi-layered strategy that combines all of the methods from above.

It might take some time, effort, and a bit of cash, but if spam calls are disrupting your life and impacting your privacy, it could be worth it to help you regain control over your phone and your privacy.