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How to Prevent Spam Callers From Leaving Voicemail

by on July 15, 2021
in Privacy, News, Phones and Mobile, Blog :: 85 comments

Techlicious editors independently review products. To help support our mission, we may earn affiliate commissions from links contained on this page.

Blocking of spam callers has gotten better, with many carriers implementing STIR/SHAKEN (more on that below) and other carrier-based methods of preventing spam callers before they ever ring on your phone. But even with the newest technologies, it's clear from comments from our readers and our own experience that plenty of spam callers are still getting through. And if you don't answer those calls, they'll fill up your mailbox with sketchy messages about your car warranty or vacation club offers.

Unfortunately, preventing spam callers from leaving a voicemail on your cell phone can be tricky. We've researched the options from each carrier and tested a number of call blocking apps to see what really works. Here are the solutions we've found for blocking spam calls and voicemails directly through your phone, via your carrier or a third-party app, and the features and limitations of each method.

Blocking Calls on iPhones (but not voicemail)

On iPhones running iOS 8 or higher, go the Recent Calls tab in the Phone app, tap the “i” icon at the right of the number that you want to block. If the number is in your Contacts list, open that contact’s page in the Contacts app. From the contact page for the caller or contact, scroll to the bottom of the page and tap Block This Caller.

But this method has two drawbacks. First, someone has to call you in order to block the number. And since spammers rarely use the same number, or use the “neighborhood spoofing” technique (where they use your area code and three number prefix), this won’t block the majority of spam calls we get. Second, those blocked calls still go to voicemail, though theses voicemails show up in a "Blocked Messages" folder at the bottom of your list of voicemails and you won't get a notification.

You can also choose to silence unknown callers – anyone who is not listed in your iPhone's Contacts. Your iPhone won't ring, but the calls will show up in recent calls and you'll see voicemail in your regular voicemail inbox.

Blocking Calls on Android Phones (and voicemail on Pixel)

Android has built-in call blocking, similar to iOS. Just tap a number in your call log and hit Block/report spam. And like Apple, this method has the two same drawbacks – the spammer has to call your first and blocked callers still go to voicemail.

Android also has the option in the Phone app settings to automatically identify and block suspected spam calls so they don’t ring your device. It should be on by default, but you can check by going to "Settings" in your Phone app, then "Spam and Call Screen," and make sure the " See caller & spam ID" is toggled on. This feature still sends those calls to voicemail, however.

If you have a Google Pixel phone, you can choose to have Google Assistant answer a suspected spam call and transcribe the conversation in real time, so you can decide if you want to answer the call or hang up. And since Google Assistant already picked up the call, hanging up won’t send it to voicemail. To turn it on, go to "Settings" in your Phone app, then "Spam and Call Screen," and make sure the " See caller & spam ID" is toggled on. Tap "Call Screen." Under “Unknown call settings,” tap the types of callers you’d like to screen "Spam," "Possibly faked numbers," "First-time callers," and "Private or hidden."

Spam Blocking Apps for Android & iOS

There are dozens of apps in the Apple App Store and Google Play that are labeled as call blockers. But you have to be very careful about which you install – you’re giving them full access to your phone, texts, contacts and more, meaning there’s a lot of potential for misuse. And each of those apps will only perform as well as the technology (and the blacklist) running it. Also, while these apps will block calls, because of restrictions placed on apps by the Android and iOS operating systems, most won't stop those calls from going to voicemail.

However, the Call Control app for Android will actually block robocalls from leaving voicemail. Calls on your blocklist, neighborhood spoofing calls and calls identified by Call Control's community blocking are simply dropped – no ring, no mailbox filling up with crap you have to delete. At $29.99 per year, it's not cheap, but that's in line with other major call blockers, such as Hiya or Truecaller, that don't offer the voicemail blocking capabilities. Call Control does have a free offering, which blocks neighborhood spoofing numbers but not numbers on the community blocklist; if most of the calls you receive are of that variety, you can get away with this option.

Unfortunately, Call Control for iOS doesn't offer the voicemail blocking because of limitations Apple puts on iOS device access, so you're probably better off with Hiya& or Truecaller, who have larger community blocking lists. Personally, I prefer Hiya which white-labels its technology to Samsung, AT&T and others, has an extensive community-driven blacklist, allows you to block neighborhood spoofing calls, and even provides caller ID features that you would usually have to pay for with your carrier. Hiya is $2.99 per month or $14.99 per year.

Blocking via Google Voice

Google Voice provides another way to block pesky spam calls and prevent them from going to voicemail. The trick is you need to switch to Google Voice as your main number and stop giving out your old carrier number. With Voice, you can block known spam calls in three ways: by sending calls to voicemail, by treating the call as spam (letting the caller leave voicemail but tagged as spam) or by call blocking (in which case the caller will hear a “Number not in service” message and will not be able to leave voice mail).

The big drawback here is that your Google Voice number now becomes your main number, which you forward to the number from your carrier, and you need to use the Google Voice app as your main calling app on your phone. And there’s still no guarantee that spam callers won’t call your carrier number directly, either because it’s already out there (learn how telemarketers get your number) or simply because the robodialers are going through every number combination.

Carrier-level blocking

Truly effective call blocking and voicemail prevention needs to be at the carrier level – it’s the carriers who have the technical capability to identify call origination sources and create services that prevent spam and blocked calls from going to voicemail (since they’re the ones that control the voicemail service). Under the TRACED Act that took effect last year, carriers can now finally block suspected spam calls before they reach your device.

The FCC has also been working with carriers for years to deploy a technology called STIR/SHAKEN, which authenticates calls. When a call originates, the caller ID is "signed" as legitimate and is validated each step of the way, as it moves from network to network, before reaching you. The major carriers have implemented STIR/SHAKEN and are starting to show when a number has been verified. This can show up as a "verified number," "caller verified," or "valid number." On iPhones running iOS 13 or higher, you'll see a check mark under calls in your Recent Calls list that have been verified. Right now, the lack of these verification labels doesn't mean that the number is spoofed. It just means that numbers with the tag have successfully validated all the way through the call routing and you can know the number isn't spoofed.

Soon your carrier may start blocking calls that haven't been validated. According to a recent FCC statement (PDF document), "Beginning on September 28, 2021, if a voice service provider’s certification does not appear in the database, intermediate and voice service providers will be prohibited from directly accepting the provider’s traffic." This could be a big advancement, since nearly 95 percent of all robocalls originate on small networks, according to a recent study by Transaction Network Services, an anti-robocalling technology company. We will have to see how the robocallers adapt.

In the meantime, all the major carriers offer various flavors of spam blocking services, some free and some which you have the privilege of paying extra for.

Call blocking on AT&T

At a basic level, AT&T postpaid customers can activate AT&T’s free Call Protect service on their accounts with the Call Protect app. Call Protect will block known spam calls entirely, preventing them from leaving a voicemail, and let you block specific numbers. You'll also see "Valid Number" if the call has been verified.

If you want more features, you can upgrade to Call Protect Plus for a pricey $3.99 a month. Call Protect Plus users can block categories of calls, including: private callers, political calls, telemarketers, account services, and general spam. You can choose to have these calls go to voicemail or be blocked entirely. And, you can do reverser number lookup, to see who's calling

Call blocking on T-Mobile (and Sprint)

Even though T-Mobile and Sprint have merged, call blocking is still handled separately.

T-Mobile customers can download and use the free Scam Shield app to be notified when scam calls come in or block spam calls and prevent the caller from leaving a voicemail. You can also turn on T-Mobile's scam blocking by dialing #662# and pressing the call button. You'll also see "Caller Verified," if the call has been verified.

For $4 a month, Scam Shield Premium lets you send categories of calls, like telemarketing calls, survey calls, political calls, and charity calls, straight to voicemail. And, you can do reverse number lookup, to see who's calling.

Former Sprint customers can use the free Sprint Call Screener app, which comes preloaded on most Android phones and can be downloaded for iPhones. The app automatically identifies callers and will show verified calls as "Verified Number." You can also set up a personalized call blocking list.

Call blocking on Verizon

Verizon's Call Filter service offers spam blocking for free. You'll get a warning of incoming likely spam and can send those calls to voicemail. With the app, you can block spam calls by risk level (either send to voicemail or hang up), report calls to improve Verizon's community blocking list, and add neighborhood spoofing protection. For $2.99, you can get Call Filter Plus, which offers more advanced caller ID, including viewing incoming-call risk level, and reverse number lookup features.

While all of the options above will help you block calls and, in some cases, stop spammers from leaving a voicemail, the best way to prevent these calls in the first place is to learn how telemarketers get your cell phone number – and then don’t let them have it.

[Image credit: scam call via Shutterstock]

Updated on 7/15/2021 with new recommendations

Josh Kirschner is the co-founder of Techlicious and has been covering consumer tech for more than a decade. He covers privacy and consumer protection issues, as well as anything that ties into his passion for food and cycling.



Discussion loading

Extreme Call Blocker

From Anej on August 26, 2016 :: 11:22 am

Is it wise to allow installation of applications from unknown sources? That is what one must do to install Extreme Call Blocker’s trial version. Do you allow and then immediately after download disallow?

Reply

Are you sure you installed the right app?

From Josh Kirschner on August 26, 2016 :: 1:40 pm

I just downloaded the free version of Extreme Call Blocker from Google Play and there was no need to install from unknown source.

Reply

title is incorrect

From jeff on September 08, 2016 :: 12:03 pm

This is not how to keep them from leaving a message.

Reply

Did you try Extreme Call

From Suzanne Kantra on September 09, 2016 :: 10:53 am

Did you try Extreme Call Blocker? Just tried the app again to confirm it’s working for numbers you input to be blocked from leaving messages. The app also uses spam list from the FCC to screen out spam callers, which won’t be a 100% solution but should help.

Reply

blocker

From stephen alexopoulos on June 15, 2020 :: 4:32 pm

do the extreme call bloaker blocks all calls except my contact list

Reply

you can do this on your land line too

From Rob Latour on September 18, 2016 :: 12:21 pm

using a windows program I wrote called CallClerk -  it can block the call automatically after the caller id info comes in

Reply

call block

From Mr. Washington on March 29, 2017 :: 2:44 pm

Can someone call me so i can see if this is working? [PERSONAL INFO REMOVED BY EDITOR]

Reply

Me Too

From Ralph on August 27, 2019 :: 4:15 pm

I tried it too. Can someone call me to see if it works?  [PERSONAL INFO REMOVED BY EDITOR]

Reply

You people are idiots for

From N.A. on September 11, 2019 :: 12:33 pm

You people are idiots for publishing your number to the entirety of the Internet. No wonder you get spam calls.

Reply

Totally agree

From Keith on December 09, 2019 :: 4:25 pm

I fully agree, never publish number to internet f

lol

From fredjohnson on April 16, 2020 :: 3:22 pm

lol

LOL

From Rebecca on June 19, 2020 :: 1:51 pm

LOL

IDIOT

From Dron Biots on December 22, 2020 :: 12:33 pm

You are an idiot for publishing your number on a thread where we are talking about getting spam calls. Like an AA Meeting happening in a liquor store. Evolution is going backwards. Please keep voting for Donald Trump.

Reply

You are incredibly stupid and clueless

From Toby on June 02, 2021 :: 1:46 pm

Here’s some news for you- the only stupid knuckledgragger here with regards to politics is YOU.
Anyone who voted for a known rapist, racist, bigot, and admitted career criminal in Joe Biden shows everyone how stupid they are.
Yeah, keep voting for Joe Biden, and watch America destroyed by morons like you.

Reply

Lol

From Wakeelah on August 01, 2021 :: 8:33 am

No, that is a biden voter!

Reply

Really?

From Disgusted on October 01, 2021 :: 11:13 pm

Really? You can’t insult these idiots without introducing your own political biases? Simpleton!

Reply

To idiot

From Man on October 15, 2021 :: 10:27 am

I can see why you called yourself IDIOT. You did not vote for Donald Trump.

Reply

Extreme Call Blocker doesn't work on Marshmallow or above

From Scott on April 10, 2017 :: 3:51 pm

Like the subject line says, unless you’re using an older version of Android, the “pick up and hang up” function of all call blockers no longer works. Guess who you can thank? Google! I guess the telemarketers and bill collectors got to them?

Reply

Yeah that sounds about right.

From Betty on March 12, 2020 :: 11:39 am

Yeah that sounds about right. We used to be able to trust Google with no exceptions and now…???

Reply

AT&T Users

From Charles on August 04, 2017 :: 4:43 pm

Download AT&T Call Protect - it will send calls to a busy signal. Just called the carrier and they directed me toward the app. It’s free and works perfectly.

Reply

You selling it?

From Marie B-Mollison on August 05, 2017 :: 5:36 am

So does it not send block calls to vm? Just rejects them? Thx

Reply

AT&T Call Protect

From Charles on August 05, 2017 :: 5:52 pm

Yes. It automatically hangs up on the person. I did a trial with my work cell phone it automatically disconnects.

Reply

Blocking robocalls

From Stop Robocalls on October 11, 2017 :: 1:25 am

Hey,
  I agreed that robocalls or ex’s calls are really annoying for you any your family. Thanks for this great blog, I appreciate your efforts. This is very helpful for everyone who want to get relief from these types of calls. I know some of apps like truecaller, hiya and so on..

Reply

YouMail

From Wendy Larson on October 21, 2017 :: 11:22 am

You didn’t mention YouMail. This voice mail app gives blocked callers the no longer in service message. Blocked calls don’t ring though, but it shows that they called in the app. You can access your messages in the app and online. With the paid subscription you can get voice mail to text among other options.

Reply

I got a Cricket account w/ Samsung phone

From John C Castiglione on October 23, 2017 :: 2:02 pm

How do I stop certain numbers from leaving a voicemail. Tried a few apps including Extreme Call Blocker. None Work…HELP!!!

Reply

Spammers Leaving Messages but Doesn't Show in Incoming Log

From Mike Volpone on November 21, 2017 :: 5:46 pm

I keep getting messages on my iPhone 6 where the person asks if I’m ready to borrow that money we discussed (never happened). Their phone number shows but when I go to my incoming or missed call log to block their number, there is nothing there…

Anybody know what to do??

Thanks in advance,

Mike

Reply

No longer blocks voice mail

From Cindy on February 08, 2018 :: 10:30 pm

I’ve had this app a year or so and got the paid version. It did fine for a while although I had to use their messaging app to block texts. Not crazy about that. Lately it hasn’t kept blocked callers from leaving voice mail (in the past it happened only occasionally) and I’m very disappointed about that especially since I have the paid version. I used to use an app called Dead2Me which I really liked until I got an Android kitkat and had to use their messaging app too. Now Dead2Me isn’t even listed in Google Play anymore. I can’t find any app that blocks voice mail; I’ve tried several.

Reply

My current phone is an

From Cindy on February 08, 2018 :: 10:34 pm

My current phone is an LG Stylo 3

Reply

Yes, stopped working with recent Android updates

From Josh Kirschner on February 09, 2018 :: 1:23 am

Unfortunately, the ability for apps to stop calls from going to voicemail stopped working with a recent Android update. This is a Google thing, not an app thing. I don’t know of any apps currently that can do this, which is very disappointing.

Reply

Well that stinks :( Went

From Cindy on February 13, 2018 :: 9:57 am

Well that stinks :( Went through the same a few years back with text blocker app. Dead2Me worked perfectly until I got a newer phone and had to use their texting app. Couldn’t find any text blocker that worked with my default text app and found out Google caused that, too. Google needs to myob on our phones. If we want to block texts or someone from leaving vm, we should have the right.

I tried increasing the answer/hangup time to as much as 10 seconds and it still went to vm.

I have since installed YouMail and while it doesn’t technically block vm, you can block a number and they’ll get a message that the number is disconnected. You can assign different greetings for different callers too. One number I set to always get a busy signal. Also, my phone will block texts without having to install some silly texting app smile

Reply

Two apps that block voicemail

From Kevin on May 21, 2018 :: 10:31 am

There’s 2 apps that block callers from leaving a voicemail even if you are on the latest Android os. PF Visual Voicemail and YouMail visual Voicemail work perfectly with my phone running Android Oreo (os v8.0)

Reply

Irony

From asfd dsfasd on April 13, 2018 :: 10:21 am

Does anyone else see the irony in an anti-spam article having two popup windows appear when reading the article?

Reply

this site sucks!!!! SCAM

From AD SLAYER 1.0 on May 02, 2018 :: 10:55 am

AND THIS SITE LOADS, 75 ADS, WHEN YOU ACCESS IT? COME ON GUYS…

Reply

Beware developer website domain is for sale

From r meinrt on May 03, 2018 :: 7:21 am

I’d caution would-be purchasers.  the domain http://www.a0softus.com/ is parked and for sale.

Reply

blocking UNKNOWN caller from leaving voicemail

From Rhonda L Beitel on May 03, 2018 :: 9:08 am

I already have CALL PROTECT from ATT and that works beautifully.  The person harassing me has purchased dozens of phone numbers and the numbers are not showing up now as he has blocked it by using UNKNOWN caller. I need to know how to prevent UNKNOWN caller from leaving a voicemail in my phone.  Does anyone know?  Thank you.

Reply

I wish there were

From Josh Kirschner on May 07, 2018 :: 5:05 pm

Unfortunately, there is no good way that we’re aware of to stop callers from leaving voicemail. I wish there were because I share your frustration. This capability used to be available in Android, but is no longer.

If anyone knows of a solution, we would love to hear about it.

Reply

Stop Blocked Calls Going To Voicemail

From Samuel Presley on June 15, 2018 :: 3:44 am

To You All:

If Your Carrier Allows You To Use Call Forwarding When Busy and Also To Remove the number for the
voicemail in that line only then you can use something like the humor hotline Reject Message to
stop all blocked callers from leaving voicemails
and ringing your device and only beeping 1 time
when you are on a call and a blocked caller tries
calling you when you are already on a call…

Works very well just remember:

if you are are talking so someone on mail line
and then someone you trust calls who isnt
blocked calls you and you take their call thru
call waiting then basically your phone is busy
and EVERYONE who calls at that time BLOCKED or
not will be forwarded to the humor hotline
Number for reject message that you previously
added above… There is no way to stop this
unless you can find a way tp get a constant busy
signal number that works with call forwarding
when busy.

Also remember that your carrier has to let you
chasnge the number in your phone’s call
forwarding when busy section.

This does work to Keep as i said Blocked Callers
from leaving voicemails or ringing your device
and you hearing only 1 call waiting beep if you
are already on a inbound or outbound call…

If you need help email me at
sammypresley@gmail.com

Reply

Stop Blocked Calls Going To Voicemail

From Samuel Presley on June 15, 2018 :: 3:47 am

forgot to tell you all to get the humor hotline
reject message number you can google search for it
and itll pop up .

sammypresleyatgmaildotcom

Reply

Preventing voicemails

From Mansi on July 09, 2018 :: 2:19 pm

I have had a certain number blocked on my iPhone 7 and that worked but it gathers them at the bottom of all your regular voicemails under the title “ blocked calls” but the person was able to leave a message.  Now that person learned to block their number * 67 and the call shows up as “ unknown caller” .  They are able to leave a voicemail with your other voicemails that shows up as “ unknown”.  I have not figured out how to stop it.

Reply

This does not answer the question

From Dustin Ducklow on August 01, 2018 :: 11:48 am

Why do you title it how to prevent callers from leaving voicemail if it doesn’t answer that.  I already know how to block calls.  The problem is I get up to 4 voicemails a day from the same robo caller.  How does sending them straight to voicemail solve anything?

Reply

It used to, then Android changed...

From Josh Kirschner on August 01, 2018 :: 3:22 pm

As you can read in the editor’s note above, when this article was originally written in 2016 there were tools that let you block callers from leaving voicemail. Unfortunately, updates to Android removed that capability and now we’re left with just the call blocking features.

Reply

As Stated By Others

From Craig on October 12, 2018 :: 1:59 pm

Voicemail is being accessed by spamers; It is stated the issue is Android is the issue.  Why is this not fixed?!?!?

Reply

AT&T does allow VM blocking

From Kimberly Mahaffey on September 27, 2018 :: 10:47 am

If you have AT&T then you can upgrade your Call Protect (which is free) to the Call Protect Plus at $3.99/mo. I believe. With Plus you will have the option to allow calls to go to VM or not.

Reply

Thanks, Kimberly

From Josh Kirschner on October 16, 2018 :: 11:11 am

We’ve updated the story and Call Protect is now listed as one of the options (one of the only options that actually blocks calls from going to voicemail).

Best,
Josh

Reply

Rubbish article

From Toad Hall on October 10, 2018 :: 7:21 pm

“learn how they get your cell phone number — and then don’t let them have it. “

Damned stupid suggestion. I have never given my number to anyone except immediate family. The spammers just call every number one after the other until they find a live phone

Reply

Blocking doesnt work

From Maria on November 01, 2018 :: 11:24 am

I have call blocking, on my phone and on my voice mail.

There are some spam calls that don’t show up on my phone or incoming phone call list.  These numbers do show up on the voice mail I use, but even though I block them, they still come through.  I have to manually block them for some reason instead of just doing the “block number” bit by hitting the “block number” feature.

No matter HOW I block these numbers, they STILL get through, but they DO NOT show up on my ID caller screen.

There is also a scam robo caller with a prerecorded message that even gives a phone number.  (yes it IS a scam, I’ve done my research)  And no matter what I do, even though the number shows up on both the phone and the voice mail, it keeps coming through.

I keep having to change my phone number to escape these psycho calls, but they end up finding my phone number again.

And putting my phone number on the Do Not Call Registry doesn’t do any good.

Even filing complaints on these scammers and their numbers to the FCC doesn’t do any good.

There’s got to be a program that can deal with scam numbers.  For example:  If the phone number isn’t listed with a name and address online or in any online phone book, it doesn’t allow the call to get through if it’s on your list.

There’s got to be a solution for this somewhere.

Reply

Disabling Call Forward works - Try It

From Debbie on November 10, 2018 :: 6:25 pm

Had the same issue ... blocked calls kept getting through to VM. I found out from my carrier, Freedom Mobile (formerly Wind Mobile) last year that ‘Call Forwarding’(CF) is the default setting on mobile phones. They explained that CF is UNCONDITIONAL; meaning regardless of blocked or not, all incoming, unanswered, calls to to VM. Blocked call features on phones, while CF is activated only block the phone from ringing, but the caller has no idea, as the ring is just turned off.

When my phone had to be factory reset during repair, the issue re-occurred because it reset to defaults.

Contact your provider and determine how to turn off CF and your phone will utilize the blocked feature as intended without UNCONDITIONAL CF.

It may be the same on all android, or just for Freedom mobile, but here is how I turn mine off, as an example:

To disable CF: dial ##21#
To enable CF:  dial *21##
To disable CF for specific numbers:  dial*21*phonenumber#

As I say, worth a try or a call to your carrier. Problem with the apps to do this is security.

Cheers!
Debbie

Reply

Not clear how that would work as intended

From Josh Kirschner on November 12, 2018 :: 7:23 pm

Shutting off call forwarding may prevent calls from going to voicemail, but it will prevent ALL calls from going to voicemail, not just spam calls.

Reply

It works by shutting off the 'Unconditional' Voicemail Activation

From Debbie on November 14, 2018 :: 9:03 pm

Best I can explain based on the technical support I received, call forward activation is unconditional call forward. Conditional voicemail is already in place as long as your plan comes with voicemail. Blocking a caller is a condition of voicemail in normal voice mail mode. As I said, it works for me when I originally did it and when my phone was reset to factory settings. No harm in trying it, is all I’m saying. Disable Unconditional Voicemail and perhaps call yourself from a landline to see if you go to your voicemail. Unless you’ve blocked your own number, it should. Can also try blocking and unblocking your own number, once you’re disabled it, to see the difference. If it doesn’t work, turn your Unconditional Voicemail back on, and you’re back where you started.

Reply

I just tried this (entering

From Cindy on February 24, 2019 :: 1:30 pm

I just tried this (entering the code to prevent specific numbers from forwarding), and instead, it forwarded ALL my calls TO the number I was trying to prevent from being forwarded.

Reply

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