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How to Prevent Spam Callers From Leaving Voicemail

by on October 15, 2018
in Privacy, News, Phones and Mobile, Blog :: 37 comments

One of the simplest ways to manage unwanted calls and telemarketing spam is to block your phone from ringing, routing the incoming call to voicemail. Callers will have to leave a message, and many telemarketers won't bother. But some callers, especially the robocalls, will, flooding your mailbox with sketchy debt relief or vacation club offers.

Unfortunately, preventing spam callers from leaving a voicemail on your cell phone can be tricky. But there are a few options that really do work if you’re on the right carrier, the right phone or willing to change the way you manage your phone calls.

Blocking Calls on iPhones

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 big 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, this won’t block the majority of spam calls we get. Second, those blocked calls still go to voicemail, though you won't get a notification. So, this isn’t really much help.

Blocking Calls on Android Phones

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.

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 Caller ID & spam, and make sure both the Caller ID & spam and Filter spam calls switches are toggled on. This feature still sends those calls to voicemail, however.

One exciting development is a new feature for Pixel phones that will allow Google Assistant to 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. Initially, you still have to read the transcript and take action, which may be more of a pain than simply answering the call yourself. Hopefully, Google will add the option to auto-hangup if it can tell it’s a robocaller.

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 all block calls, because of restrictions placed on apps by the Android and iOS operating systems, none can stop those calls from going to voicemail.

I strongly recommend going with one of the brand name choices, such as Hiya or Truecaller. Personally, I prefer Hiya (which whitelabels 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. Better yet, Hiya is free for Android and iOS and gets excellent reviews on both platforms. Hiya also offers a $2.99 per month premium version for iOS with more advanced caller ID, name lookups, and more frequent spam updates (3x/day vs 1x/day on the free version).

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 voice mail 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 that takes some work to transition. 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 should 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). And all the carriers have some level of blocking on their networks to weed out the most obvious and egregious spammers. Yet, while the FCC has been working with carriers to develop more robust tools, options are still limited, and carriers have been very slow at implementing technology to make the robocall problem go away entirely.

Call blocking on AT&T

Of the four major carriers, AT&T has the most effective tools for blocking spam calls and it’s the only one that actually lets you stop these calls from going to voicemail. The drawback is you have to pay $3.99 a month for the privilege.

At a basic level, AT&T postpaid customers with HD Voice Android and iOS phones can activate AT&T’s free Call Protect service on their accounts. Call Protect will block known spam calls entirely, preventing them from leaving a voicemail. And with the companion Android or iOS app you can also block specific numbers.

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, debt collectors, telemarketers, surveys, and general spam. You can choose to have these calls go to voicemail or be blocked entirely. Unfortunately, there is no option to block local number spoofing.

Call blocking on Sprint

Sprint has the weakest offering of the four main carriers. Their Premium Caller ID service provides caller information on incoming calls, including spam warnings, but that’s it. There’s no option to block known spam calls or prevent them from going to voicemail. And, you have to pay $2.99 a month for this basically useless feature.

Call blocking on T-Mobile

T-Mobile sits in the middle when it comes to spam call protections. For postpaid customers, T-Mobile’s free Scam ID service is automatically activated and will notify you of potential spam calls. But what you really want is their Scam Block feature, which will block these calls from ever reaching your device and prevent the caller from leaving a voicemail. Scam Block is also free but requires you to manually activate it, which you can do simply by dialing #662# from your phone (you can also disable it by dialing #632# if it is blocking any valid calls). There is no option to block categories of calls or neighborhood spoofing. Though, for $4 a month, you can get the not-very-useful Name ID service with more advanced caller ID and caller category info.

Call blocking on Verizon

Verizon’s Caller Name ID service will identify likely spam callers and give you the option of automatically blocking them based on risk level: High Risk, Medium Risk or All Risk Levels. However, those blocked calls will still go to voicemail and Caller ID requires a $2.99 per month subscription fee – in essence, you’re getting the same level of blocking that Android provides for free, but Verizon is charging you for it. Er, no thanks.

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. Prevention is better than cure, after all. And we have advice for blocking spam on your landline, too.

[Image credit: scam call via Shutterstock]

Updated on 10/15/2018 with new recommendations



Discussion loading

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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?

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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.

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title is incorrect

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

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

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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.

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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

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call block

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

Can someone call me so i can see if this is working? 206 519 0555

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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..

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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.

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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!!!

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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

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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.

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My current phone is an

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

My current phone is an LG Stylo 3

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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.

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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

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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)

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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?

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?!?!?

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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