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How to Prevent Spam Callers From Leaving Voicemail

by on July 15, 2019
in Privacy, News, Phones and Mobile, Blog :: 59 comments

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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 (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 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 Google 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, most won't stop those calls from going to voicemail.

However, I recently reviewed the Call Control app for Android, and it's the first one I've tried that actually will 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 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. Hiya is $2.99 per month.

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 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. 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, which is a huge drawback.

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, and there is no community reporting process to flag new spam callers as they pop up.

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 Call Filter service now offers basic 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 also report calls to improve Verizon's community blocking list. But there's no neighborhood spoofing protection, nor can you stop calls from filling up your mailbox. For $2.99, you can get Call Filter Plus, which offers more advanced caller ID and reverse number lookup features, along with some other not-super-helpful personal spam list options. 

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 7/15/2019 with new recommendations



Discussion loading

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have your carrier totally disable call forwarding when busy

From SAM PRESLEY on May 15, 2019 :: 11:57 am

If you have your cell carrier disable CWFB - call forward when busy on your line then blocked calls cant ring your device or leave voicemails because the blocked number calling will only hear 3 rings in their ear then total silence.

I live in USA wa state and having turned off CFWB thru tmobile did the trick and no more voicemails from blocked numbe tr s.

I dont know why you all aren’t paying attention to my previous post about this.

It’s no joke and works perfectly to stop voicemails from 3rd party as apps that normally as well as android phone reject list.

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Known Spammers Dont Answer

From John on May 23, 2019 :: 8:46 pm

Figured I would put a list of scammers that called me and a couple of my friends. That way robots could pick them up and call them.
843-485-xxxx

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Please stop posting these numbers on our site

From Josh Kirschner on May 24, 2019 :: 9:09 am

Spammers spoof numbers. Posting a list of numbers from spam calls is likely just posting a list of completely innocent people. We’ve removed the numbers from your post.

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How to Prevent Spam Callers From Leaving Voicemail

From P. D. Mahoney on July 16, 2019 :: 4:15 pm

Hey, Josh.  I stumbled upon a combo fix for my iPhone that seems to be working well.  Our carrier is Verizon Wireless.  I use the free version of their Call Filter app and also subscribe to the NoMoRobo app. Both apps are enabled in Settings and, yes, both have access to my contacts.  I had been using Nomorobo for about a year, but spam was still getting through on an almost daily basis, albeit much less than when I had no filters.  Adding Call Filter to the mix changed the game.  Legitimate calls come through without a hitch, and peace otherwise reigns supreme. For the time being, I view providing access to my contacts as a practical compromise given the onslaught of spam I used to get. But that has to be monitored.  Sharing FWIW.

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I tried this...

From Lynn Brooks on July 18, 2019 :: 8:28 pm

I have an iPhone 7.  When the phone rings either gives the phone number or not, I use the message option to answer.  I created 2 messages of my own.  The first one says “no ID, no answer”.  The second one says “STOP”.  This sends the calls to voice mail which I can then block later on.  I also rechecked that my phone number is still on the Do Not Call list and it is.  From information provided by the Do Not Call folks, they inform you that once you tell a caller to remove you from the list or reply STOP, they can no longer legally call you.  It takes some work, but I am finally getting fewer calls!  And I did it all by myself :o)

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Caller ID & spam and Filter spam calls switches

From Jim Brown on July 26, 2019 :: 2:27 pm

I just bought a new Samsung phone and it does not have these options under the phone settings.

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Samsung uses a proprietary system in conjunction with Hiya

From Josh Kirschner on July 29, 2019 :: 1:04 pm

Samsung has its own calling/spam blocking system based on Hiya’s tech. You can read more about it here: https://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/apps/smart-call/.

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Can't block spam calls

From Dana W. on September 08, 2019 :: 3:06 pm

Read the article then went to the settings on my Android phone.  Unfortunately settings doesn’t have either Caller ID or Spam options. 

I have a 3 yr old Motorola Moto G5 Plus phone so it isn’t super expensive but not super cheap either.

Current plan is with Ultra Mobile a division of T-mobile which is quite cheap.  I pay about $24/month (taxes incl) for unlimited talk and text and 3 GIG of data which is plenty for me.  There are other price options.

Can only hope the government and carriers will really do something about spammers and robocallers.  Aside from the nuisance factor many people believe them and get scammed out of money.

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To stop blocked numbers from going to contacts. (New)

From Samuel J. Presley on November 21, 2019 :: 10:49 am

Hi there all,

If you wanna to try to stop blocked numbers or numbers from being able to leave messages in your voicemail then download the free app Call Blocker by Kite Tech.

I got a new phone which is a OnePlus 7 Pro TMobile USA version and this app works excellent because it picks up blocked private numbers and numbers on call blocker app blacklist as well as option to block numbers not on your contacts and instantly hangs up on the call.

I find this free app excellent..

Please let me know what you think about the above forementioned app works out for you because I’m curious if the pickup and hangup feature works on other Android Devices..

P.S. you will see the blocked call(s) listed as a missed call while blocking calls and caller ID hidden blocked numbers…

Hope this advice helps you all out there..

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