Unsolicited phone calls are one of the major downsides of owning a smart phone. Spam calls, scammers, random charities, there are plenty of sources of these unwanted annoyances. While you can try to stem the tide by blocking the numbers after they’ve called you, this is somewhat in the area of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted.
Not only that, but blocking numbers only stops them from making your phone ring. It doesn’t generally stop them from leaving a voicemail. So, is there anything you can do to stop this from happening?
Use Google Assistant to Screen Spam Calls
Essentially, this is a way of getting Google’s artificially intelligent Assistant to screen your calls, allowing you to find out if it’s spam or something you might actually want to answer. You’ll probably need to have a newer Google Pixel Phone, though if you’re lucky your Android phone might be able to do it too.
Make sure that your Phone app is updated to the latest version. When you get a call, you should see a button that says “Screen call”. Tap this, and the call will be diverted to Google Assistant, which will answer it for you and provide you with a real-time transcript of what is being said. If it seems like it’s spam, tap on the “Report as spam” option, and Google Assistant will tell them to remove your number from their calling list, and end the phone call.
Use a Spam Blocking App
While it might seem like you’re spoiled for choice in terms of apps that will block spam calls on both Android and iOS, it’s not all smooth sailing. First of all, most of them require full access to you phone, from your contacts to you call lists, and even your text messages and storage.
While some of the permissions are legitimately necessary for the apps to do their job, you should consider very carefully who you’re giving access to your personal data.
Also, apps that can actually prevent a spammer from leaving you a voicemail message are much rarer. Rather, they’re mainly just lists of known spam callers that the app will then automatically block for you, meaning that it’s only slightly more effective than blocking numbers yourself. They won’t actually prevent voicemail messages.
Install Call Control on Your Phone
There is one app that can actually manage it, though. Call Control, available on Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store, is an effective call blocking app with a community provided black list, as well as the ability to block spoofed calls and wildcard numbers.
If you get it on Android, it can actually stop spam calls from going to voicemail. Unfortunately, it can’t do the same on iOS. However, calls that are registered as spam will automatically be placed in a separate “Blocked messages” folder, so you can keep track of and ignore them if you so choose.
While most of its functions are free, to enable the voicemail blocking capabilities you’ll need to pay a yearly $29.99 subscription fee. If paying a bit extra to avoid unwanted voicemails seems like a fair price to pay, this is your best option.
Blocking via Google Voice
Using Google Voice is another option for avoiding spam voicemails, though it’s not ideal for a couple of reasons. You’ll have to start using a new phone number provided by the app to get the most out of it, as it effectively replaces the number provided by your carrier. And, if you decide to keep using your original number, it won’t prevent any calls made to that number from getting through to your inbox.
Still, if you’re giving your number out to a slightly dubious website or service, then using a Google Voice phone number can help to avoid spam calls down the line. When someone calls that number, you can choose to send the call to voicemail, mark it as spam, or you can block the call which will prevent a voicemail being left altogether.
Get Your Network Provider to Prevent Spam Calls
Even though it’s first and foremost your cell carrier’s responsibility to deal with this issue, most of them haven’t really done a great job of dealing with spam. That’s why your mileage may vary with this option depending on which carrier you’re with. Even worse, you’ll generally have to pay more on top of your bill each month for them to do what they can.
AT&T currently has the best tools on the market for blocking spam calls, though they’re hardly infallible. Costing $3.99 per month, their Call Protect Plus service allows you to block numbers from various sources, choosing whether they go to voicemail or if they’re completely unable to call your number.
At the other end of the scale sits Sprint, who will charge you $2.99 just for a warning that a call might possibly be a spam call. There’s no option to block it, or to avoid receiving a voicemail message.
T-Mobile actually provides a free service called Scam Block, which prevents numbers on their blacklist from being able to call or leave you a voicemail. Dial #662# from your phone to activate it. There’s no community whitelist though, so its coverage may not be hugely reliable.
Verizon offers a free spam blocking service, but this doesn’t prevent calls from reaching your voicemail box. You can at least flag calls as spam, which helps prevent the number being used again against you or anyone else with the service.
Just Turn It off
Really, the easiest option is to deactivate your voicemail box entirely. Only your grandparents and kooky aunt will miss it anyway. Just teach those how don’t know it how to send a text, and free yourself from the shackles of voicemail.
That said, if you’ve found an actually effective voicemail blocking app that we’ve missed, please do share it with us in the comments section below.