Fighting Robocalls and Cold Callers

Getting cold calls again? Here are some tips for clamping down on cold callers.

telemarketer - ugh...Remember when we had land-line phones, and telemarketers would call right when we sat down for dinner? Good times, eh? It got so bad, the Federal Trade Commission created the National Do Not Call Registry. Suddenly all the calls stopped. And we all lived happily ever after. Except the calls never really stopped. It slowed to a trickle. Now that trickle is growing again into a stream. These offenders have fake caller ID that changes with each cold call. An auto-dailing robot asks you to press one to be connected to a representative if you’re interested and to press 2 if you want to be removed from the list. They know what they’re doing is illegal, yet they do it because of that margin of clueless unfortunates who will foolishly buy a sketchy service or product from some total stranger on an unverifiable phone connection. The worst of the offender today? Rachel from card holder services. Except today she was “Carmen”. If words could imbue venom across telephone lines, by now both these women would be dead of hatred from the people their voices have duped.


Here’s what to do when you get a call:

  • Robocall? Hang up. When you get a call like this and it’s a robot, do not press any number. Just hang up. If you press one, you’ll get a person who will just hang up on you as you get angry at him, and you’ll get called again. If you press two to be unsubscribed, you’re only confirming that the number is valid and marketable to another phone scam telemarketer. Don’t do it! Just. Hang. Up.
  • Fight back with your own script. When you get a cold call from a real person, more often than not, they’ll be surprised that they actually got a real person who hasn’t hung up. They will continually attempt to get you to buy something. The best answer for these people is to stay on the line as long as possible. Keep them engaged. The longer they’re on the phone with you, the fewer other people they’ll be able to cheat that day. Say something like the below script with as much empathy for the ‘poor telemarketer’ as you can muster:

    “I’m so sorry for you. You must be at a really low point in your life. Having to take a job cold-calling people illegally must be an incredibly heart-breaking decision to have made. Are you and your kids getting enough to eat? Are you getting your meds? I hope that soon, you’ll be able to find a real job that will make your life feel more worthwhile. How can you possibly sleep knowing how what you’re doing is so bad? It must keep you up nights. What must it be like taking money from total strangers who probably don’t understand the terms of your master’s contract and will regret their decision within a month or even a week? Do you even know who runs the company? Are you working from home, or in a cubicle farm?  Surely you still have some pride and self-worth left. Can you walk out right now? Does the master you serve really have horns on his head and a long red tail? I’ve always wondered what a soulless corporation must look like. Don’t stare into your master’s eyes too long. Try to walk out. Can you do it? You don’t have to be a victim. If your master is really evil, why not become a whistle blower too? Can you call the FCC and let them know exactly who is illegally bilking people while keeping you in chains of wage slavery? Witness protection will probably be better financially than what you’re doing now…

    Altnernatively… with zeal…

    “I’m so glad you called. I want to afford you the opportunity of becoming a whistle blower on the company you’re working for. Seriously, just send me all the data about the name of your boss, his boss, how the FCC can contact them. Can you leave the building with as much evidence as possible? I’ll bet living in witness protection will be more secure financially than what you’re doing now.

    If the person takes you up on your offer to squeal, tell them to send the information to Tom.Wheeler@fcc.gov.  Of course, you’re not getting the info. Mr. Wheeler is. You get to be an unsung hero for out-cold-calling the telemarketer. Give them the number 1-888-225-5322.  Snail mail:

    Federal Communications Commission
    445 12th Street, SW
    Washington, DC 20554

    Here’s a link to up-to-date FCC contact information in case you get lucky and Wheeler is no longer chairman. Usually, the telemarketer will hang up by the time you’ve said the part about finding a worthwhile job. The idea is to keep up the same patter of nonsense, basically pity-bullying them into either leaving their job or ratting to the FCC. It may seem rude, but you’ve used no swear words, and you’ve reduced their effectiveness at harming others.

  • Get a Google Voice account phone number. Give out only this number as your public telephone number. Forward all calls from this number to your personal, business, landline, cell, magicJack, Skype-in or other VoIP telephone service. When you get a cold call, hangup. Log into Google Voice, and go to the history link. Find the offending number, probably at the top of the list, and block it. You will receive no more calls from that number. Of course you can change that later in your blacklist settings. Google voice offers a lot of concierge-type capabilities for your phone number that help protect you from unwanted telemarketers. For example, you can set it up so that only certain numbers (maybe important clients, friends, clients and family members) can call from 8pm through 8am. These are also worth exploring.
  • Put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. When you get a new number for any device or service, register it immediately. This tool does stop most telemarketers who are still doing it legally. If you never register, you will start receiving unwanted calls within hours of getting the new number because it’s likely that your number was sold to marketers by your phone service provider as soon as you signed up for the telephone service. Do not delay.
  • Complain. If you have the time and inclination, every time you get a robocall, submit a complaint to the do not call registry complaint form.
  • Nomorobo: If you have a conventional land line or mobile phone, consider using a free service called nomorobo. It’s endorsed by the FCC. It rings to a special phone number that compares your incoming calls to a database of called numbers. If nomorobo’s database recognizes the caller as a telemarketer, the caller is blocked from ringing a second time. The way it works: robocalls from the same number happen in the hundreds or thousands simultaneously. When even a few calls with the same number show up simultaneously on nomorobo’s servers, that caller id is marked as a robocaller and blocked by the second call. If the call withstands a second ring, it’s probably a real caller and not a robocall. This may not work with Google Voice or magicJack.
  • Use Caller ID. If you don’t recognize the numbers, many phones have the ability to assign names to the number. If you don’t recognize the caller by number or name, let the phone auto-answer. If it’s a real person, they’ll leave a message and you can decide whether to respond.
  • Not even Pollsters are real anymore… Political callers and non-profits (charities) are not restricted from calling you. Neither are debt collectors. Hopefully none of us will ever face that situation, but as time marches on, more cold-callers are pretending to be charities and political groups in order to scam you. Debt collectors frankly border on using worse illegal methods for calling debtors. They end up calling your friends, neighbors, family in other states, even your vicar or parish priest. If a stranger calls you, asking for a family member or friend and tries to wheedle contact information about a loved one out of you, tell the caller never to call again, that you aren’t able to help them and that if they call again, you’ll file for harassment.
  • Keep your council. Your private information is money to telemarketers. Don’t give anyone who calls you out of the blue your personal information or anyone else’s personal information. If the caller already has your name and address, but aren’t willing to say who they represent, don’t give them any confirmation that you are whom they are asking about. That just makes their data more marketable to another scammer.
  • Analog Two-step Verify. If you have any reason to believe a caller from a bank doesn’t really represent your bank, tell them you intend to hang up and call your bank directly using the number on the back of your credit card or from a business card you got at the bank. Ask them for their direct line number so you can validate they are who they say they are. This is can be viewed as an analog ‘two-step’ verification process. When you call your valid number and get the same person, you know you’re talking with your bank. As more banks get compromised, even if they have your data in front of them, it helps to be sure you’re talking with a real bank representative, health insurance official, etc.

Got more ideas? Let me know in the comments!

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