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Like many people, I don't wish to receive unsolicited phone calls/texts/emails from people who are trying to sell me something or scam me.

I am aware of passive ways of dealing with the problem but I am asking here for ideas for actively discouraging such calls.

  1. I want to discourage the same people from calling me twice.

  2. I want to discourage them from calling other people. In other words I want to stop cold-calling altogether. I believe it has no useful place in the modern world.

I am looking for novel ways of causing the maximum inconvenience and expense to these annoying people. Of course I am only interested in law-abiding methods.

If possible I would like the methods to be scaleable to the status of a campaign.

To repeat, I'm aware of passive solutions but I want ideas for active solutions that will hit these people hardest and preferably in their wallets.

Thanks.

EDIT

I'm very grateful for the answers so far. However they are very low-level solutions. I realise I wasn't clear enough. It is easy enough to annoy the grunts on the front line and anyway they are used to it. I am looking for ways to inconvenience the decision makers at the highest possible level.

  • 2
    Might be considered impersonating an officer nowdays, but I know someone who once answered with Hello! This is the [city] Police Department, how may we help you? Probably more of a good story than advice. – veryRandomMe Nov 14 '15 at 15:54
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    Just hang the phone immediately. Just like you would switch the channel on TV. This is advertisement and not a regular call where you would have to be polite. You don't even have to say that you're not interested. – papakias May 31 '16 at 10:06
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    "Hello Caller-your on the air" – Old_Fossil Jun 4 '16 at 5:45
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    I actually did this to a telemarketer-" I'm sorry Mrs **** is not available to receive your call young man as she passed away last night." " The family is making funeral arrangements at this time if you want to pay your respects you can" " You sound like such a nice young man" – Old_Fossil Jun 4 '16 at 5:51
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    Scream at someone in the background and make some comment about using bleach to clean up all that blood – Old_Fossil Jun 4 '16 at 5:54

29 Answers 29

100

When the cold caller asks for you, say "Just a moment, I'll get them." and then place the phone next to the stereo and let it play, like hold music. Every once in a while get back on in your best message machine voice and say "Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received." Having been a cold caller in the past (shudder, nightmares) I can tell you that after a while they will make a note not to call you back.

  • 8
    This is pretty mean! – yo' Oct 14 '15 at 19:34
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    You think that's mean? I've done worse. I have even heard about someone who tells the caller that she is putting a curse on them! – chasly from UK Oct 14 '15 at 22:45
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    I think this is the best answer. People hanging up costs them very little. Keeping the caller waiting costs them much more. – Stig Hemmer Oct 15 '15 at 9:51
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    Although not exactly cold calling: a Belgian group of comedians placed a container on the driveway of an infamous mobile phone provider, blocking the entrance. On the side they placed a telephone number. When phoned, they would answer in a way that the helpdesk was infamous for (long waiting times, "you have the wrong number", when finally through, disconnected and start over, etc.). Unknowingly to the helpdesk, they were sitting inside the container. Enjoy 10 hilarious minutes (in Dutch). – gerrit Oct 15 '15 at 10:34
  • 10
    Also priceless, make them part of a crime scene: youtube.com/watch?v=cIVfrBFc5og – RobAu Oct 15 '15 at 11:36
73

Print the telemarketing counterscript and keep it next to your phone.

I don't know how much it annoys the caller, but it might make things more fun for you.

counterscript

  • 11
    I love this idea. It almost makes me want to get some calls so I can use it. – chasly from UK Oct 15 '15 at 14:38
  • This is pretty cool! – LOSTinNEWYORK Oct 17 '15 at 16:18
  • I loved the script. If you've created it yourself, I'm impressed. And a little bit afraid. Mostly impressed, though. – Konrad Viltersten Oct 17 '15 at 18:28
  • It's brilliant, right? Alas, I didn't create it. That's why I didn't embed the image but only linked it. Alex added the picture. – Cephalopod Oct 17 '15 at 19:31
48

Well, this doesn't apply to the UK specifically but here's my approach:

Never answer unsolicited calls from an unknown number. From anyone. Ever. Calls from a number that I don't recognize go straight to voice mail. If they don't leave a message, they'll never hear back from me. If it's important, they will either leave a message or find another way to get in touch with me. No truly important communication occurs only by telephone.

  • +1 even though I have voicemail disabled on my mobile (long story, off-topic). On a landline any decent answerphone will be able to put the incoming call on speaker allowing you to screen the call. A good answer phone can announce the number (or name if stored in its memnory). I've decided to use the default message (to not reveal who I am in the case of robo-calls) but if I recorded a custom message it would point out (to humans) that we screen all our calls. I tend to pick up local calls though. – Chris H Oct 15 '15 at 15:30
  • Don't you have to pay for voicemails? – chasly from UK Oct 15 '15 at 16:26
  • 1
    I don't agree with this at all. If they don't leave a message, it's more effort for me to ignore the ringing then not wonder who it could have been. If they do leave a voicemail, it's more effort to ignore the ringing, check the voicemail, then call back. It takes seconds to answer it and hang up if it's garbage. – Charles Clayton Oct 15 '15 at 18:45
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    Maybe a friend's phone's dead and they're calling from an unknown number, maybe it's a job offer, maybe a delivery company's checking if you're home. "No truly important communication occurs only by telephone." strikes me as more a justification for social anxiety than a truth. – Charles Clayton Oct 15 '15 at 18:48
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    Wow, armchair psychologist much? Besides, none of those examples are truly important. Those are conveniences/inconveniences at best. "Maybe it's a job offer". In my experience it's more likely to be a recruiter which is barely distinguishable from a scam. – MikeTheLiar Oct 15 '15 at 18:55
33

Answer in a foreign language. For the cold caller it's usually not worth trying to communicate with someone who you share no common language, since they are usually on the clock to make commission.

  • 28
    Kinda ballsy to answer any unknown call with "hole - ah, yo soy josh" and it's human resources calling from the job you applied at. – coburne Oct 14 '15 at 19:59
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    This achieves nothing. If you don't want to talk to them, there's no difference between saying, "Go away" in English, saying "Go away" in Esperanto, or just putting the phone down. – David Richerby Oct 14 '15 at 20:54
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    @DavidRicherby you are missing the point. By your logic I should just not pick up. You'd be amazed how quickly the cold caller will hang up without a single word when you answer in Chinese for instance. – Aron Oct 15 '15 at 0:06
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    That's not my "logic" at all and you're missing my point. Encouraging the other person to hang up achieves nothing because you can hang up yourself whenever you want. It takes literally only a couple of seconds to identify that you've received a cold call and hang up. Answering in Chinese risks putting off genuine callers. – David Richerby Oct 15 '15 at 7:29
  • One other thing I remember from an old job I had that involved cold-calling: I don't know the rules in other countries, but in the US, if the person answering told us not to call anymore, we had to flag the number not to call back anymore. If they answered in some other language, we'd probably just hang up and their number would remain active in the call queue for a call back another day. So it'd be a temporary solution at best. – coburne Oct 16 '15 at 20:05
22

I sound interested then say "Wait a moment, I have to take something off the stove".

Then walk away. They hang up eventually.

(I used to keep an emergency whistle by the phone - blowing it removes the eardrums of the caller. But that probably isn't legal and it annoyed the neighbours)

  • 5
    Thanks. The thing is that I've recently been getting repeated automatic calls from the same PPI firm. They even change their number to make it less obvious who is calling. I can and do ignore them. As GeoffAtkins says, these people are prepared to waste time and money in the hope of a sale. The rest of us are just seen as statistics. They themselves have thick skins. What they do is legal but intensely annoying. I am looking for legal but intensely annoying things to do to the bosses, not the lackeys who actually operate the phones. – chasly from UK Oct 14 '15 at 14:09
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    Ahh. PPI. SImply report every single one to actionfraud.police.uk. They stop immediately. They are the easiest of all to get rid of. – Chenmunka Oct 14 '15 at 14:12
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    Whistle is not useful. Telephones are band-limited way below the frequencies you want to get into your victim's ear. – R.. Oct 17 '15 at 1:06
21

If you want a novel, legal and amusing way to discourage telemarketers, there's always Lenny.

http://www.toao.net/595-lenny

If you're really committed, set your number up with a premium rate for callers. You'll start to actually enjoy the calls, asking questions and stringing the telemarketer along. Though your friends and family might not find this so entertaining when they get their next bill.

  • 2
    I like the idea of a premium line. Give your friends your 'real' number. I wonder if anyone has actually made a living from attracting cold-calls and stringing them along. My guess is that cold-callers human or automatic wouldn't ever dial anything that looked like a premium number. I suppose you could ask them to call back on your 'other number'! – chasly from UK Oct 15 '15 at 22:20
  • Note that using a premium line in this way can violate certain rules ofcom places on premium rate numbers in the UK, and possibly other laws in other countries. – SLC Oct 16 '15 at 8:26
  • @chaslyfromUK a lot of the (non-compliant) calls are from random/sequential auto-diallers. If you have a real number they'll call it, regardless of whether you have a more obvious premium number. A premium number may be useful against some people (if you actually wanted a double-glazing quote once). – Chris H Oct 16 '15 at 9:37
18

I have three fixes for this, with different results:

  1. As I am in the USA, my phone number has been on the Do Not Call list as long as the list has existed. I used to get good results reporting callers, but I think all the call centers have moved out of the USA, so this is no longer effective.
  2. As suggested in earlier responses "Please hold", put the phone down, get on with life, and hang up about 5 minutes later. Reasonably effective.
  3. The one that could completely solve the problem if more people used it: I keep a list of companies I am boycotting. Any business whose products or services are advertised during a cold call to me goes on the list for a year. During that period, I try very hard to avoid doing business with them even if I was a customer before the call. If more people did this, cold calling would result in a reduction in business, and companies would stop doing it.
  • 20
    One note on #3 - boycotts rarely have any effect unless you actually communicate to the company that you are doing so. One positive example - A couple years ago, I started receiving spam messages regarding a tax preparation software that I have used for years. I sent a quick note directly to the company, complaining about this and stating that I would no longer use their software if this continued. They replied within two days, removed the spammer from their sales organization, and put additional protection in place to prevent it happening again. – GalacticCowboy Oct 15 '15 at 13:13
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    In other words, they need to know that the reduction in business is because of the practice you disagree with. – GalacticCowboy Oct 15 '15 at 13:15
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    I'm in the UK. One of the problems is the opportunist call. For example. "We are calling about the injury that you recently suffered". In fact I didn't receive any injuries - they are just playing the odds. Also more and more calls are automated. I you put them on hold, the call is automatically terminated and they keep calling back until you take a positive action such as pressing a key on your phone. – chasly from UK Oct 15 '15 at 14:46
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    @GalacticCowboy Boycotts due to advertising campaigns are a little different. Companies proactively try to measure the effects of various forms of advertising in order to see whether the costs are justified. If a particular type of campaign had a net negative effect on sales they would notice and stop doing it. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 15 '15 at 15:22
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    It wasn't worded well because I was running out of space, but this was an affiliate program, not an official advertising campaign in my example. – GalacticCowboy Oct 15 '15 at 15:29
15

One very amusing way to dismiss cold callers is to put on your best sultry voice and say;

“I would be delighted to answer all of your question my dear, but this is a premium service and we will bill your number at a rate of £15 per minute. Is that ok, sweetie?”

They hang up so fast.

  • 2
    That's a novel idea. Rather than go to the trouble of setting up a premium line, pretend it is one. Have you actually tried this? – chasly from UK Oct 16 '15 at 15:48
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    Yes, just the once :D but it was perfect, the called apologised and hung up. He sounded really embarrased. – Jekowl Oct 16 '15 at 17:04
  • You mean, something like "Welcome to Sexy Suzi's Telephone fun line, only 5 pounds a minute". I can't wait till another one rings up to try this out. – RedSonja Oct 28 '15 at 14:53
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    @RedSonja yeh! but maybe don't start on that till you know its a cold caller. It would be an intresting way to greet your relatives ;p – Jekowl Oct 29 '15 at 18:14
11
  1. Be creepy. Heavy breathing, asking someone if they wear a uniform, and so on will freak out most cold callers.
  2. Say "I inform you I am recording this conversation".
  3. Give the phone to your half-deaf grandparent with dementia, if you have one.
  4. Be borderline threatening, without crossing the border. Say as if you were talking to someone else in the room: "John Smith, CaldCallers Company. Do you track? Oh, we already have him? Add the mark and trace, how long will it take? Sorry, I'm back, what were you saying Mr. John Smith?" You know, mafia impression and all.
  • 8
    ...and if they enjoy the heavy breathing, you can refer them to your premium-rate hotline. – chasly from UK Oct 16 '15 at 0:59
  • Or perhaps you could drop them a hotline. Perhaps one in Miami? I hear there's a really good cleaning company there. – Hugo Zink Dec 22 '15 at 8:49
11

I note you're in the UK, where, very recently, a landmark change has been made in the law written to protect consumers from this type of harassment. Link below to a report by the BBC, but you need to find out the name of the company which is calling, then tell them you're going to report them to the Information Commissioner's Office - I'm pretty sure they'll be aware of the massive fine issued recently to a particular company harassing people regarding PPI claims.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-31616523

Alternatively, do what I do - I am really, really rude and act furious. As soon as I realise what the call's about, I cut right across them and say where'd you get my number from, then carry on with something like (with a withering, sarcastic tone) I haven't had any PPI nor have I had an accident, but you will if you ever call this number again, remove it from your list immediately. I even throw in the fact they've had the temerity to disturb my dinner and how dare they (I've heard them apologise while I'm still ranting). For politeness on the site, I have left out the expletives; these may be none, very few or many and varied, depending on how bored/irritated I am, usually finishing with two little words used the world over and cutting the caller off. Funnily enough, they don't ring back...not really sure why, might be because I'm female and they feel like their mum has just given them a roasting, given the callers are always male, and they don't want to face it again.

  • 4
    Unfortunately most calls are number withheld. The ones that aren't are from call centres in India :/ – DavidPostill Oct 14 '15 at 22:18
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    @DavidPostill just talk to them until they tell you who they are. They can't sell you anything without telling you what they sell. – Josef Oct 15 '15 at 6:48
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    Yep, find out what company they are - you don't need to extract their number from them, its their name and any address you can get out of them. – Bamboo Oct 15 '15 at 10:08
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    @Josef most of them claim to be from "windows support". – Chris H Oct 15 '15 at 15:31
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    @ChrisH ah, I assume this are the friendly guys who will tell you how virus infected your PC is and for just $150 they install you the best antivirus. If that's the case, they are almost certainly not UK (or even EU) based companies and just don't care if they are allowed to call you. I mean, they are scamming people out of money. The legality of the call isn't really important then any more. here is one blog post where they talked 3h with the guy. I assume he never called again. – Josef Oct 15 '15 at 15:40
8

Three-way the call with

  • your ex
  • another business
  • a fax machine
  • a friend who loves trolling
  • the previous cold-caller

or if you need immediate results:

  • "911, what is your emergency?" (or whatever number you use)
  • 8
    My exes know too much about me to put them in contact with someone I am trying to get rid of... – Adam Zuckerman Oct 14 '15 at 23:14
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    If you're going to answer the phone with "911, what is your emergency?", that has to be the very first thing you say, immediately when you pick up the phone. In particular, you have to say that before you know whether you're dealing with a junk call or not. – David Richerby Oct 15 '15 at 7:32
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    Please don't three way call with emergency services - they have enough rubbish to deal with – Matt Wilko Oct 15 '15 at 15:49
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    @MattWilko That's not what it says to do at all. – Wrathbelle Oct 15 '15 at 16:02
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    I suspect that impersonating an emergency services number is probably illegal in most jurisdictions. – JBentley Oct 16 '15 at 1:11
8

Personally, I go along with it, but give them fake stories.

It's a call about the accident I had? I go off for hours, start crying, explaining how it gives me nightmares, I close my eyes and all I see is the headlights coming towards me.

It's PPI? It's how my dear wife killed herself due to financial worries, if only the PPI had paid out.

It's "Microsoft" calling up about my computer problems? I suddenly become the most inept computer operator you'll ever meet; one finger typing, not being able to follow simple instructions, reading every damn thing on the screen except what they want

etc etc. Sometimes they catch on quite quickly. The longest I've had was the PC one where I kept a guy on the phone for 45 minutes. The longer they're not scamming me, the longer they're not scamming someone else.

  • 2
    Good answer; would you mind mentioning what "PPI" is, please? Wikipedia offers a number of options, but I'm not sure which one is meant here. – O. R. Mapper Oct 16 '15 at 14:07
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    The Microsoft one is a fun one and a common one for me indeed. I keep a bunch of VMs around with custom configuration such as fonts that are all boxes, replacing iexplore.exe with random joke programs, replacing the event log with one with absolutely no errors (which contradicts their script), and so on. (I just can't post an answer since I haven't earned 10 rep here and the answer is too specific) – hexafraction Oct 18 '15 at 16:14
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    Fake stories can be just tons of fun - I had one "Windows Support" call where not only was I the inept user for about 20 mins, but eventually began to panic and told the guy there was smoke coming out of the case - and blamed him for what he made me do. He said 'Step away from the PC sir, step away from the PC!' with mounting alarm in his voice. To top it off his manager phoned me back whereupon I answered with "Sgt Williams of Greater Manchester Fire service - we've been called to a house fire that appears to have started in a computer . . . " – peterG Oct 18 '15 at 17:13
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    Perfect, another time waster. I'm thinking that the only way to really get rid of this kind of thing is to just make it not worth their while. If we all just wasted their time for 6 months, we could really do some damage to the industry. Perhaps then, there would be more lame internet ads with the "one simple trick to ________" kind of theme. – coblr Oct 19 '15 at 18:33
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    Sometimes they disguise it as a questionnaire, and I invent 5 more children and impending bankruptcy. Or I become a Vegan or allergic to alcohol. It's actually fun. – RedSonja Oct 28 '15 at 14:57
7

There are some excellent ideas here. They have led me to an idea of my own so I shall answer my own question.

Find out the private number of the people who run these businesses. Then pass that number on to every scam you can think of. Get them onto every mailing list in the world. When they get home they will face an endless stream of other people trying to sell them something they don't want. Poetic justice!

All I need to do now is find out who these people are and discover their home numbers and/or addresses. Hmm... not so easy. If it is a well-known firm then their work number would do. Imagine them spending all day picking up the phone to other morons who are just as irritating as they are.

What do people think? Is this workable? If so I might even set up a name and shame website. Set them on each other and let them get on with it!

  • This could be good. Also, putting them in a situation (mic and speaker) with a basic "AI" application would also work. For example, the one youtube video where they put two "AI's" next to each other and they ended up getting angry and calling each other unicorns or something. Let them talk to a computer that thinks it's a person. – coblr Oct 15 '15 at 23:51
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    Do you have any more details of that video? – chasly from UK Oct 16 '15 at 1:01
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    "discover their home numbers and/or addresses" - I'm guessing that this pushes the boundaries of your "legal" stipulation... – colmde Oct 16 '15 at 9:22
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    I have just had a cold-call. As an experiment, I pretended to be old and confused. I kept the operative talking for a long time and said I'd been advised by my children not to give details over the phone. I said I would get them to phone back. She tried repeatedly to get me to give my name and address and wouldn't take no for an answer. Of course I didn't tell her anything. If these people can try to get my name and address and more, I don't see why I shouldn't try to get theirs. – chasly from UK Oct 16 '15 at 11:19
  • @colmde: And if that does not, chances are the "pass that number on" part does. – O. R. Mapper Oct 16 '15 at 14:10
7

The technical solution:

There are more pricey routers available which are able to connect to a telephone line (like AVM Fritz!Box). After the setup you can filter every call which suppresses the number (which is almost always the case because the cold callers do know that they are illegal) and you have two options:

a) Blocking. The calls are never connected.
b) Answering machine (the answering machine is completely silent, you do not even notice if someone on the machine, it is only indicated by blinking). I set up the voice of the answering machine to silence (or if you want, use heavy breathing...) and the call-center worker does not realize he is on an answering machine >:-).

This is also a wonderful tool against stalkers and phone harassment: Simply set up all unknown calls to the answering machine and only allow trusted people to call you personally. In case of harassment it is better to use recording to have evidence, the user interface of the router gives you the number and the exact time of the call.

@chasley: I would like to give a way to inconvienience the bosses, but that is not possible. One investigative journalist from Germany, Günter Wallraff (the very same which is famous for his quarrel with Bild), worked undercover for a call center. They are hiring jobless workers or workers with low income, partly with support from the official job center (hey, people are working, hooray). They get contracts not only from shady businesses, but also from big respectable firms (British Telecom). They simply do not care a bit, and you cannot inconvienience them legally.

6

If you don't mind tempting fate, tell them Your Name Here has passed away.

This works well for me, I rarely get people calling twice.

Source: I used to do IT work for a call center which did cold calling, when somebody had died, we removed their number from our data

  • 3
    Doesn't that just prompt more cold calls about funeral services & inheritance legal services?? – jazmit Nov 1 '15 at 11:48
6

J.R.R. Tolkien (or rather his friend C.S. Lewis's brother Warren) has the answer!

Thank you very much for your suggestions about my telephone number, which I will consider. Removing the number from the directory seems better than the method adopted by Major W. H. Lewis in protecting his brother, which was to lift the receiver and say 'Oxford Sewage Disposal Unit' and go on repeating it until they went away.

-- Tolkien's Letters, Letter 287

5

This response only applies to calls by a real human agent:

Several answers so far have suggested to tell the cold callers to wait a moment and put the phone down (indefinitely).

I suggest an extended version: Ask them to explain the details of their offer. You do not have to listen to what they say, just make sure you are aware of when they finally stop talking. Then, say, you hadn't quite understood, or you had to leave for a moment, or something like that, and ask them to explain again1. Repeat until the annoyed cold caller hangs up.

Yes, cold calling people is their job. I want them to work for the money they get, not idle. A job where you can idle much of the time is attractive. A job where you have to work endlessly and get a feeling that your work is in vain is unattractive. An unattractive job has a chance of requiring higher payment at some point, or at least a higher frequency of people quitting. Also, occupying more time of those cold callers sounds good, too. These are probably the only effects on the decision makers that can be achieved directly via the cold call itself.

1: Make sure not to use any words that could be remixed to indicate agreement to buy anything. The details of this are language-specific, but for instance, when asked whether you'd like more information, don't respond "Yes, I do.", but rather something like "Explain, please."

5

My ISP was calling me at least 4 times a day each in my home and mobile to offer a upgrade in my plan. I'm not interested and every time they called I told this to them. I don't know if it's illegal, but after 10 days of these calls, my patience ran out and I told them "Ricardo is dead. He passed away this morning." I didn't receive another call in the last two days! So far, so good!

  • 2
    Didn't this cause a change in the plan (like cancellation)? – Peter Mortensen Oct 17 '15 at 10:02
  • Phone calls should not be trusted anyway, right? – Sarge Borsch Oct 17 '15 at 13:07
  • @PeterMortensen I don't think so. Actually, it is not the ISP company who make the calls. They pay a telemarketing company to do that, which I believe have no power to cancel my plan. Anyway, I really doubt they would cancel my line so easy like that. Also, I didn't identified myself in the call, so I can tell they reached an unknown phone and have no idea what they talking about. ;) – ricardomenzer Oct 19 '15 at 11:48
  • Your ISP (or their authorized agents) cannot "cold call" you; you gave them your phone number... Call your ISP and ask them to stop. – Mazura Dec 5 '18 at 2:57
5

What has worked for me in the past is to actually just waste their time. When telemarketers call, I use it as an opportunity to get to know a stranger. Ask them about their life, the weather, where they are, etc. If you act really sort of happy and genuinely interested in what kind of people do this job and how they live, or what got them into it, you can easily waste 30 minutes of their time.

I once asked this guy on the phone about what time it was, where he was and what kind of place was it, about his family, or girlfriends, etc. Every time they answer, you just ask another sort of "get to know you" kind of question. I really tried to build a friendship with the guy, and he felt really comfortable telling me all kinds of things. Then he said "Well, my friend, let me ask you about...", and I just hung up on him. I wasted lots of his time, the company's money, and I learned something interesting about life outside my bubble. If you got enough people to spend 30 minutes on the phone to not make a sale, you would affect the profits.

Of course, this doesn't work with robot calls, but then you really should have caller ID by now, and just never answer "Unknown Caller" or suspicious numbers anyway.

Either way... yea, it can waste your time too - if you really had something to do - and there might be better solutions out there, but I figure you're doing two things: you're growing as a person, and being a turd in "The Man's" punchbowl. It's not much, but even small drips of water can cut stone over time.

  • 1
    One of the latest tricks is to leave an automatic voicemail message if you don't answer. That then costs me to listen to my voice messages -- and delete them. They aren't unknown caller or withheld number. Some of them leave their number and ask to be called back.. They even use a phone number that could be a private number. – chasly from UK Oct 15 '15 at 23:54
  • @Peter Mortensen, thanks for editing. That was pretty atrocious. – coblr Oct 19 '15 at 18:24
  • @chaslyfromUK, ya, if it costs you to listen to voicemail then ignoring calls becomes a whole other nuisance. Sounds like a shit phone service as well to charge you to do that. I have family in Ireland, and that sounds like a perfect example of companies in that part of the world being just as bad as the telemarketers themselves. Perhaps they are in cahoots so that it's a "plan b" type situation. "Sure, you didn't make the sale, but it's ok buddy, we'll charge that guy for listening to your voicemail, then give you a percent from that". win-win for them. – coblr Oct 19 '15 at 18:30
4

Have you ever mis-dialed a number and been greeted by a high pitched two-tone sound followed by a recorded message "the number you have reached..."? Years ago, I had one a device (I think it was called a Tele Zapper) attached to my phone that did the same thing and it worked wonders. As soon as the handset was picked up, it emitted that same two-tone sound telling the caller that my number was not in service. People would stick around, but robocallers immediately disconnected - and purged my number from their system.

4

As with most things, the best possible answer to this question is found in an xkcd comic.

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    I've heard of people keeping a whistle next to their phone for this sort of purpose. However I am always doubtful whether you really can send a very loud sound through a phone. Doesn't the phone line limit how loud the signal can be? I suppose you could first talk very quietly to make the person keep their ear close or even turn up the volume. Then blast them when they are least expecting it. – chasly from UK Oct 16 '15 at 23:58
  • @chaslyfromUK This is absolutely the case, and any even halfway decent headset will have an absolute volume limiter that's going to prevent noise loud enough to cause hearing damage or physical pain. But it's still a loud, unpleasant surprise... the audio equivalent of a middle finger. And I dunno about you, but it gives me a chuckle, and that's strikes me as the most important thing here. – HopelessN00b Oct 17 '15 at 2:04
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One solution is (and this depends whether in your country telemarketers target private or business numbers) to tell the callers you're not a private (or a business) number, whichever they're not interested in. Telemarketers are interested in people who can listen to their talks (automated or in-person) so if it's not possible, they will cross you off the list soon.

Another way is to set your phone in fax machine mode (real or faked) while you're not expecting any calls. Surely, cold callers have systems in place to quickly stop trying on numbers that appear to be impossible to get people on.

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    I've had the opposite. Here in Australia they have to remove you from their list of numbers if you request them to. So I said "Please remove my house from your list, don't call here again" and the guy got really apologetic "I didn't realised this was residential". It was odd. – Lyndon White Oct 15 '15 at 2:07
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    Telling the caller you're not a private number is almost certainly the wrong thing to do. Laws about unsolicited phone calls usually only apply to residential numbers so, by claiming to be a business number, you may be telling them that they can call you as often as they want. – David Richerby Oct 15 '15 at 7:31
  • ok I didn't know there were even any laws about this anywhere in the world, and there aren't where I live so I didn't specify it's not wherever that is – user1306322 Oct 15 '15 at 10:04
  • this doesn't work in the UK, sorry to say. at my workplace, we regularly get calls for a private individual, and on learning that it's a business number, the response is usually to hang up. then they call back. we get dozens of these per week. :( – jammypeach Oct 15 '15 at 15:37
  • This is what i do. I first discovered this when i was getting calls whilst actually at work. @DavidRicherby The rules only apply if they are calling from within the UK, if they are outside they don't really care. – Terry Oct 15 '15 at 21:33
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In my country, when you receive this kind of call, they usually ask your occupation right from the start, if you are employed and all, and then they decide if it's actually viable to continue the call.

If that's the case, I find that it's most effective to say that you are unemployed, with no income of any sort. This seems to work really well, at least with me, because they usually have a database where they try to trace your profile to see if you are a potential customer, which services would attract your attention...

But if you can't afford their services, well, it's a total waste of their time to call you, at least in the near future. I rarely receive this type of call now.

  • While this along with JMK's answer may work you probably don't want to feed such shady companies more data to collect than necessary. – LiveWireBT Dec 21 '15 at 18:54
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It depends on your country, but we have a do not call list. Put your phone number on that list, if they call you, tell them you're going to report them. Unfortunately, this doesn't cover some stuff, from memory it's religious and charity calls.

  • I tried that too, Wikipedia has it filed under Robinson list, but in Germany this apparently doesn't opt-out of surveys from "recognized" -pardon me for using German- Meinungsforschungsinstitute. Funny enough, they apparently still only call landlines which substantiates suspicion that they don't do proper research. See also Patricia's answer that was posted a bit later. – LiveWireBT Dec 21 '15 at 18:47
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Most telephone companies have procedures to identify equipment status.

One is an automated series of tones to identify a line that is not-in-service.

Most telemarketers use automated dialling that connects the caller with the callee after the connection has been made, verified, dialled, ringing, and then answered.

Downloading and recording the tones from a not-in-service line at the beginning of your telephone message will immediately re-direct the telemarketers calling equipment.

You can search for the tones specific for your telephone company online.

In most cases, a not-in-service number is immediately taken off the telemarketer's active number list and placed into a secondary database to be tried in the future after a fixed delay. Telephone numbers are never taken off the list of numbers good for a particular zone.

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My favourite is to actually answer most of the questions affirmatively until they hang up. This actually offers the most value, so for PPI claims, have you had an accident, why yes am glad you rang, when was it, only recently, were you injured, yes, but it was nothing; I was only off work for a couple of weeks and the aches are mostly cleared up now after six months, etc.

You get the picture. If you tell them all six in the people carrier lost their legs they will normally spot the wind up. Often you will get past the outbound sales person and get someone a bit more knowledgable. 25 minutes is my best so far :)

Another is: No, that doesn't suit, but my colleague in the office has/needs x or y. Then choose a speaker phone number that you can all gather round :) Make them wait a bit so you can get a coffee and some notepads to pass suggestions on :)

  • I like this but of course you have to have the time, the energy and the inclination. Sometimes when they call it's just downright inconvenient and you're busy doing something else. I suppose you could ask them to ring back! – chasly from UK Oct 15 '15 at 19:57
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If you berate the person with obscenities, most of the time the person on the other end will take you off their list. An ex-gf used to work a call center and that was one of the only ways to get taken off - since if the employer didn't allow the person marked off the employees could sue for hostile work environment.

This is perfectly legal and allows you to blow of steam, if you are morally capable of doing this.

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    I've worked as a telemarketer, for a very large firm, and this is horrible advice. It was strictly against the rules, and the law, but people who did an especially good job of pissing off a telemarketer would frequently find themselves receiving dozens of calls A DAY in retaliation. Generally speaking, a phone number would otherwise be removed from our list after no more than 5 calls, and there were too many ways to count to be removed from our calling list upon request/after the first call. – HopelessN00b Oct 17 '15 at 2:20
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All the answer seem to be torturous or far-crys or abnormal stuff.

Here are some legal and normal answers:

  • If they are trying to sell something, just tell them that you already have that. They would stop trying to sell that specific thing.

  • Also what also works is telling you know what they are doing. Saying "I know that you are trying to scam me, I'm not an idiot, but you are for trying to scam me. Never call back." and hanging up will probably keep them away from you. (calling someone an idiot might be considered hate crime, according to the caller, removing the ", but you are for trying to scam me" will help you secure yourself)

  • Giving a life lecture works well too: "Do you really want to be a scammer? Is prison where you want to end your life?[...]" They usually hang up to this, and don't call you anymore.

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    Those might do the trick once or twice, and aren't really "normal"... Also, those ways won't stop them from calling anyone else. Holding someone for 30 minutes, if they work 8 hours a day, will make them only answer a few calls. If each call would take 5-10 minutes, that means around 96 calls a day (if each takes 5 minutes). Holding someone for those 30 minutes will reduce that to 16 calls. – Ismael Miguel Oct 16 '15 at 23:23
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Just say you're not interested. Say like "Hello random person! I don't care about your deals so please don't call me again!" then hang up. You could also make a recorded message which you can play when you receive a cold call. Make it sound weird and roboty. You could also use this convenient UK site for 10 ways to help stop these cold callers: http://www.which.co.uk/technology/phones/guides/ten-tips-to-stop-cold-calls/ (This is not spam)

protected by holroy Oct 17 '15 at 17:38

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