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Fighting Back Against Ghost Calls 297

An anonymous reader writes "You're doing something interesting. The phone rings. You get up, pick up the phone, and hear only silence. It could be a slasher waiting outside your house, but it's probably an errant computer at a telemarketer. This article describes how some are fighting back by setting up websites to track the worst telemarketers by their caller ids. The article mentions whocalled.us (one of the funnier urls I've ever seen), 800notes.com and numberzoom.com . One intrepid guy is even writing a program to check these sites when the call comes in before ringing the phone."
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Fighting Back Against Ghost Calls

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  • They're compiling a list of numbers that they're going to provide to others... of companies or individuals... who they're targeting... for... You know this sounds a lot like what they're complaining about, to me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MikeyTheK ( 873329 )
      You know, Grand Central from Google does the same thing. Using the "Wisdom of Crowds" theory, it allows you to use the "wisdom" to block spam calls, identify themselves before ringing your phone, etc. For a free service, it's pretty nice.
  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:24PM (#21365367) Homepage
    Next up, a phone that connects to the internet, checks the number, than picks up without ringing and starts playing a tape of you acting interrested in what the telemarketeer says only to hang up after an hour. Either that or pick up and hang up immediately so the line stays clear. Whatever costs the telemarketeer most. All without the phone ever bothering you ofcourse.
    • by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:32PM (#21365507)
      If I'm in a snarky mood that's exactly what I do, pick up the phone and tell them I'm interested, tell them to hold on for just a sec and put the receiver down and put on some awful Wurlitzer music or go back to whatever I was doing (dishes is my favourite) and see how long it takes them to hang up.

      I had one guy on the line for over an hour, at one point he said "hello" loud enough for me to hear and I told him to "uhh... hang on just a bit more" and returned to whatever I was doing.

      I've actually just recently used some of the sites in question to figure out what lame person was trying to ring my number at dinner time. I did a Google search with the number and it came right up with it on 800notes.com. Impressive I thought, now if only I could block numbers for free...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Fozzyuw ( 950608 )

      and starts playing a tape of you acting interrested

      I'd do one that just went... "Hello? Hello?... Hello?... Can you speak up? Hello?... Sorry, the phone doesn't seem to be working, could you try calling back? Hello?". Then see how many times the person calls back. =)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I tried this, most don't call back but some do and sometimes from a direct line. This is key because you can have some fun with that number...

        Not that I would do anything like that.
    • by Embedded Geek ( 532893 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:11PM (#21367331) Homepage
      You wanna play a tape!? What is the world coming to? Any real geek would slap together a program that passes the Turing test, hook it to a speech synthesizer, and have it chat away with the telemarketer. And he'd do it in Perl or LISP!

      Shame on you! You should turn in your pocket protector.

      Damn kids. Stay off my lawn!
    • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:56PM (#21368153) Homepage Journal
      This software already exists! It's a free open source application called Telecrapper 2000 [pagerealm.com]. It refers to a text file full of phone numbers deemed "annoying" by the user and checks caller ID when the phone rings. If the caller is on the list the Telecrapper jumps into action, playing WAV files and waiting for the person on the other end to pause before playing the next WAV. After a while Telecrapper resorts to a subset of WAV files and plays them randomly until the caller hangs up.

      This cute Flash animation [deviantart.com] shows the Telecrapper in action. Hilarious stuff!

  • forgot to lock the keys on my cell phone and my phone called my friend 14 times!

    • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:34PM (#21365545) Homepage
      Fun fact, this is what happens if the center "stick" on the Sony Ericsson k700i does if pressed repeatedly:

      1. Menu
      2. Text messages
      3. New text message
      4. Send message
      5. Contact book
      6. Pick top contact
      7. Confirm send

      It gets even better because that stick apparently sends repeat presses if held down. I once got a phone call from an unlucky woman who was at the top of my contact list, saying I had sent her 60 blank text messages...

      Strangely enough, I've now made a "AAA" entry in my cell phone with a dummy number that goes nowhere. Whoever designed the damn thing should get a "stupidest design on market" award though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by peragrin ( 659227 )
        My Motorola L2 would dial the first person in my address book under the same situation. Since then I have reordered the main menu list to put games first. Most automatic calling has been stopped. Now the big problem isn't the menu but the voice dial button which is easier to press.

        I sneezed once and it called my father. I was laughing so hard I forgot to cancel the call until he picked up which resulted only in more laughter.

      • by mrzaph0d ( 25646 ) <zaph0d&curztech,com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:06PM (#21366049) Homepage
        you should point it back to your own number, that way it'll remind you on the first message that you forgot to lock your keys.
      • oblig. (Score:2, Funny)

        by Foerstner ( 931398 )

        Strangely enough, I've now made a "AAA" entry in my cell phone with a dummy number that goes nowhere.

        That's my number, you insensitive clod!
      • by sconeu ( 64226 )
        Not necessarily the Sony Ericcson k700i. That's a Verizon menu. All Verizon phones do that (my gZ'one does, anyways).
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rsborg ( 111459 )

        Strangely enough, I've now made a "AAA" entry in my cell phone with a dummy number that goes nowhere. Whoever designed the damn thing should get a "stupidest design on market" award though.

        You have to keep in mind, that, assuming you're in the US, the *carrier* gets some very strong input on phone design. I wouldn't be surprised if this was a profit-maximization scheme by your average ethics-free phone carrier. an extra say, 5 SMS's per caller who uses this phone would be a great additional revenue.

      • by adrianmonk ( 890071 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:39PM (#21367825)

        Whoever designed the damn thing should get a "stupidest design on market" award though.

        I've mentioned this piece of junk before, but I think that award should go to the Samsung phone I used to have where holding down "9" would dial 911, even when key lock was turned on. Arrrrrrrggh.

        Not surprisingly, this behavior made the 911 operators angry. It made me even angrier since I started to fear I might eventually be arrested if I kept carrying the phone. Of course I ditched the phone.

  • My friends and I.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Selfbain ( 624722 )
    came up with an idea where if a telemarketer called, we would connect them to an automated system that tried to make them think they were talking to a person. The idea being that whenever the guy stopped talking, the computer would play prerecorded messages like 'Tell me more' to see how long it could keep him on the line. Never actually tried it though.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I did. Perhaps mine sounded a bit *too* prerecorded, because they wouldn't stay on very long. A generic one that just looped through "Yes"...."Uh-huh"..."okay"...."muted grunt." seemed to work much better. Especially if there were longer pauses. Sad part - is how bored was I one weekend to do such a project is another discussion.
      • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:40PM (#21365651) Homepage Journal
        Telemarketers aren't fooled by that. Acting interested is the wrong way to go. You need to record yourself saying things like "I'm right in the middle of dinner" or "this isn't a good time". Then they'll be on line forever.
        I can't remember if it was the local radio show or a syndicated one that I listen to that had a guy on it who recorded his own pranking of telemarketer calls. He had one where he started off asking the telemarketer how he knew $IntendedRecipient and kept the guy on for about five minutes during which it evolved that there had been a murder, and that the telemarketer was now a suspect. They actually got the guy to admit where he was calling from and indicated that they were calling his local sheriff, and that he was not to move from his desk until the sheriff arrived. It was priceless.
        I think it is disgusting when people prank call innocent Chinese takeout places, people's stay-at-home wives, and so forth, but a telemarketer is open game in my opinion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by archen ( 447353 )
        I donno, I mean the Telecrapper 2000 [pagerealm.com] works astonishingly well. Keep in mind that most telemarketers aren't paid much and check their brain in at the door. The sheer repetition of reading off their prompts probably makes them less adept at figuring out that ti's a computer right away.
    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      came up with an idea where if a telemarketer called, we would connect them to an automated system that tried to make them think they were talking to a person. The idea being that whenever the guy stopped talking, the computer would play prerecorded messages like 'Tell me more' to see how long it could keep him on the line. Never actually tried it though.

      The TeleCrapper 2000. Windows only, though it looks like they have one with Asterisk. Answers the phone, if it's a telemarketer, boom, they get a nice littl

  • by RandoX ( 828285 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:25PM (#21365413)
    I'd rather have somebody do something about that slasher outside...
    1. whocalled.us ?
    2. slashdot called us !!!
    3. "please hang up and try again - you melted our server, you ignorant clods (#*#(@&&!

  • by uberdilligaff ( 988232 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:32PM (#21365513)
    Most of these ghost calls arrive because the automated dial systems telemarketers use dial several calls at once, and the first one that answers gets patched to the telemarketing stooge, while others that answer a few seconds later give that spooky silence for 5-10 seconds before they are hung up. The system logs the fact that you answered. Don't worry -- they'll call back to give you some love later.
  • by damn_registrars ( 1103043 ) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:33PM (#21365525) Homepage Journal
    I really don't see the application of this information. If you get a call with an ID that you don't recognize, do you really want to run to your computer first to decide whether or not to answer?

    And to make it even less useful, I checked two of the sites listed: whocalled.us and numberzoom.com. The first one was painfully slow (slashdotted perhaps?) and the second one was mostly a wiki with lots of numbers that have no information. You can look up a number, and then find that nobody has added any information on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      We need to use audio capthas: 'If you are a robot please press 0, if you are a human being please press 792168387231962887613'
  • I just check the called ID and only answer if I recognize the number. Could I miss an important call? That's why I have voice mail.

    As for stopping what I'm doing, getting up, going over to the phone, etc? Cordless phone is usually within arm's reach. If there's no phone near by or I can't get away from what I'm doing? That's why I have voice mail.
  • The PR rep makes it sound like the dropped call is a favor in compliance with some regulation.

    However, another, more self serving and therefore likely reason, is that the person on the dropped line cannot utter the words, "Please take me off your list." The scum also have to comply with that one.
  • by RyanFenton ( 230700 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:42PM (#21365667)
    I always presumed it was telemarketers who, in order to act more efficiently, would call multiple targets at once, then only connect to the first who picked up the phone, dumping the rest. This avoids the statistically costly tedium of reaching answering machines after x rings, or just waiting for 5 rings to hang up. After all, if you're in a state of existence where telemarketing or managing telemarketers is your main concern in life, a little extra inconvenience for random phone users would not be a key concern compared to profit ratio over time.

    Ryan Fenton
    • by Sierpinski ( 266120 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:21PM (#21366357)
      I used to work for a call center (as the DBA who handled all of the data) and you are pretty much correct about how it works. We had 40-60 callers working per any given shift, and our dialers were capable of dialing out about 120 numbers at once. There was a percentage (known/calculated statistic for this call center) of no-answer and busy signals, so they tried to tune it to be as efficient as possible. What would happen would be the 60 callers would be at their stations, and the call center computer would dial out 120 numbers. The first one that connects gets sent to the first caller (their phone rings, they pick it up and their screen is updated with that person's information), and so forth. Once all of the callers were engaged, or if too many of the people being called answered their phones at once, they were immediately disconnected. They called these 'nuisance calls' and the number of them was kept track of every night. They had a goal to stay under, and they usually made it. (I don't recall what the goal was, but it was greater than 0)

      There are also two different types of dialing, one is usually called 'autodialing', where the caller is sitting there, looking at the information of the person they are about to call. They initiate the call, and are met with a standard result: Answer, no answer, busy, line dead, etc. This causes no nuisance calls, because the caller is only calling that one person.

      The other kind of dialer is a predictive dialer [wikipedia.org], which dials ahead, and can cause the nuisance calls mentioned above. This is the most efficient method from a call-center point of view, because they can get through many more numbers. Lines that are no-answers, and busy never make it to the callers, so their time is spent with live calls.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by ca111a ( 1078961 )
        There is also the third kind - the type I ofter experience because my name is quite difficult to pronounce. When I pick up the phone all I can hear is - struggle to pronounce the name, then sigh, and then they hang up. Who knew having a name like Zilstrassgoulfmahnsen would have such benefits...
    • Yes, Ryan, you are correct. I'm in the industry, and many of the call centers use predictive dialers, which anticipate how many concurrent outbound calls the machine should be making in order to maximize efficiency of the employees while not pissing off too many people. Actually, the regulated hard number is 3% - you can't have more than 3% of your outbound customers pick up phones filled with silence!

      Does everyone stay below that number? No.

    • "Predictive calling" is a bit more sophisticated than that. The system tries to predict based on past performance of each clerk and the how long each busy clerk's current call has lasted when each one will become available and starts calls timed so that there will be something for each one to do when she finishes her current call. Of course it errs on the side of caution: better that the machine hang up on you because all clerks are busy than that one clerk experience a few seconds of dead time.
  • by jackpot777 ( 1159971 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:43PM (#21365685)

    the article mentions whocalled.us (one of the funnier urls I've ever seen)

    Obviously never seen www.gotahoe.com ...damnit, they changed it to www.gotahoenorth.com.

    And powergenitalia (PowerGen Italia) was a myth. [snopes.com]

    Never mind. There's always whorepresents [whorepresents.com], expertsexchange [experts-exchange.com], and Australia's molestationnursery [slurls.com], now renamed.
  • Since the domain name is .us I'm guessing that most of the users of that site are in the USA. If only the government would make a registry of numbers that telemarketers weren't allowed to call. Some sort of not calling registry. They might put it at donotcall.gov or something...
    • by 3waygeek ( 58990 )
      Yeah, that'd work.

      Seriously, though, I've had all my numbers registered with the FCC for years, and I still get at least 5 telemarketing calls every day. I've filed complaints with the FCC over the more persistent ones, not that it matters since they usually don't bother following up, and when they do, ask for information you can't get unless you actually engage with the telemarketers.

      When I get a telemarketing call, I'll usually Google the number, and most of the time I'll get a hit on whocalled.us or one
    • by simong ( 32944 )
      One small problem - that would be the government interfering in business, which is wrong. Unless it's Bell. Or Microsoft. Or a bank that needs bailing out. Anyway, in the UK, the problem was solved by creating an opt-out database but then letting the telemarketers themselves run it. It works better than you might expect although it is a specific opt-out service and the opt-out only lasts for two years. VoIP has meant that the systems can be anywhere in the world though, and callers aren't covered by it outs
      • > One small problem - that would be the government interfering in business, which is wrong.
        > Unless it's Bell. Or Microsoft. Or a bank that needs bailing out.

        Um, perhaps you might want to actually visit donotcall.gov?
  • It could be a slasher waiting outside your house, but it's probably an errant computer at a telemarketer.

    Not errant at all. Telemarketing computer systems are designed so that the call center people are never idle. That means there always has to be an incoming queue of suckers, er, potential customers waited to be talked to. Of course that means that a lot of people will just hang up before they get a chance to hear about the wonders of Timeshares and Male Enhancement Herbs, which is really sad, but an ac

  • I wonder if it's time for phones to say like 'please type the following numbers before your call is forwarded: 34856'. That way automated calls can be screened so you only get actual humans.
    • The telemarketers would just do a simple voice-to-text conversion. So telemarketing calls would be down for maybe a week or 2, but once they got their system updated, they'd be fine and we'd all be stuck with now having to enter in digits every time we place a call. Yay!

      Not to mention that legitimate automated call services would be affected

      Not to mention that we already have laws on the books to stop unwanted telemarketing calls -- we should just start enforcing them, instead of adding temporary hurdle

  • Asterisk FTW! (Score:4, Informative)

    by SIGBUS ( 8236 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @12:49PM (#21365785) Homepage
    I've set up an Asterisk box on my phone line, and a nifty CGI script that lists incoming calls from the call detail record database. With one click, it can do a whocalled.us lookup on the number, and with another click, I can blacklist it. Once it's in the blacklist, when they call again, I get blessed silence, while the junk caller gets SIT tones (boop-bap-BEEP!) and a recorded message not to call again.

    I can also blacklist the last caller by picking up the phone and dialing *60, if I'm not at a computer.

    I've noticed that certain blocks of numbers are rather spammy, so I'll go ahead and blacklist blocks of ten or 100 numbers when I start noticing a pattern. I'm not interrupted nearly as much as I used to be.
    • by harl ( 84412 )
      You should record something.

      "I'm sorry can you please speak up."

      Even if it's 20-30 seconds it will greatly annoy them.
  • You answer the phone and then hear people talking and keyboards clicking in the background. Then 4 seconds later some stupid rep finally comes on as says Hello Mr. whomever.
    • I actually think that is the best because I hang up after two seconds and don't have to worry about any ill-informed pangs of conscience over being rude.
  • I've been getting these calls on my cell phone, often every day. There is never anyone on the other end, just silence. Some of the calls are coming from numbers associated with Allied Interstate, a sleazy debt collection agency that would pimp their own children on a street corner if there was a nickel to be made.
  • At least one telemarketing operation is jacking up the volume of their calls to near deafing levels (granted I'm in my 20s...) despite the fact that the volume on the phone is at "1". I feel sorry for people who can't turn it down any lower on analog phones. This practice should be made illegal. Commercial and telemarketing operations should not be able to make changes to the default volume on the receiving line. For the next a***ole who tries this, they should sincerely hope I never meet them face to face
  • Luckily the company I work for saw the light and never used the thing. They did it all correctly though. They were only going to call leads they already had a business relationship with. No need to DNC scrub the lists. The software on this one had a slider where you could define the call drop rate. Now the law states that you cannot call and then drop more then 3% of calls for the life of the campaign. The algorithm is supposed to make less calls per logged in agent based on previous drop rates experienced.
  • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:07PM (#21366073) Journal
    I have a couple of solutions I use when telemarketers call. Now if more people used these methods ...

    1) Answer the phone, tell the person on the other end you're right in the middle of something, but if they hold on .............. and set the phone down, and wait. I had one guy hang on for 1/2 hour for me to get back ... SUCKER

    2) Act Crazy. Talk about Aliens, UFOs, Bigfoot, whatever. Paranoidism also works. "Why do you keep calling me, what do you want"

    3) Start Preaching about Buddha, Jesus, Allah, Moses, Vishnu ..... (maybe considered a variant of 2)

    4) Ask if the other person is into "phone sex" and start talking dirty.

    5) Try to sign them up for MLM (Amway)

    6) Pretend to be abusing/being abused by your SO, while on the phone. "Stop it you bitch or I'll beat your ass again"

    In fact, mix and match all you want and come up with some new ideas. ie combine 6 and 4, hilarious.

    The point is, if you're having fun with it, and it wastes their time, and enough people do it, it becomes unprofitable waste of the actual human's time on the other end. The bonus is, since I've started doing this, the number of telemarketing calls has dropped to almost nothing.
  • You would think the telemarketers would realize that answering the phone and hearing nothing is a dead giveaway that it's a telemarketer, and change their tactics. If they hit my answering machine they get dead air, because the (fairly brief) outgoing message has long since finished by the time they pick up. This results in recordings of confused telemarketers saying "Hello...hello...hello...". Serves the dumb f**ks right.

    I'm in the phone book as "L. Halliday", and the cold calls always ask for Mr. or Mrs

  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:07PM (#21366085) Homepage Journal

    I usually just hang up if there's no answer. But sometimes, I'll play their game. They invade my privacy, I figure I'm within my rights to ask a few questions:

    1. Who is calling?
    2. What is your name?
    3. Most people have a last name, too. What is it?
    4. Do I know you?
    5. Haven't we met before somewhere?
    6. (sometimes) DRUNKEN COLLEGE KID VOICE: I swear you sound just like that chic I met last night. (Also useful for male callers, but in an even worse way...)
    7. Please wait while I Google your name.
    8. Are you pregnant?
    9. Boy or a girl? You must be so proud! Congratulations! (for added effect, I'll pretend to tell my wife in a loud voice: Hey Honey, so-and-so is having a ...)
    10. Are you a college student?
    11. At this point, I'll ask if they'd like to play a game of 20 questions.
    12. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?
    13. Do you believe in the theory of evolution?
    14. Are you a Democrat or Republican?
    15. etc...

    Now, understand that these people are paid by the hour. I'm not wasting their time, I'm wasting their employers time.

    Telemarketing is profitable because most of the people who don't want to buy will just hang up the phone. If everyone they called insisted on having a nice, cordial, and polite conversation about political topics, the business model would fail entirely. So, if you hate telemarketing, use the calls as a nice way of promoting your favorite political party, religious position, human rights advocacy, etc... You might even explain to them such topics as:

    1. Why DRM is bad for consumers.
    2. Why torture is immoral. Remember, the revenues they make are supporting the current administration through taxes, so it is most certainly relevant to the discussion of any sale they might make.
    3. The difficulty of using Windows Vista.
    4. The importance of privacy.

    Remember, it's a captive audience. Don't be afraid to speak your mind - people need to know!. Don't be intimidated by them. Rather, use the opportunity for political activism!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sierpinski ( 266120 )
      I usually just hang up if there's no answer. But sometimes, I'll play their game. They invade my privacy, I figure I'm within my rights to ask a few questions:

      I'm all for wasting telemarketer's time, and I agree that you have every right to know as much about them as they know about you, but you can't say that they are invading your privacy by calling you. The mere fact that you own a phone and have a number means that you expect people to call you. Granted their reasons or methods by which they gained your
      • Ironic, that the answering machine is the savior of my family's dinner time.

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )
        I disagree. It is invading your privacy. Privacy is about relationships and control.

        OTOH, privacy is determined by society, and 92% feel it's an invasion or privacy, then it is.

        I don't have caller ID.

      • The mere fact that you own a phone and have a number means that you expect people to call you.

        No it doesn't. There are many legitimate reasons for having a phone without wanting to receive calls, such as emergency support for sick or old people, dialup data lines, or simply the fact that you have to have one to get DSL in some places. Maybe those aren't all that common, but it's not my responsibility to prove to them that I want to receive calls.

    • >Now, understand that these people are paid by the hour. I'm not wasting their time, I'm wasting their employers time.

      Not quite... They do get paid by the hour, but if you fall under a certain number of calls per hour, you get fired. /Not trying to support the callers //But it's important to understand the effect you have on others
  • The "counter-script" (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:13PM (#21366211)

    A Dutch invention, from 1994. And then to think that in The Netherlands the problem has never been that bad! The counter-script it's called, and it's here: http://www.xs4all.nl/~egbg/counterscript.html [xs4all.nl]

    From the website:

    The Direct Marketing sector regards the telephone as one of its most successful tools. Consumers experience telemarketing from a completely different point of view: more than 92% perceive commercial telephone calls as a violation of privacy.
    Telemarketers make use of a telescript - a guideline for a telephone conversation. This script creates an imbalance in the conversation between the marketer and the consumer. It is this imbalance, most of all, that makes telemarketing successful. The EGBG Counterscript attempts to redress that balance.

    I'm not affiliated with the site, I just happen to know about it. I never even tried it, when a telemarketer calls I usually just hang up.

    • by jefu ( 53450 )

      Ah, the counter-script. Great fun. I used it before the DNC list went operational and eventually developed several variations. I think I managed to really disturb some of the operators (try asking them for their names, cities, home addresses and numbers some time).

  • Dude, get yourself a couple of beers and stop wasting your time. 90% of ghost calls you receive are VoIP. Spoofing caller ID is trivial in VoIP environment. You don't have to be a telemarketer to do it. There are services like http://www.grandcentral.com/ [grandcentral.com] (where google will collects samples of your voice) or http://www.xebba.com/ [xebba.com] where you can get free 800 or local number and call anywhere anonymously for a couple of cents per minute.

    Unless you're whitelisting your calls (which comes with a risk of losing a
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:14PM (#21366243)
    I treat every telemarketing call I get like a ghost call:

    (phone rings) me: Hello?
    caller: Hi, this is so-and-so from somewhere and we're conducting a research...
    me: Hello? Is anywhere there?
    caller: Hello? Can you hear me?
    me: Hello? (pause) Hello?
    caller: Can you hear...
    me (yelling away from phone): I don't know who it is honey, I can't hear anything.
    caller: Hello?

    I can keep them on for maybe a minute sometimes. They don't usually call back.
  • Many years ago, I used to just tell phone spammers "sorry, not interested", and hang up. After e-mail spam took off, I considered the matter a little more thoroughly, and now I when I get a phone spam, my first statement is "put me on your do-not-call list for all clients", and then I let loose with a blue streak of the most vile verbal abuse I can improvise on the spot. The idea is to make the job of being a phone spammer as unpleasant as I possibly can, so as to increase attrition in the phone-spamm
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:25PM (#21366443)
    My land line is always on an answering machine. I never pick it up and neither does any of my frriends. Basically the phone service has turned into a voice messaging service decades ago already - no interactive yakking.
  • Today I was browsing normally through Slashdot and was given a link that sent me to a blank website. I'm terrified that it might actually be a slasher or - worse - a telemarketer.
  • by dcavanaugh ( 248349 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @01:35PM (#21366657) Homepage
    When the victim's phone is answered, the dialer has to rapidly determine if the voice on the other side is human or machine. To do this, they try to analyze the greeting. The dialer wants to hear the word "Hello", followed by silence. Actually, it wants to hear ANY sound for about half a second, with a few seconds of silence.

    To waste more of the telemarketer's time, consider changing your outgoing message:

    OLD: "You have reached the Smith residence. We are not available at the moment, but leave your name and number so we can get back to you."

    NEW: "Hello [3 second pause] You have reached..."

    This should cause the dialer to connect the call to a telemarketer, who will miss about 5 seconds of your message, but they will hear the rest. Obviously, the telemarketer will hang up in a few seconds, but not before wasting a little more time. I think of it as redirecting the annoyance back to the source.
  • Anyone know what this number is? It has called my cell phone over 100 times and there is never anyone there when I bother to answer it.
  • by British ( 51765 ) <british1500@gmail.com> on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:24PM (#21367555) Homepage Journal
    If you live in St. Paul, MN, sometimes you get automated phone calls declaring a snow emergency.

    The call itself I don't mind(time to move the car), but their choice of caller ID string is the worst one possible. It's 911-000-0000.

    Just imagine old folks clogging up 911 call centers trying desperately to call back after the resulting confusion. Ramsey county can't afford a phone number that just plays back the same message when you call back? It just HAS to be 911, huh?

    I know it's the caliber of telemarketers, but it's still stupid.
  • Just hang up. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hamster Lover ( 558288 ) * on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:36PM (#21367779) Journal
    Reading through this thread I see that many have suggested technical solutions or humorous responses to "ghost" type telemarketing calls. I simply don't have the time or the patience to waste on such "solutions" and simply hang up, even if the phone droid is droning on.

    The next time you receive one of these calls, just hang up. Don't waste your time, don't install some advanced phone system, don't engage in conversation, don't get angry and don't try and be funny (unless you are). Just hang up the fucking phone and get on with your life.
  • by Curmudgeonlyoldbloke ( 850482 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:40PM (#21367855)
    There are lots and lots of telemarketers out there that want to talk to people. There are also lots and lots of people who don't get out much - elderly, live a long way from town, whatever. Shouldn't we be putting one group of people in touch with the other? Even better, people with anger management issues or those who are just having a bad day could sign up for the service, called something like "ripthepissoutofatelemarketer.com" (I haven't checked - maybe it's still available?) and get all of their issues off their chest with someone who actually wants to talk to them!
  • by eples ( 239989 ) on Thursday November 15, 2007 @02:51PM (#21368071)
    Having worked (briefly) for a telemarketer, the "dialer" is a server with telcom hardware attached (ours was a SCO Unix box, ironically) and you feed it numbers to dial. Makes sense, right?

    Long story short, to up your sales numbers you tell it to dial more numbers in advance. If the setting is too high, nobody's there on your end to take the call because they're all already talking to someone. The more numbers you dial the better chance someone's going to answer. There's a pacing algorithm too which takes into account the number of reps available and average call times and many other variables - but since upping the number typically gets you better sales figures... yeah you'll never guess what people do - they up the number.

    There are federal regulations in place, however, specifically to limit this practice. Hard to enforce. These calls are probably not coming from a big and established telemarketer, but rather a small startup shop.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant