Since my last post on call spam earlier this year I’ve spent a fair amount of time researching this issue and possible solutions. Since I’m getting several robocalls per week (sometimes several per day), I’ve also tried a handful of different strategies for dealing with them.
Why They’re Calling
I think I’ve figured out how they’re profiting from calling me. Apparently phone companies pay a small fee for access to caller ID information for numbers outside of their network. The robocall companies have partnered with a utility company that gets paid every time they place a call, and the two of them share the profit. Once a number (any number) shows up on caller ID, they’ve achieved their goal. This is why they can hang up as soon as you start asking questions.
I don’t know that this is true. I found this in a random blog by searching forums for phone numbers that have dialed me. The story seems viable but the blog is sketchy (not good enough to warrant a link from me). So, while I believe its true, I haven’t proved it. Indeed, I don’t know how to prove it. But, its the only thing that makes any since. Why else would a company call dozens of times per month without closing any business?
This Does Not Work
Knowing that they don’t care if they sell you anything, it then doesn’t matter if you talk to them or not. For a while I tried to talk to the reps and waste their time. This only proved to be a waste of my time. Not only did they not stop calling me, I had proven that my number was valid so the number of calls actually increased.
It also does absolutely no good to ask them to stop calling. The average citizen cannot track them, so you can’t report them, and they don’t care if they irritate you. They made their money as soon as your phone rang, so it doesn’t matter to them if they talk to you or not. I once tried to get contact info from the rep (phone number, website, company name, etc) and he wouldn’t answer any of my questions at all. All I accomplished was proving to them that my phone number is legitimate.
At this point I was pretty tempted to give up and get a new phone number. That would be quite a hassle, and there’s no guarantee that the new number I receive isn’t already on some robocaller’s list.
How to Stop Them
For the past 3 weeks I’ve found that it works to answer the call and then immediately hanging up. If you press 1 to speak with an operator, they know you’re number is real. If you press 3 to be removed from the calling list, they know you’re real. And if the call rolls to voicemail, they hear your voice and know that the number is valid. If you answer then immediately hang up without saying anything, they have no confirmation that the call went through.
In just a few short weeks, this strategy has cut the number of calls down to once or twice per week. I’ll concede that this is still too much, but its less than half of what I was receiving. I’m thankful for the reprieve.
Long Term Solutions
The FTC has been getting flooded with complaints, and last fall they held a competition for solutions. They announced the winners earlier this week, and I think they have ideas that could work. If email providers can accurately filter out spam then phone providers can filter out robocalls. And that’s exactly the idea that won. A handful of people from Google devised a system of identifying legitimate phone numbers from robo-dialers.
I hope the technology to end this is implemented soon, and I hope it works.