Tag Archives: phone

Call Spam Solutions

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.

Call Spam

Credit card

Credit card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the past couple of years I’ve had a problem with call spam. I don’t know how or why I ended up on the call list, but my frustration level is increasing and I currently don’t see a way to stop this nonsense. I’m posting this here in hopes that someone in a similar situation will comment with their experience.

The message is always the same. The call starts with a recording stating that because of my good credit rating a credit card company is offering to lower my APR. I can press 1 to speak with a representative. If I don’t press 1 the call drops before they can leave a message.

If I do press 1, I’m on hold for a few seconds, then a pushy representative comes on the line asking questions about my debt (how much, number of open lines of credit, etc). If I say I don’t want to share, they answer by saying that they already have all of this info, they’re just asking me to verify.

There are a couple of tricky parts to this. If I even start the phrase “remove me from your calling list”, or any variant of it, they hang up. That’s right, they hang up before I can ask them to stop calling me. And, they’ve called me enough for me to know that they’re very twitchy about this. I don’t know how they make any money because they’re so quick to hang up on you.

The second tricky thing is that they call from a wide variety of numbers. Very rarely do they call from the same number more than twice. This means that blocking a particular number does nothing. They have a bank of numbers that they’re using, so if I block one they’ve got dozens of others to use.

Here’s a list of the numbers that they’ve used to contact me.

  • 701-671-9224
  • 479-274-1769
  • 508-475-1388
  • 971-220-1781
  • 402-982-0422
  • 775-410-1104
  • 250-448-7574
  • 616-216-2172
  • 251-725-1770
  • 263-989-7373
  • 773-340-4844

These are just the recent ones. I didn’t start keeping track of this until around Thanksgiving of last year (yes, they’ve called me from each of these numbers within the past two months!).

I’m beside myself trying to figure out how to stop this. They call at all hours of the day & night (I’ve gotten these calls as late as 11pm), and they just don’t stop. I can’t even find out the name of the company, so how am I supposed to make them stop?

Hopefully someone will find this via a phone number search and leave a comment. Maybe if they’re blasting you with this nonsense we can put our heads together and figure out how to end this.

Feb 27th Edit: More numbers they’re using:

  • 312-340-5580
  • 402-982-0721
  • 234-542-5932
  • 712-357-3090
  • 403-905-8000

BlackBerry

For the past several months I have been shopping cell phone providers and deals. My contract with Verizon expired so I’ve been a free agent. With Verizon, every time you sign a new contract you get a deal on a new phone, but what I wanted was a plan that includes web & email access. I’m on the go all the time so that would be pretty handy.

I shopped online quite a bit so when I finally went to my local Verizon rep I was pretty knowledgeable on what’s available, and I worked him for at least an hour. I already had a Treo that I was happy with so I wasn’t interested in a new phone. We looked at several plan options, all of them were more per month. I finally gave up, thinking that it wasn’t going to happen. Finally as I was walking away, he said “if you sign up for a data plan, I’ll give you a BlackBerry.” Um. Okay. I can work with that. I am paying more per month, but since I can work from anywhere its a wash for me. And, the phone is suh-weet.
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The Ringer

What’s problem with custom ringtones? The price, right? Who wants to pay a couple of dollars for a ringtone that they’ll be tired of within a couple of months? Custom ringtones are available through a bunch of different sources. Many of the ones that I’ve found have been a subscription thing, where you pay $2-$5 per month. That’s just crazy.

But you have to admit, they are kind of cool, right? I like them, but have never had one before because I don’t want to pay someone for a 15 second clip of a song that I already own. I’ve known that there are options for creating these yourself, but who has the time to jack with it?

I got a Treo phone for Christmas from my brother. I love that thing. Its great to have my calendar in my pocket, and I also like putting all of my contacts in one place (Outlook) for my computer and my phone. So all of that is pretty cool. The problem is, the Treo is a fairly popular phone. Probably once or twice per week I’ll hear my phone ring, only to realize that someone next to me has the same ring as me. I’ve never had that problem before now.

Custom ringtones are the answer. I had to figure this out. And I did. In about 15 minutes (if I had known it was this simple…). You need to do this. You like custom ringtones, and you’re tired of paying for them.

You’ll need to download two files, Audacity and lame (I laughed, too). Note that this version of lame is for Windows. If you’re on a Mac or *nix machine its available for you, too. Do a search and you’ll find it.

Unpack lame in a folder on your desktop. You’re done with that now, so install Audacity. Once its installed, open it up and click Edit > Preferences > File Formats > Find Library. Point it to the folder that you unpacked lame in. Set the bit rate to 128 and click OK. You now have all the tools you need.

Pick your favorite MP3, open it in Audacity and clip it down to 15 seconds. You get to pick which 15 seconds, so don’t sweat it. When you’re done, export it to MP3 (be sure to change the file name otherwise you’ll overwrite your original song).

Finally, get the new MP3 to your phone by text message, USB, Bluetooth, however. Then on your phone move it to the ringtone folder and you’re all set. Ba Da Boom you’re done. Free ringtones.

Next time you call me, I’ll be listening to Strong Bad. Yippee kai yo.