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TeleZapper - A Way to Avoid Telemarketers? 688

VeniDormi asks: "While watching TV on my TiVo, I actually stopped to see an ad for a device called 'The TeleZapper', which claims to foil tele-marketers by convincing their auto-dialers that your number has been disconnected. The FAQ is light on technical details, only mentioning that the device 'emits [a] tone briefly when the line is answered'. I'm hoping Slashdotters with more telecommunications expertise can enlighten me as to: how/if this might work and whether or not it is something I could reproduce with a sound card, say for recording at the beginning of my voicemail message. Could it be as simple as playing back the three shrill tones I hear when I dial a wrong number?" Ah, the telephone equivalent to SPAM. Too bad phones don't have the equivalent of procmail filters.
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TeleZapper - A Way to Avoid Telemarketers?

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  • by crispy ( 14415 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:52PM (#2432230) Homepage
    I haven't had a single phone solicitation since I signed up for the service a few months ago. It's well worth the $3/month.
    • I use Qwest's call screening service.

      Works fine...except when I get calls from Qwest asking me to upgrade my service or notify me of special offers.


    • 1) Simply using an answering machine cuts down enormously on phone solicitations. Some sleaze outfits do have equipment that will leave messages but most are only interested in victimizing a live caller.

      2) I use an answering machine with a "voice mailbox" capability--mine was made by GE and cost $40. We don't assign anyone to Mailbox 1. Intro message says "Press 2 for Dan, 3 for [my wife]." Those few outfits that use automated equipment to leave message end up in mailbox 1. (But some real messages from baffled people end up there, too, so I still do need to listen to it).

      3) On EVERY call I do get, my first words are "I don't want to be called, take me off your list." I believe this really does have some effect.

      I currently get less than one solicitation per week.

      4) If, for some reason, you're like me and have trouble being rude, a technique that it quite effective with phone solicitors and door-to-door salespeople is to say, politely, but firmly, "No, no, no, no, no, no, no." The person who gave me this tip said that many salespeople are specifically trained NOT to break off the conversation or go away until they have heard "no" seven times. Give them their seven noes and they'll break off gracefully. I don't know if that's the explanation, but it does work.
      • by Russ Steffen ( 263 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:23PM (#2432529) Homepage
        3) On EVERY call I do get, my first words are "I don't want to be called, take me off your list." I believe this really does have some effect.

        I've found that this is the single most effective way to cut down on telemarketeing calls (aside from hunting telemarketers for sport, of course). I started doing this about a year and a half ago. At the time I was getting 2 to 3 calls per night (and about a dozen during the day judging by the caller-id box). Now I get one call maybe every six weeks or so. That I can handle.

        When I do get a call, I just interrupt them as soon as it's clear that they are a telemarketer. I always use the phrase "place me on your do-not-call list". If you just say "take me off your list", they will - but as soon as they buy some more numbers that happen to include yours your're back on the list. The "Do Not Call List" is different, as once you are on it, you should never get an unsolicited call from that organization again (and all telemarketers are required by law to have such a list).

        junkbusters.com has lots of good info on the subject.

      • But some real messages from baffled people end up there, too, so I still do need to listen to it

        Why would you want to talk to anyone that dumb? In fact, I would simply add a third option, "Press 1 if your I.Q. is less than 80."

    • by well_jung ( 462688 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:38PM (#2432651) Homepage
      I actually quite enjoy telling the marketers off. It's a great way to vent the frustrations of 13 hours in the server room. And it's a lot better than kicking the dog (well, for the dog, anyway)

    • the racket (Score:3, Insightful)

      by operagost ( 62405 )
      Isn't that like a protection racket? You used to (back in the ol PE6-5000 days) pay the phone company to have your name listed. This was handy, you could tell people, "Look me up in the book!" Then you had to pay Ma Bell to NOT put you in the book. Now, being unlisted isn't enough to keep the Telco monopolies from selling off your private information. They want $3/month (to compensate for lost revenue, I assume). I suppose that eventually, you'll have to pay them to secure your DSL connection, or else they'll let Microsoft come in and disable your expired copy of Windows XP and McDonalds pop up Big Mac ads in the middle of your web page.
    • by PD ( 9577 ) <slashdotlinux@pdrap.org> on Monday October 15, 2001 @07:34PM (#2433829) Homepage Journal
      1) You get phone service from phone company
      2) Phone company sells your information to other companies.
      3) You tell phone company to make your number unlisted.
      4) Phone company sells your information anyway.
      5) Telemarketers start calling you.
      6) You get "unknown caller blocking" and caller ID to stop telemarketers.
      7) The phone company sells a service to the telemarketers that allows them to get around the unknown caller blocking.
      8) You're getting telemarketing calls again, so PacBell says to you: pay us some money and we'll protect you from those telemarketers.
      9) You send them their $3 a month and you're safe again, until the next time PacBell sells the telemarketers a service to let them get around the privacy manager.

      It's a fucking extortion racket.
  • What's the point? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aliebrah ( 135162 ) <ali@ebrahi[ ]rg ['m.o' in gap]> on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:54PM (#2432243) Homepage
    Wouldn't it just be a lot easier if, for example, when you hear a telemarketer on the phone just say "get bent" and then hang up on them?

    Seems like a much less troublesome and a much more effortless solution to me! :)
    • Re:What's the point? (Score:4, Informative)

      by xinit ( 6477 ) <(rmurray) (at) (foo.ca)> on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:08PM (#2432379) Homepage
      I worked in a soliciting house back in high school. That kind of response generally got a number flagged as "no answer, call back." Seemed to be pretty standard procedure; best way to get back at someone who cursed at you and hung up was to call back.
      • by S.Lemmon ( 147743 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:20PM (#2432499) Homepage
        Here's my favorite telemarketer trick: when they first ask for someone say something like "hold on, I get them..." then just leave the phone off the hook. Check back 15 minutes later or so. If by some miracle they're still on the line, repeat.
        Hey, let 'em call back if they like - see how much of their time you can waste!
    • No, I've hung up on AT&T numerous times and they kept calling me on an almost daily basis until I told them to put me on the list.

      Now only if Qwest would stop bugging me about custom choice(I must have a certain set of features turned on to provoke them to bug me abuot it) since I wouldn't use half of those features anyway.
    • Wouldn't it just be a lot easier if, for example, when you hear a telemarketer on the phone just say "get bent" and then hang up on them?

      Seems like a much less troublesome and a much more effortless solution to me! :)

      You must not get many telemarketer's calls then. They are incessant. Many times an hour. I have caller ID, and never pick up the "Number Unknown" calls. But, already, that annoying ringing coupled with having to go over and look at the box is a hassle. No, not a big deal once or twice, but when it's all the time, it gets hard to have a conversation, or be able to think for any sustained period of time.

      If the Telezapper really reduces the number of calls you get, that would be great. If it just disconnects that call, and doesn't delete you from databases, then it won't do much for me.

      Already, most of the time, I just let the answering machien field the calls. I'm seriously considering turning off the ringer on my phone, and only having the answering machine answer calls. Of course, the problem with that is that as soon as somebody I actually want to do it uses the same telemarketer solution, it becomes nearly impossible for us to reach each other on the phone; we just get each other's answering machine....

      To my mind, phone telemarketers are way worse the spammers. With spam, a quick delete gets rid of it, and it's faster than dealing with telemarketers. Plus, I get to choose when to read my E-mail, and so I can steel myself for it. I don't get to choose when my phone will ring.


    • by iconnor ( 131903 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @04:09PM (#2432821)
      You need to take advantage of the TCPA and extract $500 damages from them. Some people have extracted more than $40,000 from these people. To learn more, visit:

      Junk Busters [junkbusters.com]

      Use Enigma to log the calls [verinet.com]

      See if the FCC is already after them [fcc.gov]

      I have already been offered $250 from one telemarketing firm - but I want to go to trial. Also, since I have used the JunkBuster anti-telemarketing script, I am lucky to get any calls at all. The last call was from Qwest on last month - a month after I was sent a letter from one of their lawyers explaining I was on their "do not call list". That call will make me $500 to $1500 when we go to court :)
  • It's kinda simple (Score:3, Redundant)

    by StormRider01 ( 231428 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:54PM (#2432245)
    Ever dial a Disconnected number? The tone that's played is part of the telephone system standard, and when a telemarketing computer receives that tone, it thinks the number has been disconnected, and marks the number as such in it's database.
  • How it works (Score:5, Interesting)

    by .@. ( 21735 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:54PM (#2432247) Homepage
    It emits three rising tones, identical to those that precede "invalid number" errors. Automated telemarketing tools recognize these control tones and disconnect the call, AND remove the number from their dialing pool, since they think it's now an invalid number. After the three tones, the phone rings as normal. Two drawbacks: This won't work with telemarketers that don't use automated tools, and it may confuse people who call you, since their brain may also think "it's an error message, I'm going to hang up now." After all, who listens to the phone errors? When you hear the tones, you know you're not getting through, so you disconnect.
    • Re:How it works (Score:5, Informative)

      by Cap'n Crax ( 313292 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:00PM (#2432317) Homepage
      It's a "SIT" tone. "Special Information Tone" or something similar. If you put it as the first thing on your answering machine, the telemarker's auto-calling devices will log your number as "out-of-service" and won't call you anymore. You can get the SIT tone here. [flash.net]
    • Re:How it works (Score:4, Insightful)

      by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:18PM (#2432481)
      See this page [dialogic.com] for a table of frequencies and durations of "SIT" tones.

      Good luck.

  • Better Idea (Score:5, Funny)

    by InfinityWpi ( 175421 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:55PM (#2432255)
    I don't care about the telemarketers. They dont' call me. I wanna device that'll tell people that the reason some strange guy picked up the phone at their daughter's place WAS BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T DIAL THE RIGHT NUMBER! Geeze, people... I should start saying she's tied up to the bed... you'd think after the third wrong number they'd get the hint.
    • by CmdrPinkTaco ( 63423 ) <emericle@c[ ]berware.com ['hub' in gap]> on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:08PM (#2432384) Homepage
      I am a 24 year old male (don't worry, there is a reason that Im telling this). At the time that this occured, I still lived with my parents. One morning after a long night of heavy binge drinking I was awakend at the gawd awful hour of 11:00 to my phone ringing. Since I was the only one home at the time, I picked up. On the other end of the line was a telemarketer who was far too perky for my likings that was inquiring about the availiblilty of my sister.

      "Yes, this is so-and-so from such-and-such a company, may I speak with Jessica?"

      To which I replied in my gravely, gruff, I-smoke-2-packs-a-day-and-you-just-woke-me-up voice, "Yeah, this is her."

      The part that really cracked me up was when the perky telemarketer went on to give me the sales pitch.

      I just hung up. I have found that to be a very effective method in ridding myself of telespammers.
      • by jayed_99 ( 267003 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:54PM (#2432733)
        I watched this happen last Saturday. I'm over at a guy's home office setting up a FreeBSD web & mail server for him.

        His phone rings. I watch him pick it up and say, "I'm sorry, Mr. Moreland passed away yesterday."

        Then he says, "No, Mrs. Moreland is in custody as the prime suspect."

        I nearly pissed myself.
  • Pretty simple. I don't answer the numbers that come up "Unknown" or "Out of Area". That weeds out 95% of the telemarketers. If it's someone I know they just leave a message on my machine and I pick up.

    • Re:Caller ID (Score:2, Interesting)

      by SteveMonett ( 528540 )
      There is even a way to answer an "Out of Area" and still avoid the telemarketers. Pick up the phone but instead of just saying "hello" pretend to be an answering machine. The autodialer computer listens for sounds that are short, like "hello", or long like a typical invitation to leave a message and only connects you to a human if the burst is short. When my kids use calling cards they show up "unavailable" so when I see such a call after 8pm I use my little speach that ends in "how may I help you." Most real people catch on quickly enough to stay on.
  • by Green Aardvark House ( 523269 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:55PM (#2432264)
    Could it be as simple as playing back the three shrill tones I hear when I dial a wrong number?

    Careful. Those may be copyrighted by your local telephone company.
  • by clinko ( 232501 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:56PM (#2432267) Journal
    I love when they call. Mess with their heads. I once told the guy "i'm on the can, but go ahead" Then strained and grunted while he was talking. It was fun, but I laughed too hard then hung up.
    • by Telecommando ( 513768 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:40PM (#2432669)
      A friend of mine loves to mess with them as well. For years he'd listen to their pitch, then start breathing heavily, "Hehhh, Henh" and ask "What kind of underwear are you wearing? Is it soiled? Can you send me a pair?" They'd usually hang up right away. Once one of them called the police and reported him for making an obscene call. He explained to the cops that the telemarketer had called HIM and told them what he had done. I guess the cops were still laughing as they drove away.

      Now his favorite routine is to try to "convert" them.

      "Have you taken our Lord Jesus Christ as your personal savior? Have you welcomed him into your heart? For LO! He is coming. Coming to cast all vile sinners into the firey pits of..." And that's about as far as he's ever gotten before they hang up. Pity, he's got about a 10 minute routine worked up. Funniest thing about it is when he receives one of these calls on his cell phone in a restaraunt. You should see all the other diners shut up and listen in, then nervously go back to their conversations.
    • I have some fun myself...
      The following phone conversation really happened, but I'm having to recreate it pretty much from memory so the wording is probably not exact...

      THEM: Hello, I'd like to tell you about our Vinyl Siding... (rest of sales pitch here)

      ME: I don't need Vinyl Siding. I live in a doghouse.

      THEM: Oh really?

      ME: Are you calling me a liar?

      THEM: Uh, no it's just...

      ME: It's just what? How many people do you know who put vynil siding on their dog houses?

      THEM: (click)
  • by atrowe ( 209484 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:56PM (#2432271)
    I haven't gotten a call from a telemarketer for years.

    My solution: I don't have a home phone. Whenever I am forced to give out my telephone number, I give the number to my cell phone. In my locality (Virginia, US), it is illegal for a solicitor to call a cell phone. This is because if a solicitor were to call my cell phone, *I* would be the one paying for their call.

    I'm not sure if this is a nationwide law, or just a local one, but it's certainly worth looking into. Many cellular service providers are now offering unlimited local plans for around $50 US, so the cost is close to that of a regular land line.
    • What about if your home landline # rolls over to your cell phone? That's why I keep my cell phone off during office hours.
    • A major problem with this method is that most potential employers, landlords and utility companies DEMAND a local, home number be on file. I have been refused service because of this.

      There's no getting around it: you must have a local home number.
      • A major problem with this method is that most potential employers, landlords and utility companies DEMAND a local, home number be on file. I have been refused service because of this.
        But is there a demand that you answer it when called?

        I've got a home phone line that I use for my home alarm system. It's also the number I give out to the average Joe who wants "my home phone number", but never anyone I'm interested in talking to (for them, I give them my always-on-my-belt cell phone). I have one ringer on in the very far end of the house. I hear it ring occasionally (when the DVD player isn't on), but I don't answer it. I couldn't care less. It's like having a lightning rod for useless calls. {grin}

      • You are perfectly free to not attach a phone to that line.
    • by corky6921 ( 240602 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:13PM (#2432425) Homepage
      From Junkbusters [junkbusters.com]:

      "No person may

      -- Initiate any telephone call (other than a call made for emergency purposes or made with the prior express consent of the called party)...To the telephone line of any guest room or patient room of a hospital, health care facility, elderly home, or similar establishment; or
      To any telephone number assigned to a paging service, cellular telephone service, specialized mobile radio service, or other radio common carrier service, or any service for which the called party is charged for the call."

      It looks like you can also receive up to $500 in damages if they do call your cell phone (though I don't know if they can be held liable if you claim it is your home phone number.)
    • In my locality (Virginia, US), it is illegal for a solicitor to call a cell phone.
      Better yet, if they call your home phone, ask them "Are you aware that you're calling a cell phone? It's illegal for a solicitor to call a cell phone in this state."

      Do it even if they call your land line.

      • A good Idea, but I'm not sure if it'll work. It is possible for telemarketers to tell, just by looking at a number, if they are calling a land line or a cell phone.

        Certain information is able to be discerned based on one's telephone exchange (the first three numbers, e.g. xxx-1234). Each locality is issued an exchange, and cell phone companies are issued different exchanges. For example, if your number is 123-4567, most of your neighbors would also have the 123 exchange, but if your number is 987-6543, other cell users who obtained their phone through the same vendor as you would have the 987 exchange.
    • I'm not sure if this is a nationwide law, or just a local one, but it's certainly worth looking into.

      It is a nationwide law, and THANK GOD FOR THAT!
    • I am not sure about other states, but here in Missouri there is now a No Call Law. Basically you go to http://www.ago.state.mo.us/nocalllaw.htm and enter your name and info and phone number. Once you do that (there is a small delay) it is illegal for a telemarketer to call you. As of September 26, 2001 the state has collected from telemarketers $102,500 in fines.

      Seems to me like more states need these laws, write your state legislator. I know I am on the list, and my parents and we never get any telemarketer calls.
  • It should be a simple software fix to upgrade the telemarketer's systems to search for something beyond that simple tone - even recognizing the entire "the number you have reached has been disconnected" speech pattern would be pretty simple I would think.

    A better solution would involve telepone companies getting involved - say you get such a call, you could dial *TELEMARKETER or something, and the number that just called you would be added to a blacklist - when enough people blacklisted the number, that number would be prevented from making outgoing calls for a set period of time.

    Ahh, if only the telephone companies didn't make so much money off telemarketers, think of how quickly they would be gotten rid of.

    (naive mode off) oh wait... we still have spam... scratch that last bit of wishful thinking then.

    • *TELEMARKETER or something, and the number that just called you would be added to a blacklist - when enough people blacklisted the number, that number would be prevented from making outgoing calls for a set period of time.

      Uhhh, Telemarketing is LEGAL. Unlike spam, these are (quasi) legitimate companies. You can't just block their phone access for telemarketing.
  • Even easier (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tim Macinta ( 1052 ) <twm@alum.mit.edu> on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:58PM (#2432287) Homepage
    Junkbusters [junkbusters.com] has an excellent page on stopping telemarketters [junkbusters.com]. Before I read the Junkbusters script I always got annoyed at how telemarketters would keep pitching their product to me after I had politely said no and the only way I could get them to stop was to be less polite and just hang up on them. After reading the Junkbusters site and trying their script I discovered that the magic words "Can you please put this number on your do-not-call list?" almost always gets the telemarketter to immediately stop pitching to you (and it has the nice side effect that some might actually put you on their do-not-call list at some point). They are legally required to maintain a do-not-call list, so they pretty much have to stop bothering you when you ask - check out the Junkbuster site for more info.
  • You can do this quite easily with a phone answering machine - just record the three-tone "invalid number" message at the start of your greeting.

    Personally, I've not even bothered with doing that. During the time that telemarketers call (before 9pm weekdays/Saturdays) I just let the answering machine do the screening. All my friends know I'll pick up as soon as I hear them speak.

    A fun site to visit is Antitelemarketer [antitelemarketer.com]. Has some interesting telemarketer tormenting tricks :-]

  • A polite but firm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by ktakki ( 64573 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:59PM (#2432298) Homepage Journal
    "Please put me on your No Call List."

    Cuts right through their spiel. They have to honor your request: it's the law.

    I cut my telemarketing calls down from four daily to once every two months. It worked a hell of a lot better than "So, what are you wearing?".

  • by sterno ( 16320 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @02:59PM (#2432304) Homepage
    How about just hanging up on every person who calls you? If it's important they'll call you back, even if they are a bit confused. Telemarketers never call back.


    1) FREE
    2) Causes confusion (always a plus)
  • Simple solution. No gadget needed, no CallerID, no privacy checker. Once you get a telemarketer call, say "Take me off your list"

    After about a week you may get 1 stray spam call once every 3 months. If its someone you already talked to, depending on your state, you can usually sue them for a good sum of money.

    You can thank me and send me all that extra money you were about to spend :-P
  • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:00PM (#2432318) Homepage
    Well, if you're bored, anyways:

    1: "I'd like to ask you a few questions for a survey..."
    you: "Sure, hold on a second, I'll be right back" (put phone next to stereo playing Cindi Lauper, for about an hour).

    2: "May I speak to the man of the house?"
    you: "Define 'man'..." (rant and rave about sexual discrimination until they hang up)

    3: "I'd like to offer you a free..."
    you: "Where is it made? Does it contain asbestos? Is it compatible with Linux? Were any animals harmed during it's manufacture? How much does it cost anyways? What do you mean free? Oh, sorry, I can't afford free."

    4: "Hi, is this Mr. _____?"
    you: "Sorry, he died this morning.... (boo hoo...)"

    5: "We're going to be in your neighborhood..."
    you: "Can you help me with something first... I gotta finish this math homework before I do anything else... What's the cube root of 42? How do you calculate the inverse tangent for triangle A?"

    You get the point... it's amazing fun actually, you don't have to make any sense either! Annoy them enough, waste their time, they'll never call again, and be less apt to annoy your neighbors! If everyone used up their time, telemarketing would cease to be profitable, and would then stop happening!

  • One or two times a day I receive calls with nobody on the other end. I usually say "Hello..... Hello??? Anybody there?" for a while and then hang up.

    I have been told that this is a telemarketing system seeing if my number is "good". Is there any truth to this?

    Finally, I want to allow telemarketers to call me, but I want a $0.50 credit on my phone bill for each minute (partial minutes should count too, just like when the phone company charge me) that I spend listening to them. Let them pay to bother me. In fact, there should be a message that plays when a telemarketer calls:

    "For a chage of 50 cents a minute this line will accept you telemarketing call. Press '1' to accept, otherwise please disconnect and remove this number from your list."

    • Re:Related question (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Rackemup ( 160230 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:10PM (#2432401) Homepage
      One or two times a day I receive calls with nobody on the other end. I usually say "Hello..... Hello??? Anybody there?" for a while and then hang up.
      I have been told that this is a telemarketing system seeing if my number is "good". Is there any truth to this?

      Most likely... they program their computers to try a number several times. If someone answers it gets flagged as "active" and you go into the caller databse.

      The same thing happened to my parents last month. Every day for a week they get ghost calls (no one on the other end), then a week later someone calls to ofer them a credit card, carpet cleaning, etc.

      • Re:Related question (Score:5, Informative)

        by Dredd13 ( 14750 ) <dredd@megacity.org> on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:32PM (#2432608) Homepage
        Telephone marketers use what are called "predictive dialers", which (if you examine the problem from their end) is a nifty solution to the problem of "maximising the time a telemarketer is on the phone".

        Telemarketers don't dial the phone at all. They are repeatedly presented with calls that a computerized system has made. The system is tracking calls and knows "how long an average call takes", "how long it takes on average for a called-party to answer", etc.

        So telemarketer is talking on the phone to you for 30 seconds. The system knows that "60 seconds is an average call" and it takes 15 seconds for a called-party to answer. So, when you reach 45 seconds, it dials the next number, figuring that "on average" you [or one of your cow-orkers] will be ready for the call when they answer the phone.

        What you're seeing is that the calls in the call center are taking longer than average (which is actually sorta unusual because the more calls they make, the better the sample-rate is, and from the experience I had deploying two of these systems, they're REALLY good at it). So, because there's no telemarketer "Ready for your call", you're getting silence... the dialer is "hoping and praying" (so to speak) that one of the marketers gets off the phone quickly so it can hand you over to them.

        • Even more annoying than the predictive dialers are the latest dialers - they deliberately dial 4 or so numbers at once, then disconnect everybody they're calling, with the exception of the person that was first to the phone.

          In the event that you pick up the phone after 3 or so rings, and hear nothing on the other end, you'll typically have your number placed right back into the queue. Expect another phone call within 5 minutes or so.

          I consulted for a company that used these in their AR department (read: collections), and they apparently saved the company an incredible amount of money.

          ...at your time/expense, of course.

      • Ghost Calls: I get these as well. I am not able to *69 them either.

        Guess I should pay more attention and maybe see if there is a pattern. Maybe the next day at the same time I think... anyone know anyone who works for one of these companies that wants to clue us all in about how they really work? Might be interesting if not usefull.
  • In Canada, it is now illegal to do "automatic telemarketing", that is it has to be a real person calling. That decreases a lot the amount of telemarketing calls we have.
    • Are you sure? I've heard of a local company (in Halifax) doing auto-dialing marketing. Some poor guy in the newsgroup would get several calls a day from the auto-dialer... he just kept getting madder and madder but had no one to swear at since it was computer-dialed. =)
      • ...Or maybe it's just the province of Quebec. We used to get calls from auto-dialers and it stopped about 5-10 years ago when they passed the law. I haven't received any such calls since then.
    • Interesting. I live in Canada and I get those automated calls all the time.

      Do have any resources related to that law that you wouldn't mind sharing?

  • There seems to be a "don't call" list out there; My son tried one tactic on a female telemarketer by treating the call as a "phone-sex" call, asking her what she was wearing, etc.

    We haven't had ANY such calls since.

    Of course, this might not have been as convincing if he had tried it with a man...

  • ... I'm working on answering machine software for my linux box, I was going to have personalized messages based on the number I got through caller id, one for my parents, friends ect. It'd be a snap to record a piercing screetch and have the software answer with that everytime a Uknown Caller Unknow number comes through. Kick ass, automated revenge.
  • Or it will--as soon as their trade ass'n (Direct Marketing Assocation?) convinces Congress that it may cut revenues. It is technological circumvention after all, and this is apparently the season for draconian income-protection legislation.

    How long before they drop the ruse and just take our whole fuckin' paycheck? They can split it up among the federal government, the RIAA, the SPA, the MPAA, and--of course--the Big Five Media Companies.

  • FCC regs used to prohibit computer devices (like modems and answering machines) from emiting sound for (IIRC) 2 seconds after picking up an incoming call.

    This was to prevent the device from interfering with call setup/billing info, which used to be sent in-band (blue boxing).

    Those regs were in force as of ca. 1983. I don't know if they were ever repealed.

    - SWM
  • by Lizard_King ( 149713 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:04PM (#2432351) Journal
    Takes all the fun out of screwing with telemarketers!

    Telemarketer: Sir, would you like to know how we can help you save money on your telephone bill?

    "Uhhhh, actually, I've been trying to spend more money lately."

    Telemarketer: But Sir! We know for a fact that you are spending too much money on your long distance service. We can help reduce your rates by....

    "See, that's just the thing. I've been making a concerted effort to start spending *more* money these days. I've been a pretty cheap bastard in my days. Do you have any programs where I could spend more on my long distance calls?"

  • The Telezapper is basically a tone generator, it just sends out a special tone when you pick up the line. In theory it's a good idea but I see 2 things wrong with it:

    #1 - Why is it so expensive? ($75 Cdn (or was that US) that I saw it advertised for) Surely someone else can make a tone-generator for much less than that.

    #2 - It doesn't work for direct-dialed numbers. Surely there are a number of telemarketing firms out there that dont use computer-dialed lists, in which case a tone-generator would be useless.

    I use a cell phone and while I do get the occasional wrong number I have never received a call from a telemarketer. My parents do though, and they'd love a way to get them to stop.

  • The commercial is hilarious because it shows a rather wealthy individual who's home is invaded by a telemarketer, and then it proposes the "Telezapper". The reality is that there isn't probably a "upper-crust" person on this planet who would expect their callers to listen through the 3-tone disconnected tone so that they can avoid telemarketers. Personally I'd be very irritated if everytime I called a friend I had to listen to that.

    Having said that I get very few telemarketer calls and I presume it's because I'm hostile: For instance if I get a call with the "Please wait for an important call" I've usually hung up by "Pl...". If I get a call and there is a delay I hang up immediately. Quickly I seem to get removed from the sucker lists.

  • Has anyone seen commercials advertising a "privacy service" by your local phone company? I have BellSouth here in Atlanta, GA and I think it's very interesting that BS offers this service where during certain times of day they will have an automated system screen your calls and give you the option of taking the call or playing a pre-recorded decline message. That is a great idea, but they want to charge an arm and a leg every month for you to have the service, so they'll be making money charging you and making money selling your phone number to the telemarketers... what a great racket!
  • no call list (Score:2, Informative)

    by bpowell423 ( 208542 )
    In Tennessee, at least, there is a state-run no call list [state.tn.us]. You can sign up over the web or the phone. It's ILLEGAL for any business to call you unless you have recently done business with them. In other words, Sprint could legally call me, since I use their long distance, but AT&T can't.

    The only thing I miss is getting to pick on the poor telemarketers. Oh well.

  • A bill has passed [state.wi.us] (warning: PDF file) on Aug 30, 2001 by Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum that allows Wisconsin customers to register in an "opt-out" list from which telemarketers must filter their call lists. It's going to be implemented some time in 2002. I can't wait.

    Try calling your Rep and ask for similar legislation!

    The cynic in me now says that numerous Slashdotters will now come up with hundreds of silly reasons why this will be useless and/or not work. Still, I hope they're wrong, because this will be a great relief if it works.

  • by victim ( 30647 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:09PM (#2432394)
    Rather than baffle all your legitimate callers, you should first register with the Direct Market Association [the-dma.org]. The marketers don't want to waste time calling hostile people. Use this [the-dma.org] to register as a hostile customer. In a bizarre twist, if you register online it is $5. If you register by snail mail it is free. Use snail mail.

    I registered quite some time ago and almost all of my sales calls went away. Just the little local people an newspapers were still calling.

    You might also check with your state. In Missouri you can sign up here [state.mo.us] and it becomes illegal for people to call you (with some exceptions for people with powerful lobbies.) I am on this list as well and can't remember the last time I got a sales call.
  • by Lostman ( 172654 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:09PM (#2432399)
    something like an EULA. Why just let them call or pay money in order for you not to get their calls, when them calling you can be a source of income?

    Use caller-id and whenever you see a number that does not appear, answer the phone with "Thanks for calling the (whatever) residence. Because of the increasingly large amount of time taken up on the phone I am having to start charging a fee for those who wish to speak to me. By staying on the phone you acknowledge and aquiesce to the fact that you will be held responsible for a 5 doller/minute cost to speak to me. If you do not agree to this, please hang up now" -- since most telemarketers are under strict policies that they can not hang up on customers.. well, it worked for the software industry, right?
  • by NaturePhreak ( 183776 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:11PM (#2432407)
    I work for a company that (among other things) sells predictive dialer systems to telemarketing services. As such, I have found out a couple things about telemarketing that I'd like to pass on:

    1. If you get a telemarketer on the phone, all you need to say is "Please put me on your do not call list." Thats all, nothing more. If the telemarketer says anything else to try to get you to buy, ask to talk to their supervisor. After a few months you won't receive any more calls. Telemarketing houses buy lists of names from distributors and are required by law to keep you on a permanent do not call list of you ask for it, and are also required to pass that list back to the distributor.

    2. Be careful when you sign up for Magazines, credit cards, etc. Businesses will sell their subscriber's info to telemarketing houses.

    3. Look up your state's Public Service Comission. In some states, it's illegal to contact a person that has been put on the state's do not call list. In some cases you can sign up over the Internet.

    4. If the phone rings and you get dead air, it's probably a telemarketer. Don't hang up!!! Wait for them to come on the line and follow #1
  • by Dr. Awktagon ( 233360 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:12PM (#2432414) Homepage


    Aww, shucks, I saw this and I thought it would be some clever system that involved high voltage.

  • by iceT ( 68610 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:12PM (#2432417)
    Summary, when 'someone' answers the phone, the Telezapper sends out a tone that makes the telemarketers auto-dialer think it's out of service, and then the telezapper hangs up.

    This is all well and good, execpt that my answermachine is pretty smart. It can sense when an extenion picks up the phone, and the the answering machine will stop and hang up it's extension.

    So, follow along:

    1) Telemarketer auto-dialer dials a number
    2) No one is home, so the answering machine picks up.
    3) The telezapper, seeing an extension pick up, also picks up, and plays it's little tones.
    4) The answering machine, realizing that 'someone' picked up an extension, stops the playback of the outgoing message, and hangs up.
    5) The telezapper, having played it's tones, also hangs up.

    Now... in that process, when was an ACTUAL caller allowed to leave a voice message?

    That's right. Never.

    Pretty severe logic flaw, IMHO.
  • OH CRAP (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drunken_Jackass ( 325938 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:13PM (#2432432) Homepage
    Ok, Ok, I admit it - i work for a telemarketing company. There, you happy?! I do it begrudgingly to support my "habit". Anyway, we use a number of methods, one of which being a predictive dialer running on SCO.

    Our dialer has the ability to detect tritones - the "doo dee dii, the number you have reached...". There are several different tritones, and our dialer can distinguish between a "Changed Number" tritone, and a "Bad Number" tritone. I suppose that if this device sends out a tritone that matches the "Bad Number" tritone, our dialer wouldn't call it. You can, however, set your dialer to do whatever you like with those "dispositions". An unscrupulous company may set their dailer to pass those calls to the reps instead of dropping the line (We don't do that).

    However, i happened to catch that commercial too, and it also says that it "...will automatically delete your name from their database". Of course, that's horse shit. It'll just dispo your record as bad number, what the company does with those is up to them.

    Naturally i encourage everyone to check out their states' Do Not Call registry and add your name if you don't want to be disturbed (BTW, the laws about DNC'ing don't apply to things like election polling and charitable organizations - funny huh?)

    So that's that!

  • The Telltale Pause (Score:2, Informative)

    by ddkilzer ( 79953 )

    When I receive a call that I suspect is from a telemarketer, I pick up the phone, say my greeting, then listen for a pause. If there is a pause, I hang up the phone right away.

    Occasionally this catches people making legitimate calls offguard, but they usually call back. Telemarketers, because they're on a round-robin dialer, won't call back right away. Unfortunately this really doesn't solve the problem because (as I understand it) your phone number just gets put back in the dialing queue.

    If you really want to get rid of the telemarketers, you need to put your phone number and address on a Direct Marketing Association "blacklist".

    I believe there are other resources similar to this.

    NOTE: I have not tried either of the above, but I've heard of others that have used it successfully.

    See also the Telephone Consumer Protection Act [google.com] and this Anti-Telemarker / Anti-Spam [netmegs.com] web page.

  • I used to work in a call center for my school. we were outsourced to one of the larger fundraising organizations in the US. We did have an autodialler of sorts, but the determination of whether a number was bad, disconnected, busy, etc. was made by us. you clicked a choice on your screen. (most) people are a little smarter than the telezapper
  • The one solution I found for dealing with telemarketers is... get a cellular phone, and use that! They cannot telemarket to cellular phones; it's illegal (and they seem to know this, because they don't do it).
    Plus.. when you move, you keep your phone.

    If you want a landline for cheap LD or dialup.. turn the ringer off.
  • by wayne ( 1579 ) <wayne@schlitt.net> on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:31PM (#2432605) Homepage Journal
    When I have time, and I get a telemarketer, I try to get them to quit their job.

    Remember, these are real people with feelings and they like to be treated like humans. I always ask for their name and ask if they ever get really rude comments when they call people. Normally, they say they do, and then I ask them if they understand why people are rude to them. Usually they start dancing around the issue of how their actions are the cause of other people being rude to them, and you have to firmly but politly talk to them about the issue. Tell them that you don't think they are they are the type of person who likes to be rude to people. You can also ask them how they feel about getting telemarketers at their home.

    They will often bring up the subject how "this is just my job". To this, you have to explain that everyone is responsible for their own actions. Ask them if their employer asked them to steal from somone or to hurt someone, would they do it?

    You can also bring up why so many of their coworkers quite after such a short period of time. Obviously, other people realize that what they are doing is wrong. The reason why the pay is "high" (for unskilled labor, but I don't say that) is because so few people want to be yelled at all day long.

    Try to keep mentioning their name, try to connect with them. Try to get inside their minds and find their soft spots.

    If nothing else, you have made the telemarketers waste a lot of time on a long distance call.

  • there's a state no-call list [state.ct.us]. While there has been a few wide-spread violators, my personal experience is that we went from averaging one telemarketer a day to two violators since January. The state has been quite rigorous about following up on complaints. I guess it helps to have a state Attorney General who is very pro-consumer.

    I'm not sure about the status of this sort of thing in other states, but as usual, it doesn't hurt to contact your rep.


  • by Nagash ( 6945 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:36PM (#2432641) Homepage
    I might as well chime in with my super-fun-time story about telemarkets calling my place once.

    Now, I must admit I don't get that many calls. However, they still get to me. At any rate, a friend of mine was over at my place and my roommate was home when I got the call...

    Drone: Hello, I'm calling from etc. you know the drill

    Me: Well, I can't say I'm terribly interested...

    Drone: pitch continues

    (At this point, my friends realize I'm on the phone with a telemarketer. They decide it's time for fun.)

    Roommate: (bellowing) Junior! Get back in that box!

    Friend: (timidly, in child-like voice) No daddy! No! I don't want to go back in there!

    Roommate: I told you to get in that box! Do as you're told or you got a beating coming!

    Friend: (crying sounds)

    (All this time, I remain pretty silent, although trying very hard not to laugh.)

    Drone: Uh, is everything OK?

    Me: (flatly) Yes. Everything is fine. It's the TV.

    Drone: (slight pause) Well, I'll be going now.

    (hangs up)

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@NoSPaM.nerdflat.com> on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:48PM (#2432702) Journal
    Could it be as simple as playing back the three shrill tones I hear when I dial a wrong number?"

    Believe it or not, this is exactly how simple it is. For your enjoyment here is a list of the four SIT's, with the frequencies and the length of each tone, and their meaning:

    • NC - No Circuit Found: 985.2 Hz, 380.0 ms; 1428.5 Hz, 380.0 ms; 1776.7 Hz, 380.0 ms
    • IC - Operator Intercept: 913.8 Hz, 274.0 ms; 1370.6 Hz, 274.0 ms; 1776.7 Hz, 380.0 ms
    • VC - Vacant Circuit: 985.2 Hz, 380.0 ms; 1370.6 Hz, 274.0 ms; 1776.7 Hz, 380.0 ms
    • RO - Reorder (system busy): 913.8 Hz, 274.0 ms;1428.5 Hz, 380.0 ms; 1776.7 Hz, 380.0 ms

    Not being a phone company myself, I cannot guarantee that the above tone sequences will always work, but they are the published values.

    In case anybody's interested, a recent issue of Poptronics Magazine had an article about SIT's and how they could be used to defeat telemarketers. Sorry, I don't recall the month, but it was quite recent... a perusal in the library through this year's issues should turn it up, if you are curious.

  • by Mustang Matt ( 133426 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @03:55PM (#2432740)

    Attorney General Jay Nixon implemented this program this summer and I've only received one telemarketer call since compared to the 10+ a week I was receiving before.

    I highly recommend that you try to convince your state reps to mimic this program.
  • wisconsin (Score:2, Informative)

    by psychalgia ( 457201 )
    in WisKin there was a bill signed by former governor Tommy Thompson (now secretary of Health and Human Services) that gives rights to the consumer to have their name added to a list that denies telemarketers the right to call you. I guess this is supposed to work really really well. Unfortuanetely there are a lot of unscruplous telemarketers CALLING to CHARGE you for this service you already pay for here with your taxes. Check it out.
  • At least with the telephone I never get telemarketing calls offering me to
  • by spanielrage ( 250784 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @04:17PM (#2432867)
    If you're in Canada (like me), the CRTC [crtc.gc.ca] has some good information on telemarketing regulations here: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/ENG/INFO_SHT/T22.HTM [crtc.gc.ca]
  • by Lizard_nut ( 528551 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @04:39PM (#2432995)
    My girlfriend works for Sprint Canda, and we have talked about this Telezaper deal it may work, however the call center is using a calling list that has been purchased from an outside agency usually. The Zaper only removes your number from the current list. So if you want your name removed for good STOP signing up for everything in the free world. In canada you can actually contact the CRTC (canadian radio and telecommunications comission and have your infromation perminatly removed from contact lists that means no more phone calls or junk mail
  • by Rain ( 5189 ) <slashdot@NOspam.t.themuffin.net> on Monday October 15, 2001 @04:48PM (#2433063) Homepage
    First, here's a cut-and-paste of the actual tones everyone's talking about (in case you want to synthesize them or some such thing):

    Error tone:
    0 330ms 950Hz -15.0/-15.0/-15.0 dBm0
    1 330ms 1400Hz -15.0/-15.0/-15.0 dBm0
    2 330ms 1800Hz -15.0/-15.0/-15.0 dBm0
    3 5000ms Silence
    (source: 'show call progress tone usa' on a Cisco 5340)

    Second, a story from about 5 years back about telemarketers:

    My mom received a call from a telemarketer (well, looking back, probably someone involved in a telemarketing scam) to which my mom politely replied "Sorry, I don't buy things through telephone solicitations." At this point, the telemarkter got really indignant and my mom simply hung up.

    Several times during the nights following this, we started receiving several "ghost" calls with nobody on the other end (this was rare happening for us) which my mom deduced to be the evil caller from a few nights before. What I especially love was her response to this: At the time, the local telco switch was rather broken (don't ask me how, exactly, I don't know much about telco switches) in that if anyone in our town didn't hang up the phone, the other caller *could not* hang up their phone. One night, my mom received one of these calls again and simply left the phone off-hook for about an hour, which basically made it impossible for the offending party to hang up their phone (probably running up a nice charge for whoever was calling.)

    We never received another ghost call.

  • by trilucid ( 515316 ) <pparadis@havensystems.net> on Monday October 15, 2001 @05:11PM (#2433184) Homepage Journal

    Back in the day when I still lived with my parents, there was a 6 month period where we were receiving an average of 3 telemarketing calls per night from long distance phone service carriers.

    Smile. My father's an engineer with AT&T.

    I think the record for the longest I kept 'em on the phone was something like 45 minutes. They'd give me the standard pitch about how much money they could save us over AT&T, and I'd politely insist that there was NO WAY that was possible...

    Of course, I had to be nice to them, so I always asked them to go into detail on every plan they offered. This takes quite a while, needless to say, but I didn't care (watching TV, using the bathroom, whatever while they yapped).

    You see, their call success averages depend on their ability to sign up a certain number of customers within a given period of time. I was *bad* for their numbers.

    They just loved it when I finally got around to giving them a boarding pass to the Clue Train, inscribed with the message "Our long distance is free... my dad works for AT&T... he might quit soon though." I suppose my sense of humour is a bit sick, but they deserved every ounce of it. :).

  • Credit Bureaux (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @05:13PM (#2433197) Homepage
    Each time I have moved into a new house we have had serious trouble with some credit beureux calling up for the previous user of the line. I used to think that this was simply because we had by chance been assigned numbers that had been used by deadbeats.

    Then I made the mistake of buying a washing machine from Best Buy on its 'interest free credit'. The scumbag finance company deliberately credited the final payment to the account late so they could claim a huge interest penalty. I pointed out that NACHA credits take hours to clear, not 10 days. We had the scumbags calling up every day for months trying to get us to pay $650 that was definitely not owed.

    Interesting fact was that sending the original finance co a cease and desist had no effect. When they put the alleged debt out to a third party collection agency they stopped calling almost imediately they recieved my cease and desist.

    It seems that a lot of Americans just pay up when faced with this type of fraud - which is why the stores can offer 'no interest' credit I guess. If you need credit (which I don't) then they can get you blacklisted with Equifax or TRW. In Europe the directors of the companies concerned would be sitting in jail, in the US they purchase legislation.

  • by LinuxHam ( 52232 ) on Monday October 15, 2001 @06:34PM (#2433560) Homepage Journal
    After installing Junkbuster on my firewall, I also started keeping track of callers. I would tell them to take me off the caller list, not knowing that the phrase "Do Not Call List" was important back then. I would also tell them that I'm keeping records of the call and make them spell out the name of the company and their phone number. Before they could get into their pitch, I would oh-so-nicely say, "okay, thanks." and hang up on them.

    My best success came with Omaha Steaks. They called one night at dinner. I told them not to call me anymore, and told them that I was writing down that they called. They called a week later:

    TM: Hello sir, this is Omaha Steaks.

    me: Oh, cool!

    TM: Wow, I've never heard that before.

    me: I told you guys not to ever call me again just ONE WEEK AGO! Now I can collect $500 under federal law! I'm saving up for a big tv.

    TM: um, uhh, um, we don't have any record of that.

    me: Obviously not, because you called me again.

    TM: So sorry sir, it'll never happen again.

    Never heard from them again. Also, the *only* purchase my wife made off of QVC that was worth anything was a phone with built-in caller ID filtering. It beeps in between the 2nd and all additional rings if the caller is in the "priority" or "normal" list.

    Sometimes I've been known to say, "oh shit I thought you were someone important /click/" or "I can't believe I woke up to talk to you /click/" Also when a long distance company calls, I either say "I [send email|do video conferencing] instead of calling long distance." or "I'm required to keep my LD carrier for my work." And my favorite is with cellular companies:

    me: "Hey! Sounds great! In fact, I'll transfer BOTH of my cellphones! All you need to do is pick up my early termination fees."

    them: "Well, how much is it?"

    me: "$175 per line"

    them: "Oh, uh, I don't think we can do that."

    me: "Yeah, I didn't think so. /click/"

UNIX is many things to many people, but it's never been everything to anybody.