Get Rid Of Telemarketers, Debt Collectors, And Other Vermin With Phone Tones

Chris recorded a little sound file onto his answering machine that stopped a debt collector robot that kept calling him, seeking people who didn’t live there. This .WAV is the U.S. Special Information Tone signal for “vacant circuit”, which signifies and out-of-service or nonexistant number. You know it better as “boo-boo-BOOP!” Chris recorded a new message on his answering machine with the tones at the beginning and the next time the robot called, it thought it was getting a dead line and dutifully erased the number from its system. Voila, automatons be gone. Some places have autodialers that don’t (or have been tweaked) to respond to SIT tones, but if you’ve got a persistent unwanted robot caller, it’s worth a shot.

SIT-VC.WAV [Art Of Hacking]

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  1. GitEmSteveDave says:

    Didn’t an infomercial or RadioShack sell something remarkably similar to this? I think the tele-zapper? But this is much more cheaper. And it might just get those pesky relatives to hang up before they leave a message….

  2. Ben Popken says:

    Yep it was called the Telezapper.

  3. GitEmSteveDave says:

    @Ben Popken: OK, after check the site linked, I will definitely be incorporating some of those sounds into my cell phone voice mail I never check.

  4. ThatDon'tFazeMeBro says:

    Here’s a (semi-)direct link to the pertinent tone sequence:
    [artofhacking.com]

  5. anecdotal says:

    or..maybe…you can, you know , pay what you owe…

  6. theblackdog says:

    @anecdotal: Not when your phone number is registered to the previous apartment tenant who defaulted on his bills.

    One of those robots started calling my apartment about 2 weeks after I moved in. It turned out the previous tenant had not paid his cell phone bill and it went to collections, and my landline was listed as his contact number.

  7. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @theblackdog: Not to mention the wacky hijinks that can ensue when the phone company assigns one number to several individuals in rapid succession. I am so lucky I haven’t had a collections agency call me yet, because everybody else in the world has.

  8. MameDennis says:

    @anecdotal:
    @theblackdog:
    Yeah, we continue to get collection calls for the wonderful drug dealer who used to live in the upstairs apartment. Which is still less annoying than when the little asswipe left his wet laundry in the washing machine all weekend long. But I digress.

  9. phoneloser says:

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure if this is going to work. The reason for this is because telemarketers and debt collectors use technology that’s called “predictive dialers,” that way the agent working the other end of the call doesn’t have to dial the number. These machines are hooked up to a type of phone line that usually has “Out of Band signaling” — meaning, if your phone is disconnected, the phone company returns that to the dialer using the data channel, instead of over the voice channel. Now, you may be lucky enough to find some companies that use their predictive dialers on regular POTS lines, and then this might work.

    I use asterisk at my house, and have all known telemarketers and collections go straight to an infiniate loop of “Someone will be with you shortly, please stay on the line” over a soft music bed. Doesn’t ring my desk phone, and I don’t even know that they call.

  10. DeeSarco says:

    Thats awesome

  11. jesuismoi says:

    @ all of you complaining about prior owners of your number…

    Call your phone company and complain.

    I had a phone number which had approximately 3,432 collections associated with it. After 4 days of calls and hang-ups, I called the phone company. New phone number was active within a day. -N0- fees.

    At the time I had verizon.

  12. CPC24 says:

    I did this on my old analog tape answering machine 8 or 9 years ago. It cut the telemarketing calls down to about a quarter of what they were.

  13. bobpence says:

    @TheBlackDog Do you mean previous tenant or only the previous subscriber who had your phone number? Every time I have moved, my landline number is new to the address. That is, the last person who had the number would have lived elsewhere in town meaning “No ma’am, I have no idea where he moved, or even if he moved; I just know he was never here.”

  14. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    If it will work for you, you only need about a half second of the first tone, as that is enough to kill computer dialers.

    The fun thing about this was that we put it on our answering machine years ago (we had recorded the ‘earthquake’ message from pacbell) and when calling our house to get messages from a pay phone, the pay phone would give me back my quarter :)

  15. LikeYourFace says:

    @doctor_cos: Ah, the good old days of phone phreaking. And paying a quarter for a phone call. Gone with the Edsel and the dinosaurs.

  16. BigJimmy99 says:

    I work in the industry (sorry) and I can tell you that it will work, but not all the time.

    A big professional shop will have digital phone lines, which aren’t fooled by these things.

    Some smaller 2 bit outfit will probably have some old calling equipment that uses analog phone lines. Those devices are easily fooled by tones.

    A few years ago there was a device on the market called the TeleZapper. This played the first of the tones whenever a phone got picked up. Those are easy to detect on digital phone lines.

    One time, I actually set the dialer to detect them and then record the numbers that had TeleZappers. I then compared the list of people who had them to the database that the telemarketers used. I initially thought that the people who had the TeleZapper wouldn’t buy things over the phone, but it turned out the opposite was true. People who has TeleZappers were 20 times more likely to buy over the phone. Yes, 20 times, as in 2000%. I guess the market for these things are for people who can’t say no to anything.

  17. forgottenpassword says:

    Just wait til some POS deadbeat uses the same number for all his stuff he defaults on….. and it happens to be YOUR number! Imagine getting calls on your cellphone from all sorts of collection agencies who call you a liar & threaten you when you vainly attempt to to inform them that you are not who they THINK they are calling.

    “well then… just up & change your phone number!” Yeah, I really want to change a number I have had for over 7 years because of someone else’s fault. BS!

  18. cortana says:

    I wish this would work for me… Unfortunately my phone number is one digit off from the county’s handicapped / MRDD free bus system. And they’re on the exchange that’s new to the system, while mine is on the one that’s 60 years old. Ergo, every idiot in the county calls my number trying to get a bus ride at 6am. I really should just find out how their ‘reservation’ process goes and take the calls.

  19. Buran says:

    @anecdotal: Or maybe you can, you know, not assume that everyone who gets harassed by these jerks (no, wait, assholes) despite asking them to stop, or who gets subjected to illegal robotic harassment. My ex got harassed, but he didn’t owe a penny to the harassers. So hey, why don’t you wipe that smug smirk off your face?

  20. Bryan Price says:

    I used to use this. In fact, it was cool when using a pay phone, as you got your money back as soon as the tones were heard, wait for somebody to pick up the phone after the tones, and you got a free phone call.

    That went by the side when one of my sons was having issues with the phone (NOT a pay phone) he was using just dropped the line when it heard those tones.

    Haven’t been bothered enough by the phone ringing to set it back up.

  21. Snakeophelia says:

    @jesuismoi: We finally gave up our landline a couple of years back due to this same issue. We didn’t bother getting a new number, since we both had cell phones anyway.

    I did, however, get Verizon to give me a new number back in 2000 after someone kept calling my number and leaving vicious, threatening messages for someone else. I knew on a conscious level that (a) the threats weren’t against me and (b) they didn’t know where I lived, but they were evil enough that I couldn’t deal with them anymore. Verizon quickly changed my number for free.

  22. artki says:

    I put those tones on my answering machine 3-4 years ago and it seems to have had a good effect. I get very few telemarketing calls – used to get more.

  23. artki says:

    I put those tones on my answering machine 5 years ago and it seems to have reduced my telemarketing calls a lot.

  24. BuriedCaesar says:

    Yeah, I’m tired of having collection agents call and tell me I’m a liar when I tell them they have a wrong number, when they KNOW that “Sophie” is there and owes them money and why am I trying to hide her from them? I’ll add this on to my machine and let it do the work for me.

  25. AuntNi says:

    Would this work for political calls? I work at home, and I’m already intensely dreading all the pre-election computerized calls.

  26. PassionateConsumer says:

    I figure the Do Not Call list has cut out about 90 percent of telemarketing calls to my house. That and the fact I keep my landline unplugged most of the time.

  27. Buran says:

    @BuriedCaesar: If it’s the same ones over and over, sue for harassment.

  28. Gev says:

    Maybe I’ve just had exceptionally good luck but every time I’ve had a collector call me I calmly and politely explained that no, <name> does not have this phone number anymore and that pretty much ended the calls from that agency.

  29. kc2idf says:

    For those who (like me) might want to home-brew the tones, the specifications are:

    Tone 1: 985.2Hz for 380ms
    Tone 2: 1428.5Hz for 380ms
    Tone 3: 1776.7Hz for 380ms

    I did this once in the past, and, quite honestly, I don’t remember why I discontinued it.

  30. kc2idf says:

    @BuriedCaesar: Any chance that these collection agents have dorsal fins and big, sharp teeth?

  31. theblackdog says:

    @bobpence: This was a college campus student apartment so the phone number stayed with the place since the college had a range of numbers and they assigned numbers via their own internal switchboard.

  32. Optimus says:

    @AuntNi: As with the telemarketers and debt collectors, it depends on their equipment. If it’s older or analog equipment, then it will most likely obey the tone. However, digital telephone system equipment will push on through.
    Some digital equipment will even mistake the tone for the answering machine beep and start into it’s spill before the answering machine really beeps.

  33. banmojo says:

    our #s are on the ‘list’ and we’re rarely, if ever, bothered.

  34. Jim C. says:

    My theory is that the best thing to do would be to start your message with, “One moment, please”, then wait a few seconds before continuing with a regular message.

    I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard that the dialing equipment can detect a continuous message, indicating an answering machine, and will hang up. If you put in a few seconds of silence, that might trick it into thinking someone answered and transfer to a telemarketer or start with its own message. Thus the telemarketing company wastes a small amount in phone time and lost human time.