"How Do I Stop Fax Spam?"

Harry keeps getting spammed via his fax machine. Frankly, we think fax machines stopped being relevant or useful in about 1998, but until the rest of the world catches up to our way of thinking, here are some ways you can try to limit the damages.

First the bad news: no, there’s no “Do Not Fax” list. However, you you can still file a complaint with the FCC if you’re being faxed without permission.

You might also check out JunkFax.org, an advocacy site that’s filled with resources to fight junk faxers. JunkFax.org will ask you to provide an email address for some services—they say they want to be able to contact you when there’s legislative news in your state—but even if you don’t participate in their general cause you can find a lot of useful information, including a lengthy step-by-step process to fight back.

They also suggest you turn to your phone service provider for help:

The foolproof way to actually find out who they are is to call the phone company and have them put a “call trap” on your line (see Investigation tools for more information). Then file a small claims case against “john doe” and fill out a small claims subpoena either to the sheriff or the phone company so they will tell you who is calling you. Then use Abika to find out who they really are if the phone company data didn’t reveal that. Then contact them. If they don’t stop, sue them.

Finally, if you’re willing to spend money rather than time to fight junk faxers, you can invest in equipment or services to filter them out.

Comments

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  1. snazz says:

    there are also fax server programs for your computer, they create a digital fax that you can print out if needed and throw out the junk ones without having to waste paper and ink. i would recommend he switch that solution, and then just trash the junk fax files.

  2. GreatWhiteNorth says:

    Easy… retire that physical fax machine and use one of the old laptops or pc’s sitting under your bed. Setup windows fax service to answer your faxline… all faxes received electronically… viewed before printing… archived to cd… print only what you want… Did this at my previous job for merchandising department and they loved it… Then was asked to do the same for customer ser vice, they loved it too… Can also set it up to email you the fax or just a notification…blah blah blah…

    • DH405 says:

      @GreatWhiteNorth: Totally agreed. I’m an independent computer tech, and clients LOVE this service. Saves a ton in paper, toner, and fax availability for legitimate faxes.

      Also, printing from any computer without getting up rocks. That, and having an auditable trail is awesome for my lawyer clients.

  3. thebluepill says:

    Or Change the Number.

    • hellinmyeyes says:

      @thebluepill:

      This one’s my favorite. Really? And have the phone company charge either a number-change fee or a new set-up fee? For those of us who need a steady telephone number, this is the number my mom will call if her house burnt down; this is the number my roommate will call if he needs to be bailed out of jail; this is also the number my apartment complex will call to let me know there’s a hazard. No.

      Some fax machine calls my house repeatedly at about 6AM on random days of the week. No caller ID. Phone company won’t tell me who it is. I call their trace bureau. They won’t divulge. I call the FCC, they tell me either to change my number or to buy a Walmart fax machine, wait for them to call again and print it, then return the fax machine. Here’s our government dollars hard at work, folks.

      I do plan on setting up a fax server on the line to catch the fax and call them back to tell them that I need not to be disturbed. Kind of dealing with other more important life issues right now. I think there should be some law requiring all outgoing fax machines’ lines to give caller ID information and to give up after X number of invalid tries.

  4. frankthefink says:

    Sadly, a an educator I am asked to fax things hundreds of times a year. I hate fax machines, but I had to buy one this year because apparently scanning and emailing things is too complex for teachers and universities.

  5. gorckat says:

    I think every junk fax I’ve seen has a number to call and get off the list. Some use an automated system, some an actual operator.

    I’ve never gotten guff or had a problem with using them to stop faxes. After about three weeks of doing so once or twice a day at a construction office I worked at, they nearly stopped completely with only one or two coming in any given week.

    Because I can be a bit anal, I kept a folder with all the faxes and a spreadsheet with the phone and fax numbers to deal with anyone that didn’t get us off the list, but never found a dupe.

  6. Triborough says:

    One problem is many of these fax spammers are offshore, making them out of reach of US law.

    Using a computer to get faxes, is probably the best thing to do. It is an obsolete technology, but amazingly still used by many.

  7. Frapp says:

    Here’s a thought.. Maybe someone might want to fill me in on the legality or practicality of this.

    Why can’t you just scan something into your fax machine and send it back to that number, but just send like 9999 copies or something?

  8. Trai_Dep says:

    I’ve heard several black sheet of paper, taped to make one loooong loop, resent in the dead of night (their time) does wonders for getting off their fax list.

  9. Orv says:

    The flaw in that idea is that a junk fax *sending* service is unlikely to be set up to *receive* faxes.

  10. Orv says:

    (And even if they are, it’s just going to go into a computer fax inbox. You don’t really think these services have people feeding stuff into paper fax machines, do you?)

  11. laserjobs says:
  12. Jesse says:

    Fax machines are still relevant in some respects. It’s still too easy in my opinion to scan and e-mail something to the wrong recipient. Too few companies employ secure document systems like password protected PDF’s. The risk is greater that a sensitive document will get into the wrong hands.

    Faxing eliminates this problem to some degree since you are faxing a document to Bob Johnson at xxx-xxx-xxxx vs. bjohnson@domain.com mixed in with several other Bob Johnsons in your email address book.

  13. Orv says:

    Fax machines are still relevant in the manufacturing sector, because a lot of suppliers want purchase orders faxed. These are conservative businesses that still view email with suspicion when it comes to legally binding documents. It *is* somewhat easier to alter an email than a fax.

  14. Ursos says:

    Every once in a while, I get a restricted call to my work phone from a fax machine. Drives me nuts and I have no idea where it’s coming from or how to stop it. I even changed my number there. I think it’s someone playing a “funny” joke on me. At least it’s not daily…

    • silverpie says:

      @Ursos: I once had a radio network screw up its internal phone list and put my work number down as the fax line of one of its stations (looking at their phone list, I can see where it went wrong). For months I’d get bombarded with calls from their “eMessaging” system… even worse when you consider I have hypersensitive hearing in the frequency range that fax tones are…

  15. zentex says:

    following the advice of JunkFax.org I filed a complaint with the FCC last year. I saved every fax. I mailed it all off by post (100 some pages of junk faxes)…their response? “thanks, we’ll keep it on file, but go away…oh, and contact your state AG as we can’t do crap”.

    So I contacted my state AG and they said “not our problem, contact the FCC”.

    What the HELL is the point of legislation if no one is going to enforce it? Why should I be burdened with filing a small claims suit if there are clear-cut laws against this and the agency that is supposed to enforce it, won’t.

    that’s my experience and my government has failed me.

    where is the paperwork to create a sovereign nation again?

  16. axiomatic says:

    Yeah fax machines are still the rage with real estate agents and folks who do surveys and inspections.

    Unfortunate unfortunate rage…

  17. consumer-warrior says:

    Fax machines use a regular telephone line to transmit data. The sending phone number should be at the top of the fax. Use your call block function on your phone service if you have it. This will end the faxes. The alternate is to use the phone company to put a trap on your line. This can be a lengthy process though. The time and date of each fax you receive must be logged. You must then work with the phone company to match the date and times on the log to verify where the call is coming from. The most the phone company can do is try and contact the sending company to ask them to remove the number from the fax. The phone company has no power to demand the sender stop the fax.

    • getcare says:

      @consumer-warrior: Thanks for the “call trap” suggestion. The fax sheet I get says, “The only way to be immediately removed is to register stop-faxes.com” which only increased my faxes rather than stop. I think your idea has more merit at least from the stand point of getting the return number to report them. Thanks.

  18. UnStatusTheQuo says:

    If you can find a number, do the following:

    1). Obtain a black piece of construction paper. Make it 8.5 inches wide, and 11 high. Get, say, 4 of these together.

    2). Obtain an unlimited phone package for your fax.

    3). Obtain some electrical tape.

    4). Tape all 4 black pieces together, lengthwise, so you have an 8.5 inch wide and 44 inch long paper.

    5). Feed paper into fax.

    6). Do whatever is necessary to tape the remaining two ends together, thus creating an “ink killer of doom.”

    7). Send your hellfax to the intended recipient.

    8). Hope they figure out to quit faxing you after their toner/paper is gone.

    ENJOY!

    *only works where you know the offender, and the offender is using a real fax machine.

    • econobiker says:

      @UnStatusTheQuo: Yes, I remember someone else recommending that they used to do that with a piece of dark ornate wallpaper border…

      It only works if it is an actual fax machine and not a broadcast computer…

    • ludwigk says:

      @UnStatusTheQuo: Ah good old fax bomb. Of course, it only works to harass someone, and won’t work for fax spam companies that are probably sending their stuff electronically.

    • QuantumRiff says:

      @UnStatusTheQuo: Oh how I miss the days before computers. I remember a company that had the stones to call me and bitch me out for running them out of ink, and tying their phone lines all night. (I had it send the black page looped 1000 times).

  19. vildechaia says:

    The problem with sending those faxes back is that, most times, the “header” is blocked; so, no number to send it to. Hopefully, if someone uses the “ink killer of doom,” others will get the message.

  20. dragonfire81 says:

    In 2003 I worked for a boss who was so frustrated with junk faxes he made sure to unplug the darned machine every night at close.

    He would also regularly bitch about how the junk faxes used ink that he HAD TO PAY FOR. Man did that burn him up.

  21. Julia789 says:

    Ursos, when you get a fax to your work phone, transfer it to the extension of any fax machine in your office, just as you would transfer a phone call. The fax machine will pick it up and print the fax, and you’ll find out who is sending it. Then you can call them and ask them to correct the fax number they have on file.

  22. firefoxx66 says:

    I don’t agree that faxing is completely useless. For one thing, it’s hella fast. You stick it in, you put in the number, you let it do it’s job. It’s true that scanning and email is not more difficult, per se, but I would say that unless you have a really fast scanner (that warms up really quickly) and some kind of ‘one button scan-and-attach-and-email’ set up, it’s much more time consuming.

    I revel in the convenience and accessibility of email, but if you just want something to GO, without having to worry about attachment limits or hassling with anything, then fax pretty much takes the cake.

  23. LightLeigh says:

    I thought that sending a “fax bomb” was against the law?

  24. AgentTuttle says:

    I’d get these damn things at 3am. After I got one from a company advertising fax broadcasting, it was on and I called it FAXTHRAX.

    It consists of: All of the fax ads I received, several sheets of black paper, a picture of “the bird,” more black paper, repeat. They were getting them too and kept disconnecting, so I’d try later and at night.

    My fax wouldn’t do the loop method because it knew how long a piece of paper was, so I jut kept stacking it in.

    It’s against the FCC’s telecommunications act, but not enforced, got to do it yourself.

  25. FLConsumer says:

    There’s always this place… [www.faxrecoverysystems.com]

    Not sure how well they work. Haven’t seen a junk fax in a few years now… BUT, my fax modem shuts off a little after 5pm.

  26. quail says:

    Having a real fax machine, even if it sits in a closet most of the time, is still necessary. I had documents to send to a fax number once. The company’s fax system would not accept a fax unless it came from an actual fax machine. 3 separate computers with separate fax applications could not send the document. In frustration I tried a real fax machine and it worked like a charm. Not sure what they were using on the other end, but it effectively blocked faxes form computers.

  27. Caslonbold says:

    Fax machines, yup, still use them.

    It is the only way to get documents immediately with someone’s written signature and then they can send along the original via USPS.

  28. celyn says:

    The Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulates the sending of fax advertisements. In a nutshell, it says that each unsolicited fax is subject to a $500 fine, that the recipients can bring suit where they live, and that the business being advertised is on the hook (even if they had a third party send the fax on their behalf).

  29. drdom says:

    I got a $3,700 default judgment against a Florida company in small claims court for nuisance faxes ($3500+ fees). Now I just have to figure out how to collect here in Illinois. Madison County, IL-the litigation capitol of the USA. You can sue anybody for anything at any time.

    • god_forbids says:

      @drdom: As an aside, anywhere in the USA you can “sue anyone for any reason at any time” – whether your claim is actionable, of course, will depend on the legal system.

  30. There’s also the factor that many fax machines have the option to turn auto-answer to OFF. Just had to point that out. Either way, that’s about as effective as not answering the phone when a telemarketer calls -.-

  31. MrEvil says:

    I’ve found fax machines much more reliable than e-mail when you need to send a document with any hand-writing on it. Alot of times your scan settings were set too high quality so then your SMTP server chokes on the attachment or the recipient’s POP3 chokes on it. Whereas with the fax, plop the document into the ADF, punch in the number, hit send, and a couple minutes later they have a hard copy in their hands. Or a digital one if their computer is equipped with a Fax/modem.

  32. mmstk101 says:

    I don’t have a fax machine.

    I do, however, have a home phone. For some reason, at least once a day the phone will ring and it’s some idiot trying to send me a fax through my phone. This has gone on for more than a year. . . .

    I hate fax machines.

  33. Ben Popken says:

    Cool, that call trap information is very interesting.

  34. organicgardener says:

    I actually did file an online complaint with the FCC because one of the junk faxes we received was pretty objectionable for an office (something about making “it” bigger). I did it online in order to minimize paper usage.

    I received a response by mail acknowledging my complaint; it was a copy of my entire online form, several pages long with all kinds of additional information – I don’t remember it all now. Since I’d given my email address, I thought it was extremely wasteful to respond this way. But at least they responded!

  35. randombob says:

    at a place I worked at long before, we got some junk faxes that kept coming from a specific #. A coworker took two sheets of paper, colored them all black except for a white happy face, and taped them together AROUND the enter/exit loop of the fax machine and dialed their number as we left for a long weekend. :-D

    Since the paper’s looped, the fax never ends until the connection dies. And since most of the transmission is black, it wastes their ink like mad, too.

    Never got another junk fax from that # again.

  36. I’m glad faxes are still relevant.

    I’ve been using the same mostly-black fax-back page for so many years, it feels like family.

    (It also works better than anything else I’ve ever tried!)

  37. lordargent says:

    Jesse: Faxing eliminates this problem to some degree since you are faxing a document to Bob Johnson at xxx-xxx-xxxx vs. bjohnson@domain.com mixed in with several other Bob Johnsons in your email address book.

    I don’t see how your example is any different from someone wanting to fax to

    Bob Johnson at 710-555-1212, and accidentally sending it to Bob Johnson at 710-555-1222 (when there is no Bob Johnson at 710-555-1222).

    /plus, unless the person you fax to is the only one that uses that machine, you have no guarantee, even if you sent the fax to the correct number, that Bob Johnson is the one that’s going to grab it.

  38. mrrbob says:

    Here is a novel idea. Fax by appointment only.

    Turn the darn thing off unless you know some one is sending you something. Most times wouldn’t a fax be expected anyway as in sealing a business deal or a follow up to something you are doing with some one? How many completely random faxes except for spam are received?

    This what I do now with my pc setup to receive on my regular phone line. I know ahead that it is a fax and let the computer pick up and receive the fax then I turn off the fax software and go back to answering the phone as always. And yes I am a business owner. I don’t want to bother with another fax line for the few faxes we do send/receive so this is how we do it.

  39. I have started to post the junk faxes in the employee restrooms and pay the employees to call the vendors that sent the fax.

    Might as well kill two birds at one time. And besides the companies that sent the crap is just getting some of it back at them.