How Do I Get Phone Scammers To Stop Hassling Granny?

Cassandra is looking out for her fiance’s grandmother, who is savvy enough to know the people who call her and say she’s won a bunch money are liars.

She writes:

My fiance’s grandmother has been receiving phone calls of the “you’ve won x amount of money, all you need to do is send us $250″ variety. She’s a smart woman, she knows it’s a scam, however they will not leave her alone! They told her they’d even drop by her house and pick up the money if she’d like. This has left her really worried. My fiance’s father spent a few hours over there the other day.

They called and once the phone was passed to him they hung up. They called a few hours later and hung up again when he answered. They then called AGAIN after he left. She’s called the police, and after being told to call the next day, and then given the run around, she was told to call the attorney general. Is there anything else she can do, or anyone else she can call about this? It’s left her really shaken.

One step is to register granny’s number on the National Do Not Call Registry. If that fails, I’ve found speaking to telemarketers and phone scammers inappropriately, as well as steering the conversation away from their topic, can annoy them to the point of giving up on you.

Comments

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  1. TBGBoodler says:

    Talking to them inappropriately? You want grandma to ask them what they’re wearing? I love it.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      Asking them, “have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior?” usually scares them off.

      • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

        Unless they’re an affinity scammer, in which case they’ll go along with it to seem like a trustworthy individual.

      • enad58 says:

        Don’t answer the caller’s questions, but just keep talking to them. Tell her to talk about what it was like back in ‘the day’. If its a legit call center, they won’t want their handling time dropping like that, if its a boiler room, they’ll want to focus on the hot leads. Right now grandma probably sounds unstable enough that they’ll be able to earn her trust. If they think she’s too crazy, she might have given power of attorney to somebody and doesn’t control their own money.

        After 45 minutes, they won’t want to call back or they’ll be hanging from the ceiling by their headset cord (no offense to granny, I’m sure her stories are wonderful.)

  2. qwickone says:

    Can she see the number on the caller ID? Why dont you try calling THEM and tell them they won a whole bunch of money. Over and over and over…

    • allknowingtomato says:

      Lots of times scammers will make it impossible for caller Id to produce a working number. I get telemarketing calls from numbers with 5 digits, or 15 digits, or just “unavailable.” I wouldn’t pick up ‘unavailable’ except I have had a boss call me from a blocked number and be VERY unhappy that i didn’t pick up.

      I now keep a script by the phone (from http://www.ucan.org/telecommunications/landline/how_to_sue_telemarketers ) to collect information needed to sue telemarketers. Usually cutting them off and making direct pointed requests for their information (what is the name/address of the company you work for? what is the phone number of the company you work for?) scares them out of calling you ever again. Unfortunately, the people on the other end of the phone usually speak with such a thick accent (or pretend to?) that I am often unable to collect any of this information. I also inform them that I am recording their call in anticipation of a lawsuit (90% of the time they just hang up after hearing that).

  3. cmdr.sass says:

    Criminals, which is what these people are, do not respect the National Do Not Call Registry.

  4. allknowingtomato says:

    The scammers offered to come to her house? When she was blown off by the police, did she provide this scary piece of information? If the cops had been more receptive to helping, I would have LOVED to take these people up on their offer to pay a house call, and then see the color drain from their face when a cop answers the door. Alternately, you could ‘accept’ their offer to make a house call but explain that, for safety reasons, you need to meet at the police station. Then listen to them squirm and explain why that won’t work.

    Definitely call the AG’s office, and (though it’s a little evil) keep a whistle by the phone? Or answer every question, “Yes,” even when, contextually, it makes no sense. Scammers are less likely to keep calling if you waste lots of their time, instead of just quickly saying, “No, leave me alone.”

    • gafpromise says:

      Actually saying “yes” is a bad idea – sometimes they are recording the conversation and they can record your voice saying “yes” and use it to commit fraud.

    • amgriffin says:

      Darn, I wish I had read your post before I suggested the whistle option.

    • econobiker says:

      Scammers typically offer to send a “courier” to pick up a check which is another word for a UPS, FEDEX, (and the now retired DHL) etc document pickup. If the scam is done via a service like that then postal laws often don’t apply.

    • Willow16 says:

      Another option is a starter pistol. Way back when, before caller ID, we were getting continuous crank calls. My dad, a track coach at the time, picked up the phone and shot off the starter pistol. They never called back again.

  5. NashuaConsumerist says:

    Talking to phone scammers inappropriately is one of my favorite past times. I especially love the telemarketers that aren’t allowed to disconnect the line until you hang up but still call repeatedly. I found switching the phone to ‘speaker phone’ and forcing them to listen to whatever TV show I was watching (plus my narration of course, since they can’t see it) causes them to stop calling due to wasted time.

    • womynist says:

      That is hilarious! I didn’t know you liked to do that. You should recerd it sometime and let me listen….

      it’s nice to see you on the Consumerist. We should definitely get together for the long 4th of July weekend!

      • NashuaConsumerist says:

        I got the most telemarketing calls when I actually had a phone plugged into my comcast router. The comcast line exists only for the discount on the bundle, it’s cost me more if removed it from the bundle…which I hear is a common practice for Comcast subscribers in the area and I have a theory about that. I think Comcast knows people will keep it unused for the bundle discount and then Comcast can then report “We have millions of happy digital voice subscribers!” when in actuality it’s far fewer and when you don’t use it you never call to complain it’s broken…. I mean, how would you know? Anyway, when I actually used the service I would get called ALL DAY EVERY DAY by telemarketers. Unsuspecting visitors of mine would be caught off gaurd by me picking up a ringing phone and automatically launch into “screw with the telemarketing person” voice. All the good old days….

        As for July 4th, absolutly would love to hang out and BBQ, but we’re going to have to pass on the casino trip. It’s the end of the month and I’m still waiting on the rest of the guys for thier portion of shared rent and utilites…

        • womynist says:

          That’s cool…actually I think the casino trip has been scrapped, and possibly a hike is in the works. It’s going to be beautiful this weekend. I’ll make sure one of us gives you a call!

    • A.Mercer says:

      I have always thought a great invention would be a gadget to hook to a phone that will play gut wrenching, gag reflex inducing noices that the person on the other end can hear but you cannot. Get a phone call you do not care for, flip the switch and fire this thing up. Then see how long they can stand to be on the phone with you.

    • TouchMyMonkey says:

      s/TV show/porn DVD/g and you might have something there.

  6. Angus99 says:

    You would think the cops would be willing to act on these scumbags offer to come by her house. Sure, come on over. Then they get to talk to a detective instead of Granny. If the cops won’t do it, give Granny an air horn, and earplugs.

  7. Cleo256 says:

    Tell them to come on over and confirm the address: 1060 West Addison Street.

  8. shangyle says:

    I swear cops out in the real world must be horrible. Every time I hear something like this I am shocked. The cops where I live have never given me the run around or discounted a concern I’ve had. I guess they really are just people and you never know if you’ll get a good one or not.

  9. dolemite says:

    My grandpa has/is falling for one of these things now. Someone in MD has informed him he has won some kind of sweepstakes. He just needs to provide $xx to get the funds. They call him all the time. “Almost got it ready for you…if you can just give us a little more, we can double your winnings” or something like that. Every single person in my family has told him this is a big scam, but he insists they will be down on xx date to hand him a big check. They keep stringing him along, getting just a bit more money out of him…I think he’s in the hole for like 2k now.

    • DH405 says:

      Has anyone talked about declaring him incompetent or getting power of attorney? I know it may seem like an insult to his intelligence, but as people get older, family NEEDS to protect them from stuff like this.

      • dolemite says:

        Well, the problem is…he’s still pretty competent, and very “fiesty”. No one in the family really wants to get him too upset. I think partly out of respect, and the fact he has a heart condition (pacemaker installed now). I believe my dad has called the authorities, but since it is across state lines, no one really wants to do anything about it.

      • Thyme for an edit button says:

        That seems kind of drastic. It doesn’t say he isn’t taking care of his basic needs, just that he’s being a moron about his money.

    • JF says:

      If he is doing that someone needs to get conservatiorship (I probably butchered the spelling). My dad had to do it with one of his brothers at the request of his brother’s wife (both of them hold it). His brother gave tens of thousands of dollars to the Nigerian lottery scammers, even running up his credit cards (and hiding it from his wife). Unfortunately, my uncle has a whole host of health issues that leaves his very susceptible to “obvious” scams.

    • Nytmare says:

      If you can find out where he’s sending the money, you can send your own reward instead. If it’s a wire transfer, send $0.01, or if it’s a mailing address, something more spendid.

      They will certainly never stop squeezing him of their own accord.

  10. alienaa says:

    Tell the scammers to take the $250 out of the prize money she won.

  11. Queazan says:

    I used to keep a track and field whistle by the phone. When telemarketers or scammers called (for some reason my phone number was a hotspot for them for a while) I would wait until I got a person and then blow as hard as I could into the whistle. If they stayed on the line I’d then ask them politely to remove my number from the list.

    I don’t think it ever worked but it gave me evil chuckles.

  12. MDSasquatch says:

    I once brought a telemarketer to tears when I asked “are you retarded or just plain dumb?”

    I know, it’s not PC, but it was very effective in getting them to stop.

  13. dragonfire81 says:

    “I’ve found speaking to telemarketers and phone scammers inappropriately, as well as steering the conversation away from their topic, can annoy them to the point of giving up on you.”

    Is it proper for consumerist to condone harassing people who are simply trying to do their jobs?

    I can see using this method ONLY if all other means of getting them to stop have been unsuccessful. I don’t think it’s fair to to be nasty to someone just because they’ve called to try and sell me something.

    • JF says:

      In this case we aren’t talking about telemarketers doing their job, we are talking about scam artists and they deserve any and all abuse we can heap on them.

      • rav3 says:

        even “honest” telemarketers are a pain, i am the personal assistant to a business woman and NO ONE and i mean NO ONE gets through to her unless they state the reason for their call, name and place of business or family relation.

        Well these guys are so thick they even insult me when i tell them that I dont care if they are calling from x bank if they dont tell me the reason for the call they are not getting through.

        I know for certain when the real bank calls they tell me specifically what it is about, and hold for me to transfer the call. Instead they call, insult me, hang up, call again, lather, rinse and repeat. Im this close to contracting Blackwater to find and gently remind these nincompoops that my boss is not falling for their scams/insurances/loans.

    • cmdr.sass says:

      They called you and presumably they can hang up at any time. You do not have to be polite.

    • Daverson says:

      When I want to make a purchase, I will initiate the transaction. Telemarketers are scum and deserve every bit of shit they have to eat when they call people like me who waste their time, play them like fish, and otherwise make their job a miserable experience.

      • Egat says:

        If it’s a legit company, then I agree, the company employing the telemarketer are scum.

        The people calling you on phone however are usually people who hate their jobs but need the paycheck to do things like: eat, sleep with a roof over their heads, and usually not much else.

        Don’t take it out on those people, get yourself on the Do Not Call list and legit calls will decrease or disappear.

        If it’s a scam, it’s a bit different, but there’s still bound to be a few people working for scammy companies because the either don’t know or don’t have an economic choice.

        I think my point here is just, be a human.

    • Smashville says:

      So don’t harass people performing illegal activities if it’s their job?

    • humphrmi says:

      If they don’t like it, they can not call.

    • newfenoix says:

      Yes it is appropriate because they don’t have the right to harass people.

  14. Thyme for an edit button says:

    I’d recommend getting Caller ID and don’t answer calls from people or organizations she doesn’t recognize on the Caller ID.

  15. Shonky McShonk says:

    i bet an enterprising local tv consumer reporter would love to be there when they stop by.
    of course use a safe house provided by the station.
    better yet.
    look up the address of the local tv station and have granny say that is her address.
    and if they call back complaining granny can say I was waiting for you inside .
    and you never showed up.

    and yes, granny can ask them what they are wearing.

  16. BarbiCat says:

    Depending on what type of phone service she has, she may be able to block specific numbers or any non-listed/non-published numbers.

    I would recommend calling her phone provider and asking what she can do to prevent these calls from going through. There are even star codes in some systems that flag call records of specific numbers so that the police can find them if necessary. [Here it’s *57]. The next time they call, tell them that the number has been flagged for a police investigation, and that all calls are being recorded to prove a history of harassment.

    And if that fails… well, stop picking up the phone for numbers you don’t know.

  17. Beeker26 says:

    First off you have to tell them to not call you anymore and to be taken off their list. You MUST say this. If after saying it you continue to get called and your number is on the Do Not Call list then call the phone company and report it as harassment. They will either deal with it or direct you as to what you should do.

    Of course it could be helpful to tell these people of your intentions as well. Since in this instance it’s obviously a scam you might also want to contact the Attorney General.

    If all else fails you can always change your number and leave no forwarding, making sure your new number is unlisted AND unpublished (you’d be amazed how many people don’t realize there’s a difference). This is obviously not the optimal solution, but it’s guaranteed to work.

    • create says:

      THIS^^^

      as someone who works for a phone company, its a sure fire way to fix the problem, and if you give the reason of disturbing/harassing phone calls, most companies will do the phone number change for free

  18. Rocket says:

    Am I the only one who thinks the Grandma in the photo looks like Jack Black?

  19. golddog says:

    Don’t even bother w/caller ID and *whatever for a trace. It is always VoIP and spoofed by thieves, and most telemarketers for that matter (slim distinction I know). Here’s what you do for Grams:

    If you want it to stop immediately, change her number and during the call to the phone company make sure that you make the number unlisted. Ask them to not turn on the “the number you have called has been disconnected…the new number is…” recording. Tell the phone company she’s being stalked. Tell her she should only give the number to businesses she has to and trusts. Don’t enter any contests at the mall. Probably couldn’t hurt to put the number on the NDNC registry.

    It sucks that the phone company charges you a couple bucks for the unlisted option, but I’ve found that to be far more effective than the registry b/c most of these people just pay mailing houses or databanks for bulk names/phone numbers, which of course are mined from/sold by the phone company.

  20. scoosdad says:

    I like the concept behind this box:

    http://www.smarthome.com/51071W/Caller-ID-with-Ring-Controller-Version-II-White/p.aspx

    It recognizes incoming caller ID, and based on a match to either a whitelist and blacklist you program into the box, it either rings the phone or shunts the call without ringing to an answering machine. Would take a bit of setup to help Granny get it going, but sounds to me like it’s something that would cut off most of these calls rather quickly.

    I would also use a separate caller ID display on the line along with this box. A reviewer on that site noted that the box doesn’t actually pass on the caller ID of an accepted call on to the connected phone, so once it admits a call and the phone rings, you’re still not sure who it actually is. A cheap separate caller ID display box sitting next to it but also plugged into the incoming phone line should solve that issue by capturing and displaying the caller ID info. Most of those will hold and display the number for awhile and can quickly recall the last data with a push of a button.

    • scoosdad says:

      I meant to say that you create a whitelist of callers to make the phone ring, and anyone not on the whitelist by default becomes a member of the blacklist. I don’t think you need to know in advance the number of someone you want to blacklist.

  21. everclear75 says:

    My parents use this device with so-so results..
    http://www.telezapper.com/default.asp

  22. amgriffin says:

    Get grandma a really loud whistle to blast into the phone when they call.

  23. humphrmi says:

    If the caller ID is correct, or at least not changing on every call, then AT&T Residential allows you to block up to ten phone numbers:

    http://www.att.com/gen/general?pid=10129

    Of course, that’s assuming you have AT&T residential.

    • Daggertrout says:

      Unfortunately, I think this will only work for phone numbers originating from the same area code as your own. At least that’s what it was acting like when I was trying to block these Jamaican assholes who kept calling five times a day.

  24. smarmyjones goes cattywampus says:

    Harassing calls were the reason my Grandma got an answering machine back in the 90s. Instead of recording her voice, she had my Dad record a message. She felt it was safer that way because she didn’t want them knowing she was living on her own after Grandpa died. They stopped calling after she started screening her calls. This is something simple that may help the OP since they won’t talk when his Dad answers the phone.

  25. AndroidHumanoid says:

    Oooooooohhhh!!!! I like these! Any man who buys these for me can get the business! =P

  26. Benny Gesserit says:

    Granny: “Oh, just a second dear. The water for my tea is boiling over.”

    Then she puts the phone down and ignores it. Maybe watch some TV (loud game show?) for a 20-30 minutes. If they’re still there, “Oh, just a second someone’s at the door.”

    Lather, rince, repeat.

    • Bog says:

      I actually suckered a telemarketer with a pretext as I had some very lucky timing to use it, back then I could think faster than I do now. I got a telemarketing calling on my car phone – that was a few years ago.. Well the caller went in to his speech, I told her that I was driving and could not talk right then, maybe later… I was stopped at a light, the car in the lane next to me also stopped, the car behind that one did not… There was very loud screech-thud-crash, I hung up. The telemarketer called back. I could tell that from the caller-ID. (I was fine, it was the car next to that was… well, doubleplus-not-good.) I just groaned and moaned in the phone with the telemarketer going “are you ok, what happened, oh god, are you ok?” I left it at that, hung up the phone turned it off… They never called after that.

  27. noshame says:

    About a year ago I purchased a new phone to replace my old one and it had the ability to block up to 20 phone numbers. If I received a phone call from a telemarketer, I would just click on the button and it would cut them off and block them forever. It was made by Uniden. I haven’t seen it since so I hope my phone doesn’t break down. I should have bought two or three. It’s been great to be able to block the telemarketers. When my 20 numbers got full, I just erased the first one and started over again. By that time, the first ones on the list had stopped calling because I never answered.

  28. Pax says:

    Have her contact her phone company, and request a new, UNLISTED number.

  29. Plasmafox says:

    Fine police work there.

    Sometimes I’m amazed there aren’t burning cars in the streets throughout America, When it seems there’s nobody enforcing the law against actual criminals instead of warring against drug use and technical driving errors, that both happen to net them large amounts of money with seizures and fines.

  30. lyllydd says:

    Er, umm…I can’t believe some of the things you supposedly smart Consumerist readers are telling this lady to do! Talking inappropriately, pranking the scammers? Really?
    Is there a single brain cell present here?

    Here’s what Cassandra’s Gramma-in-law needs to do:
    1. Sign up for the national d-not-call registry.
    2. Get the number from caller ID, and try to research it on the web. This step will provide you with information for what follows.
    3. File a complaint with the FTC at their website.
    4. File a complaint with the AG in your state.
    5. File a complaint with the AG in the state from which the call originates.
    6. Don’t trust the cops to help if it’s just a consumer issue like a scam, but DO REPORT THE PART ABOUT THE SCAMMER TRYING TO COME TO HER HOME. This is something akin to stalking. It could be a serious threat.

    This is a lot of work, but it will be worth the effort. I have gotten great results at ending the scam calls from all those warranty places, etc, just by filing complaints online in the appropriate places.

  31. Bog says:

    We had fun with one company after we found out who and where they were. Though they were in another city I called up buddy there scope out the building and got descriptions of the dozen or so cars that were parked there. So the telemarketer called again. We said, gee it looks like you are calling from this building here in Spokane? Which car is yours, the Ford, the new Nissan, I got lucky pretty quickly, as the telemarketer grunted on the third car… “Oh I said, is that your old BLUE EXPLORER I’ve seen? Washington Plates? 123 ZZZ?”…”uh… err….” she said… “Don’t call us again, you really don’t want to call us again…” Click. Never heard from them again.

    • lyllydd says:

      Ok, that’s the one scammy-stupid reply that I actually LIKE.
      Would Google street view give you enough info to play with?

  32. Jarod says:

    This happened to my Mother. We answered the phone, the police answered the phone – calls stopped for about 2 weeks. Then….they sold her number to another group and they tried a different scam. They called back every 5 minutes and I answered every time. They even tried to use the, “You called for service” routine. The first group threatened to send someone to her house and work her over, although they had an old address and LUCKILY she didn’t correct them (for her own piece of mind). Anyway – we just changed her number and it has stopped. She is on the no call list, but they had a listing from about 20 years ago by the address – they don’t care.

  33. bethSMASH says:

    We got our grandmother an answering machine and had one of her sons leave the recording message by just saying the ______ Family. Family and friends knew she was screening her calls but telemarketers and scammers thought some young man lived there.

  34. Pureboy says:

    Air horn.

  35. Benny Gesserit says:

    A co-workers elderly Mom was pretty hip to these things – almost too hip. Her bank noticed an unusual (but legit, actually) charge on her Visa card and the branch called to confirm it with her. It went like this:

    Mrs B: Hello?
    Bank: Mrs B, I’m calling about an item on your VISA …
    Mrs B: FRAUD!!!!
    and she slammed the phone down.

    It took the poor woman from the bank 5 tries before she managed to get out “I’m calling from (redacted) bank about an item on your VISA” quickly enough to keep Mrs B from giving her the “brush-off.”