The Consumer Ethicist: Stop The Telemarketers!

I have been getting a lot of calls from a number on my cell phone. I know its a telemarketer, so I don’t answer anymore. My cell phone number is on the “do not call” list, if that means anything… I guess not.

What can we do to get these places to feel our pain? I have been checking out the website and found some info out on my number that keeps calling me. With email, address, phone numbers I was thinking of signing all these people up to as many free offers as I can find. But I thought maybe you guys would have some better advice on what to do.


Dear Nick,

While signing up the company for bestiality subscriptions might make you feel righteous, it certainly won’t teach the telemarketer a lesson or solve your problem…

Here’s a thought: pick up the phone. Ask them to take you off their list. You might be amazed at how well this works.

If it doesn’t, use that contact information you have to call them or write them a letter with your request. Also, you’ve already signed up for the Do-Not-Call (DNC) list, which is great. Now, employ the second function of the DNC and report the offending telemarketer here or by calling 1-888-382-1222.

If they still don’t stop, you might take a lesson from this reader

Most consumer problems are best addressed with head-on action, not hiding under a pillow and concocting fiendish revenge strategies.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Repeat after me: “This is a cell phone. It is illegal for you to call this number. If you call again, I will file suit against you. I am contacting the state Attorney General about this call.” Hang up.

    Then file the form with the state AG.

    Sometimes you even get money from the telemarketers out of it. Sometimes after they get the complaint relayed from the state AG they send you $50 to not sue them.

    (In fact, it’s only illegal for them to call you using an autodialer on a cell phone, but basically all of them call your cell on an autodialer anyway. Experian — the credit agency — is my worst cell-calling offender.)

  2. jonnypage says:

    I find the best way to get telemarketers to stop calling you, is to talk in gibberish in what sounds to be an oriental language. I kid you not. If the telemarketers think that no one in the home speaks english, they stop calling. I thought of the idea one day, tried it, and my telemarketer calls have dropped off at least 60%.

  3. jonnypage says:

    I find the best way to get telemarketers to call you is to answer the phone in your favourate rendition of a oriental language. I started doing this whenever a 800 number or a long distance or restricted number shows up on my call display, and it has cut my telemarketing calls by at least 60% in the last month. It may sound hokey or racist, but if the telemarketer thinks no one at that number speaks english, they stop calling :)

  4. John Stracke says:

    While I agree that going the legal route is better, let’s have some fun thinking of things one could do with their number…

    …use it to sign them up on their competitor’s mailing list.

    …call them up and play recordings of NSFW sounds.

    …order a pizza delivered to a nonexistent address, but give their phone number. (This one is mean to the pizza place, of course.)

    …send them a strip-o-gram.

  5. I’ve been getting some sort of telemarketer on my cell phone too…It’s always a recorded message telling me that “it’s important that you contact XXX at some 800 number etc.”

    I guess it’s so important that they decided to use an automated dialer to leave me a message…

    There are a ton of things you can do about these calles but all of them are time consuming, complicated and ultimately ineffectual. I’ve registered numerous complaints on the DNC list for this stuff all to no avail…but we’ll never get the satisfaction that could be derived from say…oh I don’t know…burying a hatchet in the telemarketers frontal lobe.

    Best thing to do is to just not answer the calls or build one of these for your entertainment.

  6. stinkbucket says:

    I have a friend who would turn the tables by gradually shifting the conversation to trying to sell the telemarketer Robot Insurance. Protection from Robot attacks.

    The other game he would play was that he would not hang up the phone until he had conned the telemarker into saying a predetermined sentence like: “I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior.” or singing “There’s no business, like show business.”

    I try this whenever I’m not to busy to deal with these telemarketers.
    It takes time but it’s really fun to waste their time as much as they waste yours!

    BTW it’s true that you can tell them you are on the Do Not Call list.
    Most of the time they apologize and we never hear from them again.

  7. thrillhouse says:

    Answering the call in fake dialect is great. Will definately try that one. I prefer to have fun with these jerk telemarketers. To to say that haven’t reported a few to, but that doesn’t apply to everyone. Like B2B calls are exempt.

    some of my favorites
    > to a long-distance carrier – “We’re amish, we don’t use the phone”
    > to a long-distance carrier – “Can’t we be friends? If I take your offer, then you won’t call me anymore. I’d rather be friends”
    > to a “does your company accept credit cards” guy – crap, I played dumb and had this guy explain every little thing to me for like 15 minutes. “whats a credit card?”, “percentage of what?”, “is this one of them fancy electronic gizmos?”

    This tactic is not only tons of fun (if you can keep from laughing), but I swear it dramatically cuts down on the calls.

  8. John Stracke says:

    Personally, I haven’t gotten any calls violating the DNC; I do get calls occasionally, but only from the exempt categories: non-profits and political groups. Makes it much easier to stay calm and just say, “No thank you goodbye”.

    Telemarketers are doing a shitty job, and they’re usually paid on a commission basis, so wasting their time on pranks is just mean. It’s like going to a restaurant and leaving the tip all in pennies.

  9. Crayonshinobi: “I’ve been getting some sort of telemarketer on my cell phone too…It’s always a recorded message telling me that “it’s important that you contact XXX at some 800 number etc.””

    These are often debt collection calls gone awry (someone gave a fake number to the debt collector, or they’re looking for someone who had your number 13 years ago, or lived at the address a decade ago, or whatever). Generally they are not technically telemarketers since if the person they’re collecting debt from actually lived at your address, they’d have business with them, and the whole point of the recorded messages is to trick the debtor into calling them. It’s virtually impossible to get these to stop calling you because it’s recorded and if you bother to call back, they’re going to try to insist you’re the debtor.

    The best route with these is to transcribe the recorded message word for word (I do this off my answering machine) and file a complaint with the state attorney general through the Do Not Call system. Once the state AG contacts them about the harassing phone calls, they stop and your number gets disassociated from that particular debt. It’s much faster than doing it yourself.

    We’ve got a lot of experience with this because some crazy bitch gives out our phone number like CANDY as her fake number. We get constant debt collection calls for her, calls from the truant officer about her truant kid, calls from the daycare to come get her damn child already, calls from men she apparently doesn’t want to date badly enough to give them a real phone number ….

    Some day I’m going to catch up with this woman and slap her into next week.

  10. citybuddha says:

    If the telemarketer is a woman I usually breath heavy and ask what they are wearing.

  11. simplybeebo says:

    I added a DO NOT ANSWER file to my contacts, with no ringtones, vibration or lights. When I get one of these calls from an identified number, I add it to the file. That way, I’m never disturbed after the 1st time they call.

  12. Peggy Archer says:

    “These are often debt collection calls gone awry (someone gave a fake number to the debt collector, or they’re looking for someone who had your number 13 years ago, or lived at the address a decade ago, or whatever).”

    Oh, I got one of those – fuckers called me 15 times a day for weeks until I finally got them to stop by threatenting legal action.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Maybe I’m paranoid, but before I answer any out of area or unknown numbers, I always check the “unlisted” telemarketer’s numbers database of telemarketer’s known Caller ID numbers at