The Best Ways to Torment Telemarketers

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David Lazarus, on behalf of everyone who owns a phone we salute you.

The Los Angeles Times columnist asked readers to submit their best methods for dealing with telemarketers, including the robotic kind like “Rachel from cardholder services.” (We’ve all heard from her before — many, many times.)

Readers were happy to oblige. Lazarus wrote, “Judging from the avalanche of responses I received, I can say with confidence that many of you are not only fed up with these pests, you’re more than happy to exact a little revenge in the form of pranks and time-wasting tactics.”

Among the suggestions:

  • Stretch the call out as long as possible, once you get a real person on the phone. One guy said he tells the caller he needs to get a pen and paper, then says he needs to find his wallet, etc., etc. – each time putting the phone down for an extended period of time. Another reader said he tells the telemarketer he’s going to get his wife on the phone, then puts the phone down and occasionally asks if the wife has picked up yet. Clever.
  • When they ask how you are, make up a story — a very long story. For instance, manufacture health problems and share in great detail.
  • Use an air horn. Ouch.

The purpose is, of course, to get the telemarketer to remove you from the call list. Apparently the rules and regulations written to protect us from telemarketers are being ignored by many of these folks — so you want them to never want to call you again.

Lazarus also says a free online service called Nomorobo will screen out these annoying calls.

Do you have any tricks for dealing with them? Share below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • TimB

    I think this is stupid; first of all, why torment anyone on purpose? Telemarketers are people too, just trying to do a job (and no, I am not one). Secondly, all the time you spend on the phone “tormenting” them is also time wasted in your own life; and finally, if you find joy in tormenting others, I’m sorry for you.

    • Sherrie Ludwig

      Very simple… not become a telemarketer. You are guaranteed to be hated by the majority of the people you call.

  • matthewkmiller

    If they are breaking the law to call me on my cell phone, I have every right to torment them in any way I can find. It was their choice to call me and I will make them pay for that choice. A telemarketer who refuses to follow the law and calls someone who doesn’t want their calls deserves anything hurled at them. If they don’t want the harrassment, they shouldn’t be harrassing me. If you say that they’re “just doing their job”, you know the answer to that one. They should get a job where they follow the law. If their job is to harrass people that don’t want to be harrassed, their job also includes being harrassed. Simple as that.

  • Michael Smiley Gawthrop

    I’m not sure I’d call it tormenting… after all, it isn’t the individual caller’s fault that their company is skeezy, I’ve worked horrible jobs before just to get by, and in this economy even that is a luxury some people don’t have… but I have no problem lying to them to get me removed from the list… but I have come up with a lot of creative half truths. The more formal ones that ask for Mr. Gawthrop… well, there are quite a few Mr. Gawthrops who are dead, so I’m not lying when I apologize and explain that they are deceased and I have taken over their final affairs (that I finished with said affairs years ago is irrelevant). My other technique is to answer the phone in German and pretend that I can’t speak English (it’s a common enough language that they can tell what it is and that it isn’t made up, but obscure enough in this country that they likely don’t have anyone who speaks it working for them that they can have call me instead).

  • Mindy Whittaker

    They are not “Doing their job”, unless their job is to break the law! I am on the “DO NOT CALL LIST”, yet each day and into the evening hours, my landline rings from telemarketers who know very well how to check if the number is on that list. They simply don’t give a darn! I pay hard-earned money for the landline because I need to have a way to reach my elderly/sickly father-in-law’s medical providers and emergency assistance should my cell not have reception at the needed time. So, I literally pay to be harassed… unbelievable. I am constantly hitting the “talk” button and then instantly hitting the “end” button to hang up on these non-law-abiding people. I understand telemarketers are trying to earn a living, however if someone has lawfully requested they not be disturbed via telephone their requests need to be honored. I truly get anywhere from 15 to 30 calls each and every day, including weekends!!

  • Mindy Whittaker

    P.S. before someone posts that I can simply turn off the ringer… I have to leave it on because my father-in-law’s medical providers and home care assistants need to have a way to reach me should my cell not be getting reception. This happens frequently in my area.

  • Lisa Blair

    This is horrible. I used to be a telemarketer and I can tell you that the individual calling you has no choice in what numbers come up and who gets called, it’s all handled by a computer. The main problem with “tormenting” a telemarketer is that it simply won’t work. Telemarketers are trained to take you off the list if you ASK them to. None of the things listed above will get you removed from the list. And that telemarketer won’t care because they very likely won’t be the one who calls you the next time. If you ASK the caller to remove you from the list, or better yet speak with a supervisor, then you are more likely to get the desired result. Now that won’t work with sleezy companies who are breaking the law but again, that is not the fault of the individual telemarketer calling you. Please try to remember they aren’t evil people and they don’t call you personally just to irritate you. They are people who need to pay the bills and put food on the table, same as you.

    P.S. Very disappointed in MoneyTalksNews for posting this garbage!

    • Jcatz4

      I have “ASKED” the caller to remove my number from their list and I still get phone calls from the SAME company/and or person. I have also informed them that they are breaking the law by calling me because my phone number is listed on the “DO NOT CALL” list and that unless I initiate the call they are not to call me.

    • Sherrie Ludwig

      If someone is a telemarketer, a new job is in order, at least for the ones who call private individuals. B to b callers, OK, I am “open for business” whether you walk in or call during business hours, but I will go all nasty on anyone who calls me at home! It is USELESS to ask to be removed from the lists.

    • D Lowrey

      I used to be a telemarketer as well and telling someone to take your name off their list doesn’t work. For instance…had a lady call me up. Told her over and over “No habla English” and “No habla Espanol”. Went on for over five minutes. She finally called up after I told her to remove me from the list in English and Spanish. Then…15 minutes later…she calls me again…but this time…she gets it in German and Russian. She never called back after this.

    • matthewkmiller

      This is a lie. I have asked to be removed and get attitude from the person and an even harder sell. If they actually honored do-not-call lists and followed the law, they wouldn’t have called me in the first place. Why would I expect them to honor my request if they already broke the law in order to call me?

    • Lisa Blair

      Look, like I said there are some sleezy companies who don’t honor it. The one I worked for did, as far as I know. I did call people sometimes who said they were on the Do Not Call list and I always marked it down and explained (as I was trained to do) that it might take up to a week to get removed from the call list. My point though, was I was one a many worker bees hooked up to a computers which made the calls automatically. I had no control over who was called! Its not the individual telemarketers fault, so “torturing” telemarketers is cruel and serves no purpose.

  • marketfog

    Check the front of your phone book for optional calling features. It has some interesting info. Complaining to do not call is a waste of time.

    • Jcatz4

      All phone books are not created equally. It all depends on where you live and which phone company you have. I live in SJersey and my local phone company is Verizon but I know that is not the same for the whole US. My aunt and uncle live in Tulsa, OK and the name of their phone company is NOT Verizon.

      • marketfog


  • Jcatz4

    You are WRONG about that “we all have caller ID” statement. That is a service that I would have to pay for and I can’t afford it. I have been on the “Do Not Call” list for many years and while that has cut down a lot of the annoying calls, it has not eliminated them. If I do get to speak with a “real live person”, I always inform them that I am on the do not call list and I request them to not call me anymore – but that doesn’t seem to work. As a Sr. citizen, I feel that I should not be subjected to these annoying phone calls. I have an aunt (87) and uncle (90) who are also on the do not call list and have been for years and they also get these annoying phone calls.

    • marketfog

      As I said on an earlier entry, try the Optional calling features in the front of your phone book. I found relief there. All calls transmit caller ID. You don’t need caller ID to intercept some calls.

      • Jcatz4

        I don’t know where you live but I live in Atlantic County, NJ. I looked in the front of my local Verizon phone book and the only reference to caller ID is that they suggest that you may want to consider installing an answering machine or Caller ID to help screen incoming calls. It does give info about how to put your phone number on the “DO NOT CALL” list. My whole point is that as a Sr. citizen (70), a gentleman friend (75) and my older relatives should not get to the ringing phone only to find out that it is a telemarketing call. All of our phone numbers have been listed on the national “DO NOT CALL” list for many, many years. I’m sure that the computers can be programmed to “NOT CALL” the numbers that are on the “DO NOT CALL” list.

  • Johns.Opinion

    I start to talk dirty to them. Porn chat usually works most of the time. Except the time a manager (man) called me back and said I was sexually harassing his women worker. I asked him to bend over so I could……….. He started screaming, I said don’t call me, if you call me i’ll talk dirty. Remember they are calling you. You can not call them and talk dirty. lol

  • S. Rought

    Give the phone to a four year old and tell them it’s Santa

  • Jen

    I have answered by asking them to give me their name and credit card number – if the caller is still there & gets confused, I continue that my time/opinions are valued, and that I charge for them, and repeat my request… They usually have hung up by then…

  • Ike

    Best way to torture a telemarketer? Whenever you sign up for whatever magazine/service/warranty why not try NOT GIVING PERMISSION TO BE CONTACTED FOR OFFERS??? Ridiculous. An article on how to torture someone whose job is to call people who request to be called. Every time a telemarketer calls you, guess what? YOU asked for it. YOU didn’t pay attention to opt out of receiving offers. Stop signing up for crap without reading it first.

    • Lisa Blair

      Exactly! I did some work as a telemarketer for a company contracted buy Sports Illustrated. All the people we called were customers and the constantly got upset saying they were on the Do Not Call list. The list doesn’t apply if you agree to be contacted by a company! People sign things without reading and get pissy later on when they get “CONTACTED TO RECEIVE SPECIAL OFFERS”!

  • A.K

    I’ve got a suggestion for those annoying telemarketers, “Ask them what they are wearing.” LOL!

  • M.J.Port

    A lot of telemarketers are for home improvements. I tell them immediately ” I rent “. I have never had the same company call me back twice.

  • M.J.Port

    A lot of telemarketers are for home improvements. I tell them immediately ” I rent “. I have never had the same company call me back twice. “SCRIVA”, that’s an old Seinfeld joke.