The Best Ways to Torment Telemarketers

Last year, a columnist asked his readers how they deal with telemarketers, particularly robocalls. They were happy to share their tips.

Last year, Los Angeles Times columnist David Lazarus 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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  • Don Lowery

    Years ago…got a call on a Saturday evening from one of these types of employees. For about five minutes…kept telling them “No Habla English” or “No Habla Espanol”. The funniest part was when the caller kept trying to switch back and forth between each of the languages…then I would throw either line out at them for the language. When they finally hung up…got a call 20 minutes later from the same company. This time…told them in German and Russian that I didn’t speak those languages. Unlike the first call…this one only lasted about three minutes.

  • Don Lowery

    Actually…for some of the companies who don’t care…paying whatever little fines the company may get slammed with (compared to the money many of them make) is just a business expense. The government really goes after them…they just change their name and get another PO box.

  • ofps

    Something that has worked for me is to pick up the phone and say nothing. Dead silence. They say “Hello? Hello?? and then hang up. I also vote for Nomorobo – it has really cut down on the number of these calls that get through.

  • Sherrie Ludwig

    I’m assembling large animal veterinary equipment for piecework. Middle class? And what’s technicolor? Don’t have tv or cable.

  • Michael Smiley Gawthrop

    Use an air horn. Ouch.”
    That would also be known as assault… whether or not the telemarketer is violating the law, this isn’t DC Comics, vigilantes who take punishment into their own hands don’t get signals on the top of police headquarters, they share a jail cell with the person they were trying to punish.
    For a website dedicated to giving good advice, that is some horrible advice… almost to the point that makes me question the other advice you’ve given over the years… seriously, how good of judgement can someone have if they are advocating criminal activity.

    • Just to be clear, Michael, that wasn’t our advice, nor anything we advocate. What we put in our article was some of the advice sent to the LA Times columnist who wrote the original article. Don’t shoot the messenger.

  • Tom

    I usually don’t answer unrecognized numbers, but if I do I let ’em talk, don’t respond and sometimes lay the phone next to TV or radio speakers. I figure the most valuable thing they have is time and I’m happy to waste it for them.

  • Frankly, I find the easiest thing to do is to tell them, immediately, “I don’t respond to sales calls. Please put me on your do not call list.” I have never, not once, had a telemarketer keep pushing after hearing those words. Why go to all this trouble and waste your own time as well as theirs, when a straightforward approach works just as well, if not better?

    Now, granted, the calls I get are mostly from charitable organizations, not from businesses. That’s because I’m on the national Do Not Call Registry, and legitimate businesses will honor that. The scammers won’t, but NoMoRobo will screen out most of their calls.

    And if you ask politely to be removed from the list and they just keep talking, well, why not just hang up?

  • Sherrie Ludwig

    Tell her to work as an escort. It is a far more prestigious job.

  • Raven Dupres

    When I am on the mood for some fun, I give repeat telemarketers a legitimate address, usually of a public building like the Sanitation Department headquarters and inform them that I just moved there. I also give a fake SS number, agree to buy everything they are selling and in general really gum up the works.

    Another fun thing for me is to answer the phone in French. That is a rapid way to be deleted from the call list.

  • Did you not read the part where Mindy said she is already on this list? Yet she is still getting calls from telemarketers, so they are clearly ignoring the list in violation of the law. That’s because (1) it’s practically impossible to catch them and (2) even if you do, the fines they pay are chump change. Nomorobo works much better (which is why all the telemarketers want to ban it).

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