Fax spam
December 2, 2004 5:52 PM   Subscribe

Middle of the night fax attempts are driving me mad!

About once a week, the phone will ring around 3 a.m. and when I answer it, it's a fax machine. The calls are always "Unknown Name/Unknown Number" on Caller ID. *59 and *69 net busy signals, meaning that even the phone company isn't able to backtrack the source enough for me to try to put a stop to it. I'm not sure where and how my phone number got out somewhere as a fax number, but it may have been a domain registration from long ago, before I had a private fax number (at my office) to offer.

Is there anything I can do? I'm sort of remembering that blast faxing in the middle of the night is against the law, but short of buying a home fax machine that I can plug in every night to try to actual capture one of the transmissions to find the source (and perhaps missing a real emergency call about one of my numerous elderly relatives, a reality that happens about once a year) is there anything I can do to stop this?
posted by Dreama to Technology (11 answers total)
Hmmmm... someone I work with had that problem. I think he ended up changing his phone number. Do you have a cell phone number you can give out for the emergency calls and unplug your landline at night?
posted by Doohickie at 6:08 PM on December 2, 2004

I have the old fax number for the local power company. When I first got it, the phone rang off the hook with faxes. I had a fax modem, so I received a few and was able to determine the source. I would call the power company and explain, but the faxes kept coming. Finally, I wrote a letter that said something like, "Oh GEE, I hope I'm not getting any PROPRIETARY INFORMATION in these faxes." That got to them, and faxes directly related to their business stopped. The remaining problem, however, is junk fax lists -- I'm still on a number of those, even after 10 years, and I get a couple of calls a week on average. If you don't want to change your phone number, I'm afraid you're stuck with those calls. I turn off the ringer at night, myself.
posted by JanetLand at 6:15 PM on December 2, 2004

This happened to me a number of years ago, I was receiving continuous fax calls at all hours of the day and night due to someone giving out a fax number with transposed digits, and I was able to fix it. Here's how:

Since fax senders in the US are required by law to put the originating number on each and every page (that's the narrow "header" at the top or bottom of every page), I set up a fax modem to receive the call. Once the fax was successfully transmitted, the machine at the other end left me in peace... for a few hours.

When the calls started coming in again, I looked at the pages that were sent and did two things. First, I composed a single page message in a word processor, using a large font, that said "DO NOT SEND FAXES TO THIS NUMBER ANY MORE," and gave my phone number. Well, actually, the message was somewhat more profane. Then I sent that back to the originating machine, the number of which was helpfully provided by the page header.

I did this each time my phone rang with a fax over the next couple of days, probably six or eight of them. Then the calls stopped completely.
posted by majick at 6:26 PM on December 2, 2004

Unfortunately, Magick, that number that's in the header is a number (or alphanumeric string, to be more precise) that's programmed in by the user of the fax machine. VERY often, it's not correct -- it's a voice line for them, or a string that doesn't offer any identifying info (e.g., "RECEPTION DESK", which is one of my favorites from experience).

Personally, I'd love to see a company invent a little black box that acts like a valid fax machine, but instead of actually accepting the incoming fax, accepts most of the first page and then sends some command like "oops, that checksum wasn't right, so send it again!" and repeats. Keep the friggin' fax spammer's line tied up for HOURS... fun fun.
posted by delfuego at 6:47 PM on December 2, 2004

As alluded to by others, why not use the modem in your computer to receive the faxes and find out what they're about? Mac OS X has fax software built in and I think Windows XP might do too.
posted by cillit bang at 7:04 PM on December 2, 2004

Yeah, WinXP has fax software as well. Go to Start>Settings>Printers and Faxes>Set up faxing. I think you can figure it out from there.
posted by Doohickie at 7:18 PM on December 2, 2004

You could get one of those little boxes that discriminate between voice and fax calls, routing the fax call to a fax. Just don't plug in a fax.
posted by waldo at 8:50 PM on December 2, 2004

Call the phone company, don't mention it is a fax that is calling you. Just tell them that someone is calling and then saying nothing. At 3:00 in the morning.

They do have the number, and you can ask them to give it to the police. Call them every time this happens.

If it is an out of state number, tell the phone company to report your 'stalker' to the feds. They'll know who to contact.
posted by bh at 9:13 PM on December 2, 2004

Non-computer solution:
When I didn't have a computer, I just did a three-way conference call to my work fax number and waited about 30 seconds before hanging up. I was able to get the compnay that was advertising their services. Raising hell with them, THEY got the fax company that they contracted it out to to drop me immediately because they didn't want the bad publicity.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:12 PM on December 2, 2004

I had this problem and my solution was to use the Fax service built in with the Mac OS. While the number in the header typically wasn't valid, there was always a contact person and phone number. I would receive the fax, call this contact person and explain that if I received any more faxes I would 1. go to the police for harassment, and 2. make the faxes public (they were about loan rates for some mortgage company) which he did not want me to do.
posted by thebwit at 5:31 AM on December 3, 2004

Best answer: BTW, junk faxes are illegal. Here's the text of the law.

If you manage contact your harrasser, you might want to mention this.
posted by adamrice at 8:14 AM on December 3, 2004

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