Unlisted cell phone calls, possibly automated marketing.
February 4, 2010 12:28 AM   Subscribe

A friend keeps getting repeated calls from an unlisted number, no one answers when she picks up. What can be done to stop the calls besides changing phone nuber?

The call shows up as "Call" or sometimes as a gibberish number like 123456789. When she picks up and says "hello" she hears music or typing. When she doesn't say anything she sometimes hears someone say "hello? hello?" (~10% of the time). The calls come at any time of the night or day, even at 4am. Usually get multiple calls in a row in the space of 10 mins or so. This is on a cell phone, carrier is AT&T.

My theory was that this was an automated marketing thing, because I used to get this on a land line. However, it was never as frequent and not at such inconvenient hours. Another friend suggested it might be a glitch in the software of whatever system is making the calls. The fact that someone sometimes answers "hello?" is also confusing.

She is considering changing her phone number to stop the calls, but that is a huge inconvenience. She called AT&T and they said they could not do anything if the number of the caller did not show up. She signed up for the "do not call" list. Is there any way to stop the calls without changing numbers?
posted by Mayhembob to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Easy to register at the National Do Not Call Registry
posted by artdrectr at 12:55 AM on February 4, 2010

sorry, I now see she's already signed up.
posted by artdrectr at 12:57 AM on February 4, 2010

Use the phone to save the number(s) as it/they come in, and set a silent ringtone for them. Or sign up for Google Voice and use the "send to spam" option.

Try Googling the number... you might get a lot of hits from http://whocalled.us/ and similar websites that can indicate where the calls are coming from.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:22 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

What kind of phone does she have? Many Sony Ericsson phones, for example, will allow you to restrict who can call you. (under settings -> manage calls) You can set it up to only accept calls from people in your contact list. I'm sure other phones do this as well. Would this be an option?
posted by Ljubljana at 1:27 AM on February 4, 2010

Here's a temporary solution.
Make the default ringtone silent - then for all the people that it might be important for her to get phones calls in the middle of the night, make their ringtones unique. Most cellphones have a "silent" ringtone, but not the iPhone. You can easily create a silent ringtone though.
posted by bigmusic at 1:31 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]

I seem to recall someone I knew having this problem, and after Googling it seemed it came from a VOIP/Skype sort of thing. I think it had the same gibberish caller ID. Can't offer any ideas on how to stop it, but it might get you on the right track.

Would landline phone services have a blocking feature that would be applicable even on numbers like that? I'm kind of surprised AT&T didn't have any workarounds for cell phones, even if it's not a real number.

If it's someone harassing her, maybe she can just put her phone next to the radio and leave it on the line for a long while until the caller gets bored? Maybe it'll discourage him/her to stop calling constantly. Or just threaten to call the police.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 1:51 AM on February 4, 2010

She called AT&T and they said they could not do anything if the number of the caller did not show up.
That sounds like a lazy way out. They should have the technical capabilities to trace down such calls, no?
posted by willem at 2:55 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, what willem said. There are some good ideas here, but why give up on AT&T? Escalate!
posted by fixedgear at 2:56 AM on February 4, 2010

They should have the technical capabilities to trace down such calls, no?

AT&T may have the technical capability to figure out what is going on but it doesn't follow that AT&T's customer service reps either know about this capability or care enough to do something about it.

I would work from the assumption that customer service reps are generally useless for anything but the most boilerplate issues, and escalate.

Perhaps some method such as an executive carpet bomb will work.
posted by dfriedman at 3:53 AM on February 4, 2010

I was getting spam calls on a phone, verizon changed the number at no charge.. stopped the problem.

Change the number...the easy solution.. (also, use google voice, so when you DO get a problem like this on the number assigned by your carrier, you can make the change will little hassle)
posted by HuronBob at 5:55 AM on February 4, 2010

If your friend has a WM5 or WM6 smartphone you could install Call Firewall. This works well and unobtrusively.
posted by jet_silver at 5:59 AM on February 4, 2010

I agree that you should escalate with AT&T. Use words like "harassed", "scared", and "disturbing".
I think an executive carpet bomb should only be used after you have asked for help several times. It's not appropriate to use after one unsuccessful call for help. They will likely suggest that you change your number, but tell them you do not want to.

When she doesn't say anything she sometimes hears someone say "hello? hello?" (~10% of the time).

So when they say hello, what does she say and does she get an answer? I suggest having her answer but not say a word. Then when the "hello?" comes, say loudly, "This is a cell phone. It's illegal for you to be calling me," and hang up. Try that once or twice, and then start with loud noises, fax tones, etc. If it is a virtual call, a rep might finally put her down as a bad number.
posted by soelo at 7:55 AM on February 4, 2010

Report, with any information she can muster, to the state AG. They usually have a form. I've had success in getting repeat offenders stopped this way.

I also set offenders who have a number show up (often 000-000-0000 for me, but sometimes other things) to a silent ringtone and I do not answer unlisted or blocked numbers. If it's important, they'll leave a voicemail and I can call back. If her phone allows it, she can set unlisted and blocked numbers to silent. It takes a week or so of adding the "bad" numbers to a silent list, but after that you're rarely bothered.

My phone requires contact names to set a special ringtone, so all those numbers are listed under "Z Douche" so it sorts to the bottom of my contacts. And makes me kinda happy when I see it instead of kind of annoyed. I have other friends who named them things like "Satan" or "Hell Calling."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:05 AM on February 4, 2010

Call AT&T. Explain that you are being harassed, that you will not pay for these unwanted calls, and that you expect assistance. Be fierce, don't accept No for an answer. Then, when they still blow you off, go to The Consumerist.
posted by theora55 at 9:47 AM on February 4, 2010

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