Zero zero zero, zero zero zero zero! (Jenny)
December 28, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Within the past few weeks, I've been receiving phone calls on my cell phone every day at 9am and 5pm like clockwork from the number (000) 000-0000. How do I make these bastards go away and leave me alone?

I do not answer numbers that I don't recognize -- if it's important, they'll leave a message. Recently, some entity has taken it upon themselves to begin harassing me twice a day on my cell phone. Obviously, the number is not a valid number and indeed spoofed Caller ID. Twice a day at the same exact time each day, I get a mysterious phone call from (000) 000-0000. I have never answered these calls. I do not intend to answer these calls, as I don't want the entity to think they have a 'lead', and to increase the volume or frequency of calls.

Interestingly enough, the calls do take off weekends and holidays, which makes me think they're some sort of debt collection entity. I have no debt, nor have I ever had any outstanding or uncollected debt. My number is on the do-not-call list.

Up until maybe this summer, I never received any unsolicited calls on my cell phone. Since then, it seems as though I get from two to five calls a week. Some times from spoofed numbers -- callbacks to the caller ID number reveals disconnected or otherwise out of service -- some times from established businesses.

I've contacted my wireless provider, and they are set on selling me a $5 service that I can use to block a limited number of numbers. This is not appealing to me, I do not want to spend money on this problem. I have filed FCC complaints. I also wrote a letter complaining to the CEO of AT&T, and I plan to copy this letter to my legislators. I also complained to my wireless provider's twitter account, and they are just as useless as the phone support reps.

What else can I do to make these calls go away? Are there any regulatory avenues that I'm missing? Caller ID spoofing is illegal, who is tasked with enforcing this law?

I have an iPhone 4S, but there seems to be no way to reject calls by number or contact on the iPhone 4S like I could on my android device. I do not plan to jailbreak my phone, so please do not offer solutions that require that.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto to Law & Government (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This happened to me once. The number was blocked rather than spoofed, but otherwise it was the same: repeated calls at the same times every day. I kept missing them, because they were coming at times when I didn't have my phone turned on. Finally I caught one. It was a bill collector asking for somebody I didn't know. I explained politely that they had a wrong number, and I never heard from them again.

In my opinion you're being a bit silly by refusing to answer. Keep your eye on the ball. If your goal is to stop the calls, then answering the phone is probably the shortest distance between two points.
posted by cribcage at 8:54 AM on December 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I would consider answering the call, just once. Because:

1. If it is a debt collection agency, you will get a real person, and when they say "Hi, is this Lizardwoistmeinauto?" You can say "No, this is Geckwoistmeinauto", and they will realize "oh, wait, Lizardwoistmenauto doesn't live there, we have the wrong number," and they will finally leave you alone and it will stop.

2. In order to file a more effective FCC or do-not-call complaint, you have to know WHO is calling you. If you don't answer the phone, you won't know that. Mind you, the scofflaws don't really make it easy for you to find out who they are. But you can play along for a bit to fish for more info and then bring the guillotine down on them by telling them what you're up to (and get amused by how quick they hang up); the thing is, you'll have more info to file in your complaint. (Oh, and your reticence about "making them think they have a lead?" They don't care -- it's a computer that's actually doing the dialling, the human you speak to doesn't know what number they've reached, and the computer doesn't keep track of who answered and who didn't. So answering the phone shouldn't impact the frequency.)

3. If it's a legitimate wrong number -- someone trying to dial their doctor because they're trying to get a prescription filled -- if you answer, then they'll finally know "crap, THAT'S why I can't get my doctor, I've got the wrong number!" Sometimes live humans mask their numbers on caller ID for their own reasons.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:55 AM on December 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Yes, answer the phone.
posted by empath at 8:56 AM on December 28, 2011

Best answer: I get the all-zeroes number on my caller ID when a particular doctor's office calls. I think they do it to maintain my privacy, so somebody who sees the number on my phone can't tell that I am going to that specialist. It's not a 9am/5pm thing, which sounds more sketchy, but I don't think it's actually illegal to use the all-zeroes number for caller ID.

Do you think it could really get any worse if you just answered it one time to see who it is? You're already getting 2 calls a day that you can't stop, and maybe if it's a legit place you can tell them to stop calling. Maybe that's naive of me to say, but it seems like your only remaining option.
posted by vytae at 8:58 AM on December 28, 2011

Yeah I do what EmpressCallipygos suggests. A while back I was getting calls from some debit collection Co. for 2 people I have never herd of. After dealing with up to 2 calls a day for weeks I finally was able to get a real person and when I explained it was a personal cell phone and that I did not know or had never herd of these two people they were asking about the calls finally stopped.
posted by Captain_Science at 8:58 AM on December 28, 2011

There are phones that don't offer selective caller blocking but do offer different ringtones for selected callers. Can the iPhone do that? If so, give (000) 000-0000 a ringtone of silence.mp3.
posted by flabdablet at 9:05 AM on December 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

I created a contact named "Junk", to which I assign every telemarketer number that comes in, as well as the silent ringtone mentioned above.
posted by Crane Shot at 9:11 AM on December 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

If it were me, I would answer. Remember collectors will hear the "you have the wrong number" thing all the time and aggressive ones might not believe you. If they persist, you may need to get their address and mail a cease and desist letter. Once you have the business's name and address you can file complaints with state and federal entities.

There isn't an app or setting in the stock iPhones to do this. When I had a similar problem a year ago I looked around and there was jailbreak apps that mimicked some of what you can do on an iPhone. The non-4S iPhones got their untethered jailbreak this week but I don't know the ETA of the 4S. I don't think it worth jail breaking just to stop one call.

In a way you might be lucky the call comes as (000) 000-0000 because you might be able to assign that number to a new contact and change the ringtone to the silence.mp3 above. You'll know you can add that number as a contact if it is available in your recent calls list with the add to new/existing contact when you click on that little arrow next to it. If the call came through as "blocked" or "anonymous" then you're out of luck because you can't teach the iPhone to do anything with those calls and AT&T's $5 a month thingy won't work either because it needs a number to block.
posted by birdherder at 10:14 AM on December 28, 2011

Report it to your state attorney general -- once I even got a $50 check as a settlement that my AG got from a company that was illegally telemarketing me! All I did was file a form bitching about it! -- but with just the spoof number it's going to be hard unless you pursue it yourself. Answering it once may give you an idea what the problem is (as others said, may be a doctor's office or something -- once I was getting multiple similar calls with a blocked ID every day, and when I finally answered it, it was a parole office ... who was unsurprised his parolee gave a false number and apologized for the bother); if it's a debt collector who doesn't back off, you can sue (by yourself, there's good info online) for their failure to follow the laws on contacting debtors. Or harassing people who are not debtors.

Assign the number to a silent ring. I name telemarketing numbers "Z Douche" so it sorts to the bottom of my phone book. Or lately as "Satan" to make myself laugh.

Aside, given the continued prevalence of telemarketing and the way that illegal telemarketers circumvent the rules, I really do think cell companies should have to block numbers for you for free, or allow you to do it phoneside. It seems like it ought to be technologically trivial, though I'm sure there's money in letting all those damn unwanted calls through for the phone companies. But that's going to be the sort of thing that drives people to VoIP or to whatever the first company is that lets you actually manage your own contacts as you want to and whitelist and blacklist people as you prefer.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:34 AM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Answer and tell them to stop calling you. I had this happen to me when I acquired a new phone number and the last owner apparently owned everyone in town. The calls have stopped but you have to talk to a real person.
posted by JXBeach at 10:35 AM on December 28, 2011

Obama has been calling us 2x a day, but it's usually from an actual number. Pick up once and proceed from there.
posted by barnone at 10:41 AM on December 28, 2011

Twice a day at the same exact time each day, I get a mysterious phone call from (000) 000-0000.

The exact same time thing is a bit mysterious. Neither telemarketers nor debt collectors have any reason to be so accurate, and in fact the nature random nature of their "hits" makes it unlikely that they could be. It could be a recorded political announcement, but once again there are going to be random factors that would screw up the time.

In any case, assuming that you're in the US you should make sure you're in the Do Not Call registry. If nothing else, it makes tracking down the perpetrators much more lucrative for you.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:17 AM on December 28, 2011

Political "robo-calls" are exempt from the Do Not Call list. And, such robo-calls are set up through an automated dialer, they are programmed to ring at the exact time.

I suspect this is the type of call you are getting.


1. Pick up to find out who the candidate is and call their campaign office for removal

2. Wait it out until the election is over

3. Use this as an oppty to launch a tremendous personal drive to reconnect with our Founding Fathers.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:25 AM on December 28, 2011

Obama was calling me twice a day from an unlisted number. It's probably them. I asked them not to call me anymore -- and asked them the next day when it happened again -- and since then I've been left alone.
posted by gerryblog at 2:24 PM on December 28, 2011

Hrm. I'm not so sure about IPhones, but I can simply block any number by routing them straight to voicemail. As I never, ever listen to my voicemail (the message says that clearly), I can then ignore the idiots and spammers who call via robo-call systems.

The process is simple. Add them to your contacts, and then set "automatically send to voicemail" on my Android phone. I didn't have to install any apps to do this. I really think it is probably about just that simple for you as well.

The last job I quit, I had over 200 incoming messages, stupid garbage such as "company announcement: blah blah blah" (part of the reason I don't work for anyone else anymore). The last business cell-phone, about 178. I really don't care and I'm unlikely to begin caring. The trade-off is that I don't get voicemail. The truth is that I don't care. Anyone I *do* care about will hear my message telling them to text or email me. Done.
posted by Invoke at 6:53 PM on December 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

The exact same time thing is a bit mysterious. Neither telemarketers nor debt collectors have any reason to be so accurate

In the anecdote I related above, the calls were timed basically as the OP describes. I have never worked for a debt-collection agency and I don't have any firsthand knowledge as to what reason they would have to be timed this way, but they were.
posted by cribcage at 7:08 PM on December 28, 2011

I've gotten that caller ID, I think, when someone calls my actual mobile number with Skype. I also get 1234567890 sometimes, and sometimes just "blocked." Have you played around with any kind of web site that might auto-call you on your mobile with a reminder for something? (I just saw some site the other day you could set triggers and one of the programmable actions I think was to call you with a recording.)
posted by ctmf at 3:00 AM on December 29, 2011

Response by poster: So, I answered the mystery call this morning and ... dead air.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:47 AM on December 29, 2011

Dead air. Hmm.

Okay: I have a reporter friend who covers the direct marketing industry, so he's taught me a lot about how telemarketers/spammers/etc. operate. Based on our conversations, and based on my own experiences with this kind of thing, it sounds like:

1. It's one of the scofflaw telemarketers. I have somewhat incomplete recall of my conversations with my friend, but I think what happens is: they have a robodial that dials a cluster of numbers at a time -- and if one of them picks up, it stops dialing the rest. So the computer is dialing five numbers at a time, and you just picked up a second after someone else did. Which is why you got dead air. Unfortunately, there's little you can do to stop them even if you do get a person (they fake numbers, try to hang up before you get their name, etc.), but the good news is that usually they peter out after a few weeks.

2. It's a robodial political call, which also sometimes uses the "dial five numbers at a time and hang up when one answers" thing. Political calls are exempt from the "do not call" restriction.

So what everyone says about trying to forward calls from that number to a "silent" ringtone or other tricks like that may be best.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:58 AM on December 29, 2011

I got the "dead air" a few times when I tried to answer Obama's robocalls too. You have to wait longer than you'd think to be transfered to a human.
posted by gerryblog at 7:18 AM on December 29, 2011

Response by poster: I had dead air for approximately two seconds, then the call dropped.

I sent copies of my letter to my state's AG and the local utility board. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe someone will have pity on me and figure out what's going on.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 8:20 AM on December 29, 2011

Response by poster: Update: I have now been receiving calls every hour from this number. Awesome.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 10:35 AM on December 29, 2011

I was receiving texts from 999-999-9999 for several weeks. But a bit different pattern. I would get two texts at 12:27pm, then two more at 5:27pm, then again at 12:27am and 5:27am. There was no text in the body of the message.

I talked to my carrier, Virgin Mobile, and they confirmed that I was not being charged the normal 15 cents per text for them, and they claimed (and I believe them) they they blocked the number for me. Nevertheless, the texts kept coming, until they just stopped. I'd love to know what the heck.
posted by LEGO Damashii at 2:37 PM on January 1, 2012

Response by poster: I got in touch with escalated AT&T support. They said there wasn't a thing in the world that they WOULD do. They did agree that there were things they could do, but that they just didn't help in these situations. So there's some stellar customer service right there.

Thanks everyone for your responses.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 3:29 PM on January 2, 2012

« Older Chubby hubby, what to do?   |   Recommend a gaming laptop Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.