stopping am phone calls
April 30, 2012 11:36 AM   Subscribe

Is it possible to stop unwanted phone calls when it seems no one is on the other end? The call is coming to our landline (home phone), and we don't have caller id, an answering machine, or any kind of special machine or service that can identify or filter out the calls. This has been an ongoing issue for a few weeks.

We've been receiving morning phone calls around the same time every day for a few weeks. The phone calls wake us up daily, though, I suppose it's not really an unreasonable time (9:30-10:30 hour). When I've answered, no one has been on the line, but the call stays active for at least a minute before clicking off. We're on the Do Not Call list, but we've started to receive recorded messages to get around some kind of loophole in the past year. We've also been hounded by calls from an alleged charity that my Mom has contributed to in the past. When we get those calls, I've been put through to a real person, and I've declined donating and asked to have our number removed from their list. That hasn't happened, but I'm not sure if there's a connection between the AM calls and the charity. Our number definitely seems to be on a scheduled auto-dialer and either the recording isn't starting up when I answer or, perhaps, my call isn't being processed and sent to a live telemarketer.

My complaint mostly stems from the fact that it happens every day, that it wakes us up unnecessarily, and there's no foreseeable way to get the calls to stop. What I'm wondering is:
1) Does anyone have any insight into what this is (beyond my own guess)?
2) Is there any kind of hack or hint (like punching in a secret series of numbers that would make the recording start or transfer me to a/the person responsible for the call)? Any solutions beyond getting a paid service with the phone company, a machine to id or filter the call, or not answering the phone? Obviously, I'm aware of those options. Dropping the landline or turning off the phone/silencing the ringer are not options. What would you do (beyond those options listed above that I'm aware of or have ruled out)? As I said, if it weren't so early, I would just ignore it and not answer, but I'm getting irritated by the unwelcomed daily wake up call. Ultimately I would LIKE to get these phone calls to stop. Thanks in advance for any responses!
posted by Mael Oui to Technology (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
*69 will redial the number that last called you, although if this is some sort of sophisticated auto-dialer, they're probably blocking their number. Have you contacted the phone company about this? I don't think you have to pay to have a number blocked but, again, if they're smart they're covering their tracks. However, the phone company probably has those records.
posted by griphus at 11:39 AM on April 30, 2012

I recommend that you call your local phone company's Annoyance Call Bureau, and discuss the harrassing calls and ask them to put on Call Block for a period of time. *57 is Call Trace. Since you are receiving these nusance calls on a regular basis, they should add these features for a short period of time gratis. Do not try to discuss this with a drone in sector R. Once you get through to a human, ask for the Annoyance Call Bureau's direct line, as they'll have the authority to add the features temporarily for you.

If you want to talk to the person calling, you can use *69, Call Return, on a per call basis, but there is a charge for using it (usually around .75 per use, plus any tolls that would apply.) I'll bet you that the call is blocked though.

You may have a fax machine or a modem on the other line and it may just have been programmed incorrectly with your number.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:42 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Transfer the number to a VOIP service that has call routing and "do not disturb" hours. Our phone simply won't ring before 7:30 AM or after 10:00 PM, and known telemarketers go straight to voicemail without even ringing the phone (as do any numbers without valid caller ID or whose caller ID identifies them as calling from a toll-free number). The really annoying ones get routed to a recording that tells them the number has been disconnected.

Better yet, get a new, virgin number on a VOIP service and abandon your old one. VOIP numbers are typically allocated from cell phone number pools, so telemarketers avoid them in the first place, because telemarketing to a cell phone is illegal. Plus, nobody will have that number.
posted by kindall at 11:43 AM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had this issue with a fax machine that would call and wake us up at about 3am every day. I called my phone company, and registered a nuisance call complaint, and that dealt with it. I don't remember if it cost me anything, but I don't think it did.
posted by Joh at 11:45 AM on April 30, 2012

Call your phone company and report it as a harassing call. They should be able to figure out where it's coming from and shut it down.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 11:46 AM on April 30, 2012

I had the same problem as Joh, it was an insurance company that thought my # was a branch office and they were trying to send the daily market rates for something-or-order before the opening of business. But don't fax machines usually make a tone when sending?

In any case, I had to borrow an old fax machine, plug it in until I could find out what company was sending them (calling back the fax# was useless), and request it be stopped.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:00 PM on April 30, 2012

These same annoying daytime calls have been coming in on our landline since last week despite our Do Not Call registration. After a delay, different weirdos mispronounce our names then ask about something or other--medical things we ordered--not. Educational stuff--not, which we've pointed out before hanging up.

This morning we got two calls. I said nothing, and no one came on. I'm wondering whether speaking triggers a transfer from the robo dialer to one of the humans. So that's our strategy for today--say nothing. I'll report back in a couple days. I'll be watching this thread and trying some of the strategies if the silent treatment doesn't work. I feel your pain.
posted by Elsie at 1:12 PM on April 30, 2012

We had that happening to us for about 3 weeks (perhaps more). Then we got a phone call with someone telling us that our computer had a virus since it had called repeatedly their phone over the past x weeks. From what I had read elsewhere, I expected their next line to be that they could fix it for us. I just told them that they were scammer and to stop phoning us.

Perhaps it was just a coincidence but we haven't had a call with no one on the line since...
posted by aroberge at 4:01 PM on April 30, 2012

Google Voice.
posted by eq21 at 4:11 PM on April 30, 2012

I'd star-57 them. Three times and prosecute. But then I got so fed up with my landline that I shut it off. You might not be quite as cranky as I am.
posted by DaveP at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Dropping the landline or changing our home phone number just isn't an option, and since that's the number that's being called, doing something snazzy with VOIPs or online stuff wouldn't really solve the problem. As I said, I'm aware of different options that would require extra work (phone services that would cost extra, adding some type of machine to filter or id, or totally switching away from a landline), but they're not ideal. That a fax machine (or modem) is making the call is something I've never considered, though. That's very possible. I don't hear any kind of tone on the line.. I have heard SOMETIMES a faint clicking that is at the same intervals.. a few seconds and a CLICK and so on. I always thought that had something to do with the recording not coming on correctly. I will call my phone company to report a nuisance/harassing phone call and see what they say about blocking it (or, even if they can determine what the source is). If anyone reads this and does have any more ideas, I'm still open to suggestion. Thank you everyone for your responses! (I'm not really sure which are the best answers for this question yet, so I will return to do that aspect later)

[For those that have had a similar problem recently, if you attempt the same or a different solution, let me know if you're successful in getting your irritating calls to stop!]
posted by Mael Oui at 6:54 PM on April 30, 2012

You could also use the free Google Voice service to take over your voicemail - it has settings for "do not disturb" hours and other routing options.
posted by bookdragoness at 8:53 AM on May 1, 2012

When you say that it stays active for a minute - are you making noise during that minute?

We've been getting a lot of calls from call centers for charities, and it seems that there is an auto-dialer, then we say "hello", then it switches to what we think is a live person, but that person didn't hear us say anything, so from their perspective it's an empty line and they are waiting for us to say "hello". We think we can hear movement on the other end of the line, but nobody says anything. If we say "hello" again, the live person starts talking to us. But if we stay quiet, then so do they. After a few seconds, I just hang up.
posted by CathyG at 2:05 PM on May 1, 2012

I don't have voice mail, VOIP, a cell phone, a fax machine, caller ID... I don't even have an answering machine or cordless telephones. I just wondered if it was at all possible to stop getting this call on my one and only phone line. As I said, I'd ignore it.. I just hate that it wakes up the house every day. So, while I'm aware of many of the solutions mentioned above (and, while they'd be great in other instances or, perhaps, for someone more tech-y than I am), I'm not going to go to the trouble for one phone call.. I know I'm allowing for few good options here, and maybe the answer is 'no, there's no way to stop it.' If that's the answer, then that's the answer, and I'll accept that. I just thought maybe someone knew something I didn't know (because I'm really not tech savvy).

CathyG, I've done it every way. I've said hello once, multiple times, progressively louder. I've said other words into the phone. I've even said nothing at all. Usually when I only say hello once, I don't make any other noise and I try to listen for anything in the background. I remember reading that profanity sometimes gets quicker customer service calls.. doesn't work in this instance, though! I'll try saying hello multiple times again!
posted by Mael Oui at 6:27 PM on May 1, 2012

I just remembered I said I'd report back about the status of our same timetable annoying calls. We've been doing the silent treatment for a week or so--saying nothing at all when we pick up. The number of phone calls has decreased from about ten a day to one or two. Have no idea whether our silence contributed to the decrease or not. Like you, the one or two calls are no in the AM, between nine and ten.
posted by Elsie at 8:10 AM on May 7, 2012

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