How can I make these spamming sales calls go away?
March 29, 2013 11:52 AM   Subscribe

I've been getting sales calls all day for mortgages, health care, and loans. All the callers know my name and number, and they think I filled out a form asking for a quote. I've looked this up, and apparently it's common to get a million calls when you fill out such a form -- your name and number make the rounds -- but I haven't actually done that, and now I'm just trying to make the calls go away.

It started yesterday, when I got 22 calls. I've had three today, but the day (PST) is young. They leave messages when they don't reach me. Blocking the numbers wouldn't work because every call comes from a different number; I've put myself on the federal Do Not Call list, but that won't kick in for a long time and I'm not sure it helps in this situation, since these people believe that the calls were solicited. The only thing I can think to do is answer each call and tell them "not interested."

1. Is this really the only thing I can do?

2. Bonus question: if you have had this experience, did you ever figure out how these people got your information? I'm trying not to be paranoid here.

(For the record, I'm sure about the form. I already have health care, such as it is, and I live in a rented apartment. I've never even considered buying a house, and I got my insurance years ago by dealing directly with the company.)
posted by thesmallmachine to Work & Money (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Next time you get a call, explain your situation and ask how they got that number. If they try to dodge and say that you filled out something saying you asked for it, ask for a supervisor and tell them your story again and ask how they got the number.

But most people are helpful and can help you track down how they got your number - whether it's from some list or something - and then you can find out how to contact the people who own that list, and ask THEM how they got your number. Also you can tell them to take it off.

You may get some more calls from people who have already gotten your number, but at least you've gotten at the root of where they got it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:56 AM on March 29, 2013

I've had success in the past with telling the company in question that I'm completely unsuitable for their product. If I get calls offering me new windows, as is common in the UK, I tell the person on the phone that I live in a council house. Council houses are paid for by the local government, and there is no chance whatsoever that the local government will pay for me to have new windows. A few times of doing this and the calls from various companies stopped.

I'd suggest telling people who offer you a mortgage or loan that you're bankrupt or in some other financial dire strait, and therefore are suddenly a very unattractive prospect to them.
posted by Solomon at 11:56 AM on March 29, 2013

Solomon has good advice (heh) if that's the way you want to go about it. I've found that "against my religion" is a surprisingly useful tactic in removing myself as a Prospect.

When I had to explain to my cable company, for the tenth time, that I had no interest in their TV or phone service I eventually told them that I could not watch television because of my religion. They didn't call back again. So you could always try "I did not fill out the forms and taking out loans is against my religion." Calling you costs them money, and if you can find a way to make it clear to them that they will be religiously offending you by trying to sell you the product (which you will never buy), there's a strategy.
posted by griphus at 12:05 PM on March 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just let the calls go to voicemail. Don't waste your time trying to explain anything to these people.
posted by dfriedman at 12:12 PM on March 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

I usually don't answer a phone call from a number I don't recognize. I use Google Voice from my voicemail and it is easy to permanently block unwanted callers. If they don't leave a message I can Google the number and figure out that it is from an unwanted solicitor too.
posted by grouse at 12:16 PM on March 29, 2013

But most people are helpful and can help you track down how they got your number

To the contrary, every single time I've tried to engage these people on anything other than the script they've been handed, they simply hang up.
posted by rhizome at 12:36 PM on March 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

they simply hang up

Yup. A lot of times, when they know they're doing something illegal, they won't even tell you the real name of the company. I was getting daily calls from "Carpet" for a while -- that's what the person said the name of the company was.
posted by Fnarf at 12:40 PM on March 29, 2013

Every time you receive one of these calls, say, "Please remove me from your list." There is no need to go into details, just, "Please remove me from your list." They are often completely polite and happy to do so, but if you don't ask, someone from their company will call you again and again. Combine this with getting on both the federal and state do not call lists, and getting an unlisted number. Each of these is important.
posted by Ery at 12:41 PM on March 29, 2013 [6 favorites]

One tactic I've used successfully is to change the outgoing message on voicemail to begin with a recording of that tone the phone company uses to indicate a disconnected number. I have it repeat once or twice and then come in after a pause to say "if you're not a spam/sales call and are trying to reach me (I don't give my name in case its a live operator taking notes!), leave a message." I've eliminated nearly every one of these rogue callers, and I've had some pretty strange ones over the years (this is a land line, which might explain why it gets a lot of calls).

It might not work as well for live operators, but anything that is dialed robotically or by computer I think will listen for that tone and act accordingly to delete the number from its database automagically. At least that's what I want to believe!! I only had one robo call that I finally had to catch and use its "press 5 to stop receiving these calls" to end their pestering.
posted by kuppajava at 1:06 PM on March 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had a similar experience when someone submitted my phone number with a different name to a website for moving quotes. That was probably accidental; given the volume and range of calls you are getting, my guess is someone submitted your info to a bunch of those kind of sites as a prank.

What I did to reduce my irritation:
1) Quizzed one of the brighter-sounding callers to find out what specific website sent them my phone number.
2) Found the customer service number for that website, informed them that my phone number had been falsely submitted, and requested it be removed from their system.
3) Changed my voicemail message to "Hello - If you are calling regarding a moving quote, no one at this number needs one. The request you are responding to was falsely submitted by a third party, please remove this number from your systems. Thank you. Everyone else, leave a message."
4) Stopped answering my phone for a week.

Not sure if it actually helped any more than just waiting it out, but at least I felt better.
posted by superna at 2:12 PM on March 29, 2013

Within 1 day of Time Warner Cable hooking up our phones they had sold our information to every sales person in the free world.

We that phone rings, we answer it pretending it's a local hospital. The people hang up and never call again.
posted by 26.2 at 9:13 PM on March 29, 2013

We had a bunch of calls stop when... well.

I had one of these calls on the line, was trying to get to an operator. She picked up just at the precise moment one of the our cats jumped onto my sleeping roommate's chest, causing her to let out the most blood-curdling scream I have ever heard before or since (and my roommates are horror movie fans and I have heard a lot of them). There was a moment of silence, they hung up and the number of spammy calls dropped to about half of what they were before.

This may be hard to orchestrate, I admit.
posted by mephron at 5:35 PM on March 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older When is relocation a good idea?   |   Hawaii in a day Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.