Best (law-abiding) ways to inconvenience cold callers?



Like many people, I don't wish to receive unsolicited phone calls/texts/emails from people who are trying to sell me something or scam me.

I am aware of passive ways of dealing with the problem but I am asking here for ideas for actively discouraging such calls.

  1. I want to discourage the same people from calling me twice.

  2. I want to discourage them from calling other people. In other words I want to stop cold-calling altogether. I believe it has no useful place in the modern world.

I am looking for novel ways of causing the maximum inconvenience and expense to these annoying people. Of course I am only interested in law-abiding methods.

If possible I would like the methods to be scaleable to the status of a campaign.

To repeat, I'm aware of passive solutions but I want ideas for active solutions that will hit these people hardest and preferably in their wallets.



I'm very grateful for the answers so far. However they are very low-level solutions. I realise I wasn't clear enough. It is easy enough to annoy the grunts on the front line and anyway they are used to it. I am looking for ways to inconvenience the decision makers at the highest possible level.

chasly from UK

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 898

2Might be considered impersonating an officer nowdays, but I know someone who once answered with Hello! This is the [city] Police Department, how may we help you? Probably more of a good story than advice. – veryRandomMe – 2015-11-14T15:54:08.513

1Just hang the phone immediately. Just like you would switch the channel on TV. This is advertisement and not a regular call where you would have to be polite. You don't even have to say that you're not interested. – papakias – 2016-05-31T10:06:36.073

3"Hello Caller-your on the air" – resident_heretic – 2016-06-04T05:45:27.640

1I actually did this to a telemarketer-" I'm sorry Mrs ** is not available to receive your call young man as she passed away last night." " The family is making funeral arrangements at this time if you want to pay your respects you can" " You sound like such a nice young man" – resident_heretic – 2016-06-04T05:51:48.240

1Scream at someone in the background and make some comment about using bleach to clean up all that blood – resident_heretic – 2016-06-04T05:54:32.600

1Don't have the rep to answer, but what I do is tell the cold callers exactly what they want to hear. That way the next call will be from the company that buys the leads from the cold callers, and their the ones whose time I really want to waste. – JamesCarters – 2016-06-05T13:14:58.367

1I am assuming you are only referring to actual people cold calling you, since most of the answers apply only to a real person. Unfortunately it seems that the majority of telemarketers are now using robocallers, with which different tactics need to be used. – Mark Ripley – 2016-08-21T11:07:44.227

Good Question! Thank You. – alan2here – 2018-11-11T12:49:17.067



When the cold caller asks for you, say "Just a moment, I'll get them." and then place the phone next to the stereo and let it play, like hold music. Every once in a while get back on in your best message machine voice and say "Your call is very important to us, please stay on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received." Having been a cold caller in the past (shudder, nightmares) I can tell you that after a while they will make a note not to call you back.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 1 623

8This is pretty mean! – yo' – 2015-10-14T19:34:01.773

7You think that's mean? I've done worse. I have even heard about someone who tells the caller that she is putting a curse on them! – chasly from UK – 2015-10-14T22:45:42.683

2I think this is the best answer. People hanging up costs them very little. Keeping the caller waiting costs them much more. – Stig Hemmer – 2015-10-15T09:51:34.613


Although not exactly cold calling: a Belgian group of comedians placed a container on the driveway of an infamous mobile phone provider, blocking the entrance. On the side they placed a telephone number. When phoned, they would answer in a way that the helpdesk was infamous for (long waiting times, "you have the wrong number", when finally through, disconnected and start over, etc.). Unknowingly to the helpdesk, they were sitting inside the container. Enjoy 10 hilarious minutes (in Dutch).

– gerrit – 2015-10-15T10:34:33.653


Also priceless, make them part of a crime scene:

– RobAu – 2015-10-15T11:36:32.590

I've put them on with the recording on YouTube which comes back and says things like, "Your telemarketting bullshit is very important to us...". – Dronz – 2015-10-15T15:01:08.367

@gerrit The help desk would really say "you have the wrong number"? Long wait times and disconnects are annoying but understandable, but blatant lying seems over the top. Just how infamous is that mobile phone provider? – JAB – 2015-10-15T16:01:40.800

1@JAB This scene is over the top (it's comedy, after all). By you have the wrong number, I mean the situation where some organisation has 8 different numbers for different kinds of requests (for example, consider an airline with different numbers for Customer Service, General Inquiries, Refunds, Delays, ...), with customers waiting for an hour only to be told they need to call one of the other numbers to get help with their inquiry. – gerrit – 2015-10-15T16:24:53.193

@gerrit - Now we're talking! This is exactly the sort of thing I'm looking for. I wonder if it is legal to park on someone's driveway without their permission in Britain . – chasly from UK – 2015-10-15T16:25:04.563

As a variant you could just immediately ask to speak to their manager. If they're required to let you, this likely requires them to keep the line open for a long time, since it's rare for a manager to be available. – R.. – 2015-10-18T17:15:58.387

@RobAu No idea whether that approach is legal, but it certainly sounds like fun. – kasperd – 2015-10-31T13:50:49.510


Print the telemarketing counterscript and keep it next to your phone.

I don't know how much it annoys the caller, but it might make things more fun for you.



Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 829

10I love this idea. It almost makes me want to get some calls so I can use it. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-15T14:38:15.967

This is pretty cool! – LOSTinNEWYORK – 2015-10-17T16:18:08.377

I loved the script. If you've created it yourself, I'm impressed. And a little bit afraid. Mostly impressed, though. – Konrad Viltersten – 2015-10-17T18:28:01.673

It's brilliant, right? Alas, I didn't create it. That's why I didn't embed the image but only linked it. Alex added the picture. – Cephalopod – 2015-10-17T19:31:53.163


Well, this doesn't apply to the UK specifically but here's my approach:

Never answer unsolicited calls from an unknown number. From anyone. Ever. Calls from a number that I don't recognize go straight to voice mail. If they don't leave a message, they'll never hear back from me. If it's important, they will either leave a message or find another way to get in touch with me. No truly important communication occurs only by telephone.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 579

+1 even though I have voicemail disabled on my mobile (long story, off-topic). On a landline any decent answerphone will be able to put the incoming call on speaker allowing you to screen the call. A good answer phone can announce the number (or name if stored in its memnory). I've decided to use the default message (to not reveal who I am in the case of robo-calls) but if I recorded a custom message it would point out (to humans) that we screen all our calls. I tend to pick up local calls though. – Chris H – 2015-10-15T15:30:26.130

Don't you have to pay for voicemails? – chasly from UK – 2015-10-15T16:26:32.867

@chasly I do not but that might not apply to you. I'm using Google Voice. I don't know if that's available to UK users or not. – MikeTheLiar – 2015-10-15T16:27:59.580

1I don't agree with this at all. If they don't leave a message, it's more effort for me to ignore the ringing then not wonder who it could have been. If they do leave a voicemail, it's more effort to ignore the ringing, check the voicemail, then call back. It takes seconds to answer it and hang up if it's garbage. – Charles Clayton – 2015-10-15T18:45:32.630

9Maybe a friend's phone's dead and they're calling from an unknown number, maybe it's a job offer, maybe a delivery company's checking if you're home. "No truly important communication occurs only by telephone." strikes me as more a justification for social anxiety than a truth. – Charles Clayton – 2015-10-15T18:48:42.687

6Wow, armchair psychologist much? Besides, none of those examples are truly important. Those are conveniences/inconveniences at best. "Maybe it's a job offer". In my experience it's more likely to be a recruiter which is barely distinguishable from a scam. – MikeTheLiar – 2015-10-15T18:55:42.537

Sadly that was my solution, gave up on landline between 2006-2008, mute mobiles almost all the time and require contacts to sign up for my VIP callers list or make appointments. Most things can be communicated time-independent and more effectively through e-mail. No risk of waking me up when I come home from night shifts. These overbearing and dishonest practices should have been shut down by regulation, don't blame me for these intricacies, I'm just protecting myself. Probably unrelated but I read that a whole generation is just growing up preferring text messengers over phone calls. – LiveWireBT – 2015-12-21T18:00:21.360


Answer in a foreign language. For the cold caller it's usually not worth trying to communicate with someone who you share no common language, since they are usually on the clock to make commission.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 497

28Kinda ballsy to answer any unknown call with "hole - ah, yo soy josh" and it's human resources calling from the job you applied at. – coburne – 2015-10-14T19:59:14.340

17This achieves nothing. If you don't want to talk to them, there's no difference between saying, "Go away" in English, saying "Go away" in Esperanto, or just putting the phone down. – David Richerby – 2015-10-14T20:54:55.400

1@DavidRicherby you are missing the point. By your logic I should just not pick up. You'd be amazed how quickly the cold caller will hang up without a single word when you answer in Chinese for instance. – Aron – 2015-10-15T00:06:41.450

10That's not my "logic" at all and you're missing my point. Encouraging the other person to hang up achieves nothing because you can hang up yourself whenever you want. It takes literally only a couple of seconds to identify that you've received a cold call and hang up. Answering in Chinese risks putting off genuine callers. – David Richerby – 2015-10-15T07:29:16.257

One other thing I remember from an old job I had that involved cold-calling: I don't know the rules in other countries, but in the US, if the person answering told us not to call anymore, we had to flag the number not to call back anymore. If they answered in some other language, we'd probably just hang up and their number would remain active in the call queue for a call back another day. So it'd be a temporary solution at best. – coburne – 2015-10-16T20:05:18.393

Haha, I love this. As a variant, reply in multiple languages. Include gibberish. – gregsdennis – 2015-10-23T00:27:06.830

@coburne: the problem with requsting them not to call any more is that you are expecting the cold callers to obey US law. In my experience at home the majority of callers are scammers calling from foreign locations that could care less about US law. It's also a requirement that callers identify themselves and the company they work for as well, and they never do that either. – Mark Ripley – 2016-08-21T11:03:17.670

David - the thing I hate is that they call me, so my thinking is i want it to be so annoying from them that they never call back. Waste their time as much as possible, make it cost them money. That's my ideal scenario, and it works reasonably well. – Rory Alsop – 2016-08-26T22:13:21.973


I sound interested then say "Wait a moment, I have to take something off the stove".

Then walk away. They hang up eventually.

(I used to keep an emergency whistle by the phone - blowing it removes the eardrums of the caller. But that probably isn't legal and it annoyed the neighbours)


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 1 389

5Thanks. The thing is that I've recently been getting repeated automatic calls from the same PPI firm. They even change their number to make it less obvious who is calling. I can and do ignore them. As GeoffAtkins says, these people are prepared to waste time and money in the hope of a sale. The rest of us are just seen as statistics. They themselves have thick skins. What they do is legal but intensely annoying. I am looking for legal but intensely annoying things to do to the bosses, not the lackeys who actually operate the phones. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-14T14:09:45.497

9Ahh. PPI. SImply report every single one to They stop immediately. They are the easiest of all to get rid of. – Chenmunka – 2015-10-14T14:12:53.253

6Whistle is not useful. Telephones are band-limited way below the frequencies you want to get into your victim's ear. – R.. – 2015-10-17T01:06:37.147


If you want a novel, legal and amusing way to discourage telemarketers, there's always Lenny.

If you're really committed, set your number up with a premium rate for callers. You'll start to actually enjoy the calls, asking questions and stringing the telemarketer along. Though your friends and family might not find this so entertaining when they get their next bill.

Drew Noakes

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 311

2I like the idea of a premium line. Give your friends your 'real' number. I wonder if anyone has actually made a living from attracting cold-calls and stringing them along. My guess is that cold-callers human or automatic wouldn't ever dial anything that looked like a premium number. I suppose you could ask them to call back on your 'other number'! – chasly from UK – 2015-10-15T22:20:53.167

Note that using a premium line in this way can violate certain rules ofcom places on premium rate numbers in the UK, and possibly other laws in other countries. – SLC – 2015-10-16T08:26:53.123

@chaslyfromUK a lot of the (non-compliant) calls are from random/sequential auto-diallers. If you have a real number they'll call it, regardless of whether you have a more obvious premium number. A premium number may be useful against some people (if you actually wanted a double-glazing quote once). – Chris H – 2015-10-16T09:37:20.950


I have three fixes for this, with different results:

  1. As I am in the USA, my phone number has been on the Do Not Call list as long as the list has existed. I used to get good results reporting callers, but I think all the call centers have moved out of the USA, so this is no longer effective.
  2. As suggested in earlier responses "Please hold", put the phone down, get on with life, and hang up about 5 minutes later. Reasonably effective.
  3. The one that could completely solve the problem if more people used it: I keep a list of companies I am boycotting. Any business whose products or services are advertised during a cold call to me goes on the list for a year. During that period, I try very hard to avoid doing business with them even if I was a customer before the call. If more people did this, cold calling would result in a reduction in business, and companies would stop doing it.

Patricia Shanahan

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 281

20One note on #3 - boycotts rarely have any effect unless you actually communicate to the company that you are doing so. One positive example - A couple years ago, I started receiving spam messages regarding a tax preparation software that I have used for years. I sent a quick note directly to the company, complaining about this and stating that I would no longer use their software if this continued. They replied within two days, removed the spammer from their sales organization, and put additional protection in place to prevent it happening again. – GalacticCowboy – 2015-10-15T13:13:42.633

4In other words, they need to know that the reduction in business is because of the practice you disagree with. – GalacticCowboy – 2015-10-15T13:15:03.523

3I'm in the UK. One of the problems is the opportunist call. For example. "We are calling about the injury that you recently suffered". In fact I didn't receive any injuries - they are just playing the odds. Also more and more calls are automated. I you put them on hold, the call is automatically terminated and they keep calling back until you take a positive action such as pressing a key on your phone. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-15T14:46:02.147

1@GalacticCowboy Boycotts due to advertising campaigns are a little different. Companies proactively try to measure the effects of various forms of advertising in order to see whether the costs are justified. If a particular type of campaign had a net negative effect on sales they would notice and stop doing it. – Patricia Shanahan – 2015-10-15T15:22:25.003

1It wasn't worded well because I was running out of space, but this was an affiliate program, not an official advertising campaign in my example. – GalacticCowboy – 2015-10-15T15:29:09.697

1Scammers aren't worried about you black-listing them, and unfortunately a lot of the worst offenders are scammers. – Alfred Armstrong – 2015-10-15T15:46:32.183


One very amusing way to dismiss cold callers is to put on your best sultry voice and say;

“I would be delighted to answer all of your question my dear, but this is a premium service and we will bill your number at a rate of £15 per minute. Is that ok, sweetie?”

They hang up so fast.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 186

2That's a novel idea. Rather than go to the trouble of setting up a premium line, pretend it is one. Have you actually tried this? – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T15:48:46.120

2Yes, just the once :D but it was perfect, the called apologised and hung up. He sounded really embarrased. – Jekowl – 2015-10-16T17:04:51.503

You mean, something like "Welcome to Sexy Suzi's Telephone fun line, only 5 pounds a minute". I can't wait till another one rings up to try this out. – RedSonja – 2015-10-28T14:53:39.953

2@RedSonja yeh! but maybe don't start on that till you know its a cold caller. It would be an intresting way to greet your relatives ;p – Jekowl – 2015-10-29T18:14:34.867


I note you're in the UK, where, very recently, a landmark change has been made in the law written to protect consumers from this type of harassment. Link below to a report by the BBC, but you need to find out the name of the company which is calling, then tell them you're going to report them to the Information Commissioner's Office - I'm pretty sure they'll be aware of the massive fine issued recently to a particular company harassing people regarding PPI claims.

Alternatively, do what I do - I am really, really rude and act furious. As soon as I realise what the call's about, I cut right across them and say where'd you get my number from, then carry on with something like (with a withering, sarcastic tone) I haven't had any PPI nor have I had an accident, but you will if you ever call this number again, remove it from your list immediately. I even throw in the fact they've had the temerity to disturb my dinner and how dare they (I've heard them apologise while I'm still ranting). For politeness on the site, I have left out the expletives; these may be none, very few or many and varied, depending on how bored/irritated I am, usually finishing with two little words used the world over and cutting the caller off. Funnily enough, they don't ring back...not really sure why, might be because I'm female and they feel like their mum has just given them a roasting, given the callers are always male, and they don't want to face it again.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 3 431

4Unfortunately most calls are number withheld. The ones that aren't are from call centres in India :/ – DavidPostill – 2015-10-14T22:18:34.997

1@DavidPostill just talk to them until they tell you who they are. They can't sell you anything without telling you what they sell. – Josef – 2015-10-15T06:48:36.733

3Yep, find out what company they are - you don't need to extract their number from them, its their name and any address you can get out of them. – Bamboo – 2015-10-15T10:08:45.020

2@Josef most of them claim to be from "windows support". – Chris H – 2015-10-15T15:31:20.493


@ChrisH ah, I assume this are the friendly guys who will tell you how virus infected your PC is and for just $150 they install you the best antivirus. If that's the case, they are almost certainly not UK (or even EU) based companies and just don't care if they are allowed to call you. I mean, they are scamming people out of money. The legality of the call isn't really important then any more. here is one blog post where they talked 3h with the guy. I assume he never called again.

– Josef – 2015-10-15T15:40:07.257

@Josef, yes, and in fact most of the others show up as "international" given the TPS do not call list. I don't pick up for "international" unless someone I care about is overseas and could plausibly be calling. I've seen a few cases of security pros stringing them along, they're great. – Chris H – 2015-10-15T15:53:47.790

I think you made a sexist assumption when you said, "the callers are always male". I have just finished a call with a female operator. Because of this thread I experimented and pretended to be an old, confused man. She was quite ruthlessly trying to get information out of me. She was always polite and friendly but she kept asking for my name and address even though I acted as though I had mild dementia and said my children had told me never to give details over the phone. Of course she didn't get anything out of me. When I politely ended the call she said will call me back... – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T11:27:31.280

@chaslyfromUK Not sexist at all, its just I've never had a cold call from a female, maybe I'm just lucky! It would have been quicker to tell her firmly to go away and never call your number again and put the phone down. Paradoxically, pretending to be demented won't put them off at all - it'll encourage them. You need to sound on the ball, prepared to be rude and very, very firm. – Bamboo – 2015-10-16T11:30:45.743

... These people are ruthless. They don't care who they con. I'm waiting to see if they sell my details on to other companies just because they think I am vulnerable. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T11:30:55.710

@chaslyfromUK - they're just trying to make a living - don't make it any more palatable that they con people, but that's all they're doing really, its not personal. – Bamboo – 2015-10-16T11:32:00.787

1@Bamboo - Really? You consider it's okay to make a living by conning old and frail people out of their details and money? You're right -- it certainly isn't personal -- they don't behave as though they are dealing with real people at all. They are selfishly and cynically treating others as 'sales'. I would never stoop that low, no matter how much I needed to 'make a living'. Would you? – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T11:38:02.707

@chaslyfromUK - I think you've misunderstood - I'm not saying its okay at all, what I am saying is they probably need a job. Some will have no qualms about the work, some will override their conscience easily, others are not at all comfortable with it, but at the end of the day, they're still human beings and they need to eat just like we do. That doesn't excuse sharp practice in any way though, its the company that needs to be brought to book. – Bamboo – 2015-10-16T12:03:51.117

@Bamboo - Yeah well a lot of people override their conscience. The fact that I left her in no doubt that I was vulnerable had zero effect on her conscience. Going by her voice I would say she was around 25-35. Doesn't she have elderly relatives? Would she want them to be on the receiving end of what she was doing? Unless she had a gun to her head, I don't think there is an excuse. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T12:07:44.713

@chaslyfromUK - well, there is a societal problem - no sense of community responsibility and quite a significant rise in Narcissistic Personality Disorder in people under 35, so this lack of conscience is probably a reflection of that. – Bamboo – 2015-10-16T12:10:52.333

@Bamboo - I do want to bring these companies to book. Unfortunately many of these calls come from the Indian sub-continent. Somehow they are disguised as coming from British numbers. This woman had an accent that sounded Indian. We cannot prosecute them under British laws so, short of getting on a plane and banging on the doors of their offices, there is little I can do. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T12:11:42.397

@chaslyfromUK - but they'll be employed by a company that isn't based in India, they're just a call centre out there. Get the company name and check 'em out, find out where they are. – Bamboo – 2015-10-16T12:12:59.260

@bamboo - She actually gave me the name of their website. I tried it and my McAfee antivirus gave me a big red warning that it is a scam site. I didn't go any further. I have no idea how I would find out who they really are. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T12:19:09.567


  1. Be creepy. Heavy breathing, asking someone if they wear a uniform, and so on will freak out most cold callers.
  2. Say "I inform you I am recording this conversation".
  3. Give the phone to your half-deaf grandparent with dementia, if you have one.
  4. Be borderline threatening, without crossing the border. Say as if you were talking to someone else in the room: "John Smith, CaldCallers Company. Do you track? Oh, we already have him? Add the mark and trace, how long will it take? Sorry, I'm back, what were you saying Mr. John Smith?" You know, mafia impression and all.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 111

8...and if they enjoy the heavy breathing, you can refer them to your premium-rate hotline. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T00:59:20.630

Or perhaps you could drop them a hotline. Perhaps one in Miami? I hear there's a really good cleaning company there. – Hugo Zink – 2015-12-22T08:49:07.920


Three-way the call with

  • your ex
  • another business
  • a fax machine
  • a friend who loves trolling
  • the previous cold-caller

or if you need immediate results:

  • "911, what is your emergency?" (or whatever number you use)


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 225

8My exes know too much about me to put them in contact with someone I am trying to get rid of... – Adam Zuckerman – 2015-10-14T23:14:00.730

9If you're going to answer the phone with "911, what is your emergency?", that has to be the very first thing you say, immediately when you pick up the phone. In particular, you have to say that before you know whether you're dealing with a junk call or not. – David Richerby – 2015-10-15T07:32:40.687

10Please don't three way call with emergency services - they have enough rubbish to deal with – Matt Wilko – 2015-10-15T15:49:38.797

9@MattWilko That's not what it says to do at all. – Wrathbelle – 2015-10-15T16:02:37.000

6I suspect that impersonating an emergency services number is probably illegal in most jurisdictions. – JBentley – 2015-10-16T01:11:14.773

@JBentley I'd be surprised if anyone dials something other than an emergency number with an actual emergency. Even if so, interrupt them and tell them to call the real number. – Wrathbelle – 2015-10-17T00:53:59.687

1@Revulai That's not the point. The OP specified only legal answers. This one probably isn't. An illegal solution which doesn't cause any harm, is an illegal one nonetheless. – JBentley – 2015-10-17T14:05:27.933


Personally, I go along with it, but give them fake stories.

It's a call about the accident I had? I go off for hours, start crying, explaining how it gives me nightmares, I close my eyes and all I see is the headlights coming towards me.

It's PPI? It's how my dear wife killed herself due to financial worries, if only the PPI had paid out.

It's "Microsoft" calling up about my computer problems? I suddenly become the most inept computer operator you'll ever meet; one finger typing, not being able to follow simple instructions, reading every damn thing on the screen except what they want

etc etc. Sometimes they catch on quite quickly. The longest I've had was the PC one where I kept a guy on the phone for 45 minutes. The longer they're not scamming me, the longer they're not scamming someone else.

Immortal Blue

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 211


Good answer; would you mind mentioning what "PPI" is, please? Wikipedia offers a number of options, but I'm not sure which one is meant here.

– O. R. Mapper – 2015-10-16T14:07:30.670

@O.R.Mapper: PPI = Payment Protection Insurance. In Britain a law was brought in allowing people to sue banks who had mis-sold this type of insurance. Since then numerous firms have sprung up that will 'help you' to reclaim your PPI premiums. My guess is that probably most PPI has already been reclaimed. Now it is being used as a cover for phishing scams. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T16:15:00.127

1The Microsoft one is a fun one and a common one for me indeed. I keep a bunch of VMs around with custom configuration such as fonts that are all boxes, replacing iexplore.exe with random joke programs, replacing the event log with one with absolutely no errors (which contradicts their script), and so on. (I just can't post an answer since I haven't earned 10 rep here and the answer is too specific) – hexafraction – 2015-10-18T16:14:05.313

6Fake stories can be just tons of fun - I had one "Windows Support" call where not only was I the inept user for about 20 mins, but eventually began to panic and told the guy there was smoke coming out of the case - and blamed him for what he made me do. He said 'Step away from the PC sir, step away from the PC!' with mounting alarm in his voice. To top it off his manager phoned me back whereupon I answered with "Sgt Williams of Greater Manchester Fire service - we've been called to a house fire that appears to have started in a computer . . . " – peterG – 2015-10-18T17:13:21.487

2Perfect, another time waster. I'm thinking that the only way to really get rid of this kind of thing is to just make it not worth their while. If we all just wasted their time for 6 months, we could really do some damage to the industry. Perhaps then, there would be more lame internet ads with the "one simple trick to __" kind of theme. – coblr – 2015-10-19T18:33:16.347

1Sometimes they disguise it as a questionnaire, and I invent 5 more children and impending bankruptcy. Or I become a Vegan or allergic to alcohol. It's actually fun. – RedSonja – 2015-10-28T14:57:48.613


The technical solution:

There are more pricey routers available which are able to connect to a telephone line (like AVM Fritz!Box). After the setup you can filter every call which suppresses the number (which is almost always the case because the cold callers do know that they are illegal) and you have two options:

a) Blocking. The calls are never connected.
b) Answering machine (the answering machine is completely silent, you do not even notice if someone on the machine, it is only indicated by blinking). I set up the voice of the answering machine to silence (or if you want, use heavy breathing...) and the call-center worker does not realize he is on an answering machine >:-).

This is also a wonderful tool against stalkers and phone harassment: Simply set up all unknown calls to the answering machine and only allow trusted people to call you personally. In case of harassment it is better to use recording to have evidence, the user interface of the router gives you the number and the exact time of the call.

@chasley: I would like to give a way to inconvienience the bosses, but that is not possible. One investigative journalist from Germany, Günter Wallraff (the very same which is famous for his quarrel with Bild), worked undercover for a call center. They are hiring jobless workers or workers with low income, partly with support from the official job center (hey, people are working, hooray). They get contracts not only from shady businesses, but also from big respectable firms (British Telecom). They simply do not care a bit, and you cannot inconvienience them legally.

Thorsten S.

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 241


There are some excellent ideas here. They have led me to an idea of my own so I shall answer my own question.

Find out the private number of the people who run these businesses. Then pass that number on to every scam you can think of. Get them onto every mailing list in the world. When they get home they will face an endless stream of other people trying to sell them something they don't want. Poetic justice!

All I need to do now is find out who these people are and discover their home numbers and/or addresses. Hmm... not so easy. If it is a well-known firm then their work number would do. Imagine them spending all day picking up the phone to other morons who are just as irritating as they are.

What do people think? Is this workable? If so I might even set up a name and shame website. Set them on each other and let them get on with it!

chasly from UK

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 898

This could be good. Also, putting them in a situation (mic and speaker) with a basic "AI" application would also work. For example, the one youtube video where they put two "AI's" next to each other and they ended up getting angry and calling each other unicorns or something. Let them talk to a computer that thinks it's a person. – coblr – 2015-10-15T23:51:00.977

1Do you have any more details of that video? – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T01:01:10.047

3"discover their home numbers and/or addresses" - I'm guessing that this pushes the boundaries of your "legal" stipulation... – colmde – 2015-10-16T09:22:22.093

2I have just had a cold-call. As an experiment, I pretended to be old and confused. I kept the operative talking for a long time and said I'd been advised by my children not to give details over the phone. I said I would get them to phone back. She tried repeatedly to get me to give my name and address and wouldn't take no for an answer. Of course I didn't tell her anything. If these people can try to get my name and address and more, I don't see why I shouldn't try to get theirs. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T11:19:04.370

@colmde: And if that does not, chances are the "pass that number on" part does. – O. R. Mapper – 2015-10-16T14:10:38.197

@chaslyfromUK, yea, here is the link, there are also transcripts available. Put the phone in touch with one of these and it should also make things quite interesting. Especially if there is some sort of language barrier.

– coblr – 2015-10-19T18:35:58.303

While this sounds like a good idea and I myself would get angry and foolish enough to just do that I would like to have someone around to remember me that this is frontier justice (sorry if this is the wrong one, just looked it up from German to English Wikipedia) and you might regret the consequences you are not seeing yet. I'm not trying to act smart here, I know I'm not. The best is to remember others that CC and other practices are harmful to the expectation of being able to call anyone anytime, because some will want to protect themselves. CC is vandalism to me. – LiveWireBT – 2015-12-21T18:23:17.563


J.R.R. Tolkien (or rather his friend C.S. Lewis's brother Warren) has the answer!

Thank you very much for your suggestions about my telephone number, which I will consider. Removing the number from the directory seems better than the method adopted by Major W. H. Lewis in protecting his brother, which was to lift the receiver and say 'Oxford Sewage Disposal Unit' and go on repeating it until they went away.

-- Tolkien's Letters, Letter 287

Rand al'Thor

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 1 225


If you don't mind tempting fate, tell them Your Name Here has passed away.

This works well for me, I rarely get people calling twice.

Source: I used to do IT work for a call center which did cold calling, when somebody had died, we removed their number from our data


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 161

3Doesn't that just prompt more cold calls about funeral services & inheritance legal services?? – jazmit – 2015-11-01T11:48:25.513


This response only applies to calls by a real human agent:

Several answers so far have suggested to tell the cold callers to wait a moment and put the phone down (indefinitely).

I suggest an extended version: Ask them to explain the details of their offer. You do not have to listen to what they say, just make sure you are aware of when they finally stop talking. Then, say, you hadn't quite understood, or you had to leave for a moment, or something like that, and ask them to explain again1. Repeat until the annoyed cold caller hangs up.

Yes, cold calling people is their job. I want them to work for the money they get, not idle. A job where you can idle much of the time is attractive. A job where you have to work endlessly and get a feeling that your work is in vain is unattractive. An unattractive job has a chance of requiring higher payment at some point, or at least a higher frequency of people quitting. Also, occupying more time of those cold callers sounds good, too. These are probably the only effects on the decision makers that can be achieved directly via the cold call itself.

1: Make sure not to use any words that could be remixed to indicate agreement to buy anything. The details of this are language-specific, but for instance, when asked whether you'd like more information, don't respond "Yes, I do.", but rather something like "Explain, please."

O. R. Mapper

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 196


My ISP was calling me at least 4 times a day each in my home and mobile to offer a upgrade in my plan. I'm not interested and every time they called I told this to them. I don't know if it's illegal, but after 10 days of these calls, my patience ran out and I told them "Ricardo is dead. He passed away this morning." I didn't receive another call in the last two days! So far, so good!


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 151

1Didn't this cause a change in the plan (like cancellation)? – Peter Mortensen – 2015-10-17T10:02:49.117

Phone calls should not be trusted anyway, right? – Sarge Borsch – 2015-10-17T13:07:16.947

@PeterMortensen I don't think so. Actually, it is not the ISP company who make the calls. They pay a telemarketing company to do that, which I believe have no power to cancel my plan. Anyway, I really doubt they would cancel my line so easy like that. Also, I didn't identified myself in the call, so I can tell they reached an unknown phone and have no idea what they talking about. ;) – ricardomenzer – 2015-10-19T11:48:28.890


What has worked for me in the past is to actually just waste their time. When telemarketers call, I use it as an opportunity to get to know a stranger. Ask them about their life, the weather, where they are, etc. If you act really sort of happy and genuinely interested in what kind of people do this job and how they live, or what got them into it, you can easily waste 30 minutes of their time.

I once asked this guy on the phone about what time it was, where he was and what kind of place was it, about his family, or girlfriends, etc. Every time they answer, you just ask another sort of "get to know you" kind of question. I really tried to build a friendship with the guy, and he felt really comfortable telling me all kinds of things. Then he said "Well, my friend, let me ask you about...", and I just hung up on him. I wasted lots of his time, the company's money, and I learned something interesting about life outside my bubble. If you got enough people to spend 30 minutes on the phone to not make a sale, you would affect the profits.

Of course, this doesn't work with robot calls, but then you really should have caller ID by now, and just never answer "Unknown Caller" or suspicious numbers anyway.

Either way... yea, it can waste your time too - if you really had something to do - and there might be better solutions out there, but I figure you're doing two things: you're growing as a person, and being a turd in "The Man's" punchbowl. It's not much, but even small drips of water can cut stone over time.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 151

1One of the latest tricks is to leave an automatic voicemail message if you don't answer. That then costs me to listen to my voice messages -- and delete them. They aren't unknown caller or withheld number. Some of them leave their number and ask to be called back.. They even use a phone number that could be a private number. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-15T23:54:17.403

@Peter Mortensen, thanks for editing. That was pretty atrocious. – coblr – 2015-10-19T18:24:32.797

@chaslyfromUK, ya, if it costs you to listen to voicemail then ignoring calls becomes a whole other nuisance. Sounds like a shit phone service as well to charge you to do that. I have family in Ireland, and that sounds like a perfect example of companies in that part of the world being just as bad as the telemarketers themselves. Perhaps they are in cahoots so that it's a "plan b" type situation. "Sure, you didn't make the sale, but it's ok buddy, we'll charge that guy for listening to your voicemail, then give you a percent from that". win-win for them. – coblr – 2015-10-19T18:30:15.340


As with most things, the best possible answer to this question is found in an xkcd comic.

enter image description here


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 141

2I've heard of people keeping a whistle next to their phone for this sort of purpose. However I am always doubtful whether you really can send a very loud sound through a phone. Doesn't the phone line limit how loud the signal can be? I suppose you could first talk very quietly to make the person keep their ear close or even turn up the volume. Then blast them when they are least expecting it. – chasly from UK – 2015-10-16T23:58:24.107

@chaslyfromUK This is absolutely the case, and any even halfway decent headset will have an absolute volume limiter that's going to prevent noise loud enough to cause hearing damage or physical pain. But it's still a loud, unpleasant surprise... the audio equivalent of a middle finger. And I dunno about you, but it gives me a chuckle, and that's strikes me as the most important thing here. – HopelessN00b – 2015-10-17T02:04:59.250


In my country, when you receive this kind of call, they usually ask your occupation right from the start, if you are employed and all, and then they decide if it's actually viable to continue the call.

If that's the case, I find that it's most effective to say that you are unemployed, with no income of any sort. This seems to work really well, at least with me, because they usually have a database where they try to trace your profile to see if you are a potential customer, which services would attract your attention...

But if you can't afford their services, well, it's a total waste of their time to call you, at least in the near future. I rarely receive this type of call now.

Jon Koala

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 31

While this along with JMK's answer may work you probably don't want to feed such shady companies more data to collect than necessary. – LiveWireBT – 2015-12-21T18:54:27.330


One solution is (and this depends whether in your country telemarketers target private or business numbers) to tell the callers you're not a private (or a business) number, whichever they're not interested in. Telemarketers are interested in people who can listen to their talks (automated or in-person) so if it's not possible, they will cross you off the list soon.

Another way is to set your phone in fax machine mode (real or faked) while you're not expecting any calls. Surely, cold callers have systems in place to quickly stop trying on numbers that appear to be impossible to get people on.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 573

1I've had the opposite. Here in Australia they have to remove you from their list of numbers if you request them to. So I said "Please remove my house from your list, don't call here again" and the guy got really apologetic "I didn't realised this was residential". It was odd. – Lyndon White – 2015-10-15T02:07:57.540

1Telling the caller you're not a private number is almost certainly the wrong thing to do. Laws about unsolicited phone calls usually only apply to residential numbers so, by claiming to be a business number, you may be telling them that they can call you as often as they want. – David Richerby – 2015-10-15T07:31:14.820

ok I didn't know there were even any laws about this anywhere in the world, and there aren't where I live so I didn't specify it's not wherever that is – user1306322 – 2015-10-15T10:04:17.317

this doesn't work in the UK, sorry to say. at my workplace, we regularly get calls for a private individual, and on learning that it's a business number, the response is usually to hang up. then they call back. we get dozens of these per week. :( – jammypeach – 2015-10-15T15:37:36.913

This is what i do. I first discovered this when i was getting calls whilst actually at work. @DavidRicherby The rules only apply if they are calling from within the UK, if they are outside they don't really care. – Terry – 2015-10-15T21:33:38.030

Oh god, I've a great idea! The idea is if you are on fax machine mode, it can transmit an ad of it in the fax-sounds, making your fax machine print the ad. – Ave – 2015-10-16T20:52:12.830

don't actually let anyone print anything lol – user1306322 – 2015-10-16T21:09:52.017


Have you ever mis-dialed a number and been greeted by a high pitched two-tone sound followed by a recorded message "the number you have reached..."? Years ago, I had one a device (I think it was called a Tele Zapper) attached to my phone that did the same thing and it worked wonders. As soon as the handset was picked up, it emitted that same two-tone sound telling the caller that my number was not in service. People would stick around, but robocallers immediately disconnected - and purged my number from their system.

Michael J.

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 141


Those tones are known as special information tones. In particular the intercept tones are used to indicate a number that is disconnected.

– Michael Hampton – 2015-10-18T02:53:55.940


Most telephone companies have procedures to identify equipment status.

One is an automated series of tones to identify a line that is not-in-service.

Most telemarketers use automated dialling that connects the caller with the callee after the connection has been made, verified, dialled, ringing, and then answered.

Downloading and recording the tones from a not-in-service line at the beginning of your telephone message will immediately re-direct the telemarketers calling equipment.

You can search for the tones specific for your telephone company online.

In most cases, a not-in-service number is immediately taken off the telemarketer's active number list and placed into a secondary database to be tried in the future after a fixed delay. Telephone numbers are never taken off the list of numbers good for a particular zone.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 5 307


It depends on your country, but we have a do not call list. Put your phone number on that list, if they call you, tell them you're going to report them. Unfortunately, this doesn't cover some stuff, from memory it's religious and charity calls.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 129

I tried that too, Wikipedia has it filed under Robinson list, but in Germany this apparently doesn't opt-out of surveys from "recognized" -pardon me for using German- Meinungsforschungsinstitute. Funny enough, they apparently still only call landlines which substantiates suspicion that they don't do proper research. See also Patricia's answer that was posted a bit later.

– LiveWireBT – 2015-12-21T18:47:57.747


My favourite is to actually answer most of the questions affirmatively until they hang up. This actually offers the most value, so for PPI claims, have you had an accident, why yes am glad you rang, when was it, only recently, were you injured, yes, but it was nothing; I was only off work for a couple of weeks and the aches are mostly cleared up now after six months, etc.

You get the picture. If you tell them all six in the people carrier lost their legs they will normally spot the wind up. Often you will get past the outbound sales person and get someone a bit more knowledgable. 25 minutes is my best so far :)

Another is: No, that doesn't suit, but my colleague in the office has/needs x or y. Then choose a speaker phone number that you can all gather round :) Make them wait a bit so you can get a coffee and some notepads to pass suggestions on :)


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 11

I like this but of course you have to have the time, the energy and the inclination. Sometimes when they call it's just downright inconvenient and you're busy doing something else. I suppose you could ask them to ring back! – chasly from UK – 2015-10-15T19:57:07.983


All the answer seem to be torturous or far-crys or abnormal stuff.

Here are some legal and normal answers:

  • If they are trying to sell something, just tell them that you already have that. They would stop trying to sell that specific thing.

  • Also what also works is telling you know what they are doing. Saying "I know that you are trying to scam me, I'm not an idiot, but you are for trying to scam me. Never call back." and hanging up will probably keep them away from you. (calling someone an idiot might be considered hate crime, according to the caller, removing the ", but you are for trying to scam me" will help you secure yourself)

  • Giving a life lecture works well too: "Do you really want to be a scammer? Is prison where you want to end your life?[...]" They usually hang up to this, and don't call you anymore.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 85

1Those might do the trick once or twice, and aren't really "normal"... Also, those ways won't stop them from calling anyone else. Holding someone for 30 minutes, if they work 8 hours a day, will make them only answer a few calls. If each call would take 5-10 minutes, that means around 96 calls a day (if each takes 5 minutes). Holding someone for those 30 minutes will reduce that to 16 calls. – Ismael Miguel – 2015-10-16T23:23:21.687


Just say you're not interested. Say like "Hello random person! I don't care about your deals so please don't call me again!" then hang up. You could also make a recorded message which you can play when you receive a cold call. Make it sound weird and roboty. You could also use this convenient UK site for 10 ways to help stop these cold callers: (This is not spam)

Anthony Pham

Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 607


If you berate the person with obscenities, most of the time the person on the other end will take you off their list. An ex-gf used to work a call center and that was one of the only ways to get taken off - since if the employer didn't allow the person marked off the employees could sue for hostile work environment.

This is perfectly legal and allows you to blow of steam, if you are morally capable of doing this.


Posted 2015-10-14T12:35:18.783

Reputation: 99

1I've worked as a telemarketer, for a very large firm, and this is horrible advice. It was strictly against the rules, and the law, but people who did an especially good job of pissing off a telemarketer would frequently find themselves receiving dozens of calls A DAY in retaliation. Generally speaking, a phone number would otherwise be removed from our list after no more than 5 calls, and there were too many ways to count to be removed from our calling list upon request/after the first call. – HopelessN00b – 2015-10-17T02:20:24.707