Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I hate "technical support"

A few weeks ago, our phone rang in the middle of the night.

We don't have an extension upstairs in our bedroom, so I gradually came awake to hear the shrill sound at the last ring before the answering machine picked up.

"Was that the phone?" I mumbled sleepily to Don.

He agreed it was, and we both lay there awake but not quite coherent. I'm sure you're aware of the heart-clutching fear that accompanies a middle-of-the-night phone call. We have family scattered across three states. Was someone sick or hurt?

Finally Don got up and went downstairs to check the caller's phone number (there was no message on the answering machine). It was an unknown jumble of numbers, so he came back upstairs to bed.

Two hours later, the phone rang again. This jerked us both awake, and this time I went downstairs. Same jumbled phone number.

In the morning, Don back-tracked the phone number and determined it originated from Scotland. Since we have no friends or family in Scotland, we determined it was simply a wrong number.

Well, having gotten our number, the middle-of-the-night calls continued. The next night we were woken up three times. Every night we had at least two and sometimes three calls. It got to the point where we started unplugging our phone at night -- which isn't a good idea since, of course, we have we have family scattered across three states and want people to be able to reach us if something is wrong.

After about a week of this, I was up early one morning (as I usually am) and had already plugged the phone back in -- when it rang, around 4:30 a.m.

By this point I was totally ticked off and ready to do battle.

"Hello," said a man with a very thick Indian accent. "This is Martin with technical support..." The sounds of a massive call center could be heard in the background.

"Where are you calling from?" I snapped. (My grammar isn't the best at 4:30 a.m.)

"This is Martin," he reiterated, confused by my question. "M-A-R-T-I-N. Martin."

Like I needed to be told how to spell "Martin." "Where are you calling from?" I asked again. I repeated my question twice more while he assured me he was Martin from technical support. Finally he gave what sounded like a street name.

"Look," I said, "You are calling Idaho, United States, and it is the middle of the night. Stop calling us! Take us off your calling list!"

"Oh, I'm so sorry, dear," said Martin. Thereafter he kept calling me "Dear," having undoubtedly been told by his supervisors this was an acceptable term to call a middle-aged female customer who was a complete and utter stranger. "Shall I call back at a better time, dear?"

"No! Stop calling us! Take us off your calling list!"

"I can call back again, dear..."

"NO! Stop calling us! Take us off your calling list!" -- and I hung up.

Well, that seemed to work for a few quiet weeks ... until last night.

Once again at 2:30 a.m. the phone rang. We ignored it. It rang again at 3:45 a.m. Again we ignored it. But because it always takes me awhile to fall back asleep after waking up, I subsequently overslept.

This morning I saw the number wasn't from Scotland this time, but instead was a standard ten-digit number with area code 634 -- which, if preliminary research is correct, is "unassigned" in North America.

We get plenty of "technical support" calls during the day, but I don't know how to stop a foreign "technical support" company from calling us in the middle of the night. So for now, the phone calls continue.

Meanwhile, if you're a family member who needs to reach us in the middle of the night, leave a message on the answering machine, because we'll hear it and will call back immediately.


  1. These calls are always a scam. The only way to get them off your list is to act interested in whatever they are telling you but don't do anything else. Once they figure out you are wasting their time they will stop calling.

  2. We got rid of our land line because the only calls we got were nuisance calls, such as you've been getting. We only have cell phones now, and I don't answer if I don't recognize the number. They can leave a message if it's important.

    1. This only works if you live in an area that actually gets cell service, where I live in Idaho, a land line is the only connection to the outside world. When we have a power outage and the phone is also out, you have to drive into town to make a cell call.

  3. When the "Do Not Call" list was created, exemptions were granted to political calls (of coarse, like anyone really wants to hear from political campaigns), and service organizations, assuming that if you are called it is a call back and not a cold call. So most of these people record the call so they can prove that it was supposedly a survey, or support of some kind. I have found that they will cross you off the list if you speak unintelligible gibberish at them in an anxious and curious tone. It does cost time and money to re-contact you, so they want to make their calls count.

  4. Remember the whistle your old gym teacher wore. But then I'm told I can be a little too outspoken.

  5. Look for a call blocker on Amazon. You want one with a "White List" feature. Enter the phone numbers of your loved ones and the phone will only ring for those numbers. It can be over-ridden by the caller in case your friend/family has to call from some other number, ie: hospital, jail (ha,ha). Telemarketers and survey types won't go through the trouble to over-ride. They cost a bit, but it sure is worth the peace and quiet and you don't have to keep paying the phone Co. for some over-priced feature. You can turn it off during the day and accept all callers during normal hours and only block non-family/non-friends at night. I'm adament that the phone is for my and my use only - not for some stranger to invade my home!

  6. I know its not funny, but honestly this is where we are at now. You are in I-d-a-h-o, but the United States is long gone.
    M-o-n-t-a-n-a Guy

  7. Call your telephone company and ask them to put a block on each telephone number, you may have to pressure them a little but it worked for us.

  8. This is a scam. They called me last week and my tech savvy son caught it. They try to get you to type in a code which enables them to remotely access your computer to "fix it", but in actuality they then get access to everything on your computer...everything.

  9. Please, do not use a whistle to hurt the ear of the person on the other end of the call. The telemarketer ( a human person) did not dial the number and does not have any information about whether you have been dialed before, where you are located, or anything else. They are just people working for a living and don't deserve personal injury or abuse. The Do Not Call list does not apply in foreign countries so just hang up as soon as you understand that you do not want to take the call. If you get mad and act rude the caller only has to make one key stroke on his computer and you will be called again, by someone else in the call center, at a later time. There will be no accountability for him, only more irritation for you.

    1. Just curious--What is the difference between a 'person' and a 'human person'? SuccotashRose

  10. I once got rid of a telemarketer by playing their game back at them - cutting him short and, very perkily, launching into "I'm So Glad You Called - Here's My Special Deal For YOU" describing my sound system (it was the 90s) in very specific detail. I tried to sell it to him. He hung up and I never heard from those people again.

    You can always resort to repeatedly asking invasive, obnoxious personal questions designed to make the whole call so uncomfortable that they can't stay on topic and have to end the call to go make one that might count toward their quota.

    They are just people, trying to earn a living, needing to hit their numbers to get paid, even the scammy ones. Waste their time and they won't call back.

    And - agreed - you can always cancel the landline, like we did eventually. Haven't missed it in over a decade.

  11. Just cancelling your land line doesn't stop the calls. I've been rudely awakened by calls on my cell phone and when I "google" the number it is ALWAYS a call center or scam artist. I agree with others that if you answer the phone and just speak gibberish (or a foreign language, if you know one) they will hang up and not call again. I've answered in Korean, which gets a pregnant pause and then a quick hang-up. I've also put on an accent and pretended to be the foreign born housekeeper while "M'Lady" is out shopping for the day. There are all kinds of YouTube videos of people outwitting scam callers, some of which are quite comical. The calls probably are not sinister, though it can seem so in the middle of the night. Keep your sense of humor and do something to have a good laugh.

  12. I just tell them I do not have a computer. After about five calls, they gave up. Never heard from them again. Once I told the scammer that the FBI was monitoring my phone callers. That stopped them for a few months.

  13. Having worked in the Call Center Industry for the largest call center company at the time (Sitel Corp headquartered in Omaha), I have some knowledge of how this works. I retired 12 years ago, so some things have undoubtedly changed. The best thing of course is to register on the DO Not Call list. Then if you
    get a call simply state " Please remove me from this campaign and all future campaigns Immediately". They are required by Federal law to do so.

    Carl in the UP

    1. I can guarantee the calls Patrice is getting are NOT legit call centers who will not care one little bit that she's on a Do Not Call list! That was a pretty blatant scam opening line.....

  14. We screen EVERY call. Junk mail, Spam (junk email), and the telephone equivalent are all numbers games.
    As long as the revenue exceeds the total cost of operations, they will continue the behavior.
    Advice to raise their cost of doing business - waste their time - works for the individual, but not the organization.
    Here we have one rule - dont even answer. The theory is this: If you answer, you have confirmed that it a good number. We are convinced that some of the calls are simply a way to determine if there is a live human answering - if so, the real calls begin.
    My wife gets as many calls on her cell phone as we do on the landline. Oddly I get very few. Of course for YEARS I got the misdials to the local hospital's orthopedic center... (one digit difference).
    And then there are the spam texts my wife gets - for which we pay because we are cell phone troglodytes with only a voice plan.
    I have more than once considered attaching an oscillator to the phone to produce a loud high pitched squeal in response, but beyond being rude, such things are generally illegal...
    I -thought- that the calls were.............

  15. We got rid of the land line years ago and I'm so glad. I keep my cell phone shut off except when I am actually using it. Zero unwanted calls... Gee now that I think about it zero calls at all. It's so quiet, I love it.

  16. here's a couple of non-harmful options to the whistle...
    1) ask if they can hold a second, put the phone down and go back to bed..
    2)start talking jubberish like you are talking in a foreign language. better if you actually speak another language.
    3)if you don't recognize the number answer "gay men's chat line. are we billing your phone number or your credit card today?? it'd $5.99 for the first 3 minutes and $2.99 for each minute after that."
    4)ask to speak to the floor supervisor...this will get an immediate hang up.
    5)tell them if you are called again, you will get a lawyer and file a harassment suit..again you will get hung up on.
    6) answer "C.I.A. Langley, agent hodgner" then insist it's a government office phone

    1. Love your suggestions! I'm adding them to my arsenal. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Patrice, your post struck a nerve w/us. For years, our landline's # was 1 digit off from a local bailbondsman. A couple of local county jails also had our # listed as the bailbondsman...we had people calling at all hours of the night wanting to be bailed out of jail. It took some effort, but we finally got the local jails to remove our # from their bailbondsmen's lists. This past year, we decided to drop our landline. Best decision ever.

  18. My home phone is on Magic Jack now, less than $3/month. Plus, it is off and all calls are emailed to me. A 2-second call email gets deleted. Anything around 30 seconds, and I listen.

    On my cell phone, I can reject calls from an annoying number.

    I have said, "Sergeant, are you recording this? It's him!" Whoever it is hangs up and I never hear from them again. Another time, it was a woman and I just kept talking about the weather, what I was eating, anything, just interrupting her until she hung up.

  19. Check and see if you have call forwarding. You can forward your number to a disconnected number when you go to bed. Unforward it in the morning so you can get your regular calls.

    Hope this might help.

  20. I didn't read the comments so sorry if someone already mentioned this idea. I had this same problem. A friend suggested I answer the phone with the following: "This is Detective [insert made up name] from the [city/county of your choice] Police Department. How can I direct your call?" While they never honored my request to remove our number from their list previously, they suddenly never called back after I did this! :)

    1. There is a youtube video out there where a guy pretended to be a police detective and the telemarketer called a murder scene. He kept asking the guy what the nature of his business was with the deceased.

      I think his name is Jeff Mabe and he pranks telemarketers.

  21. As a retired AT&T employee-through all of its various incarnations-I can tell you that some of this advice works. You can hook up an answering machine with the standard "You have reached, blah, blah". They will not leave a message, your family and/or friends will. You can do the gay hotline answer-that usually gets the fastest hang ups. Never say "Yes" when a scammer says is this Rachel Jones? Always say "Speaking" as the yes answer will be recorded and used for a positive response on 3rd party billed calls. I can tell you that cell phones will not let you escape these calls. Phishing, scamming, telemarketers, etc will call any and all phone numbers.
    My rule, and I only have a cell now, is to never answer if I don't know the number, and to only call back someone I know. My recording is my voice, but it says: "Sorry, can't get to the phone right now. Leave a message." They never do!
    -Stealth Spaniel

  22. I had a female friend in college who said when a guy got fresh on a date, she would ask him, "Are you saved?" That usually stopped the advances. That might work on a telemarketer, too.
    Jeff in OK

  23. Our phone has an option to turn off the ringer. We use it at night.

  24. The telemarketers have been stepping up their game lately. I've been on the "Do Not Call" list for about 10 years, and mostly didn't get bothered. Recently though I've been getting a barrage of calls daily asking for an Adam Anderson (not my name). They are usually robo calls or foreign sounding, and when I look up the number, it's listed as disconnected or not valid. Apparently they use some type of number cloning now to get around the Do Not Call registry.

    My favorite call was where a guy called in a thick Indian accent, and said he was from the US government, and I qualified for a grant.

  25. I highly recommend NoMoRobo. It works with just about any landline or cell; your phone will ring only once if it is a spammer and that is it. Nothing after that.

    My folks were getting calls from call centers and peddlers about 30 times a day - my mother would always "thank them" for the call and can't understand why you have to tell them "NO, don't call back; don't ever call back! (It's rude don't you know)". After signing up, they went to about 3 'one ring' calls a day. There are some limitations - if the number format isn't in a standard 7 or 10 digit format - (XXX) XXX-XXX instead of (XXX) XXX-XXXX or if the call has no recognizable caller ID. The website also has pages where you can white list a number as well report a number that snuck through.

    One very nice thing about this service is that it is completely free for landlines (VoIP and POTS)! is the site.

  26. My sister got a call about a year ago. Unfortunately for the caller my brother-in-law was home. The caller "with a heavy foreign accent" said he was with the IRS and that my sister owed taxes. He said that she could pay her taxes over the phone, if not then the police would come and arrest my sister. My brother-in-law said go pick her up that she was at work at the hospital and he had been wanting to get rid of her for awhile and it would help him. He was joking of course. They proceeded to reiterate that the police would put her in handcuffs and take her to jail. He told them that was fine because they filed separately. Needless to say he hung up and never called back.

  27. Yes,yes, person with the heavy Indian accent who claims his name is "Martin" or another Western name. Riiiiiight. Our Indians always claimed their names were "Joseph" or "Jeff" or "Jeremy"--I swear they always started with a J! I just continually said "No, thank you, I'm not interested" at intervals when they got into their spiel, and if they wouldn't hush up, I hung up. They didn't usually call back.

  28. I understand that you can record the three tone "number has been disconnected" tone then a pause, then your "you have reached the Rural Revolution family. Please leave a message." message on your answering machine and that will help some. The computer doing the dialing will "hear" the tone and mark the number as invalid for future calls. Me? All I recorded was me stating my phone number. And I don't answer calls I don't recognize.

  29. Hi, I get on the average 10 to fifteen calls a week from telemarketers. I bought a Panasonic phone that you get a base phone and can get as many as four extended phones. It has a built in call blocker that you program the number you want blocked. You can block up to 250 numbers. When any of those numbers that are blocked come up. It rings once and hangs up. It works pretty good except when you get those telemarketers that have several numbers. But I just block them too and eventually they give up. Mike