Outsmarting the Telemarketers & Phone Scammers [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe] Jun08

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Outsmarting the Telemarketers & Phone Scammers [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

You’re sitting at home, enjoying a quiet evening and then RING!  You’ve just received an annoying call from a telemarketer.  But, you’re supposed to be on the National Do Not Call List, right?  It’s a growing problem and happens to my friends and I all the time. I decided to do my own investigating and see WHO is exactly making these calls and what we can all do about it.

The first thing to understand is, most of these unwanted calls are being dialed automatically by a computer. In most cases, it simply runs down the phone book and dials number after number. Other times, it could be randomly dialing numbers in hopes of getting an active number. Once you say “hello,” the computer will transfer you to a real person for the sales pitch.

Over the past few years, I have been receiving more and more of these calls on my home phone. Occasionally, I’ll even get one on my cell. I never give out my cell phone number, so I know that has to be a random dial. Either way, I never answer and they rarely leave a message. I’ve had my land line on the National Do Not Call list since it was created, but that has done nothing.

A good number of the calls come up UNAVAILABLE or UNKNOWN CALLER on my caller ID.

Some of the calls do contain a call back number. I decided to start dialing these numbers back and investigate who the company is and what they are up to. As I started writing down the numbers, I noticed a pattern.

Since I have the Verizon FiOS Triple Play TV, internet, and home phone plan, I have nationwide long distance and it costs me nothing more to dial back the numbers.

Not one time did I ever get a real person or company to answer.  For the vast majority of the calls, a computer answered with the following message:

“Hello. Thank you for calling back. You have received a marketing call from a commercial entity or its representatives. If you would prefer not to receive calls from this organization in the future, press 1 to be added to this organization’s do not call list.”

Here’s a breakdown of all the non-legit numbers that have called my home phone over the past few weeks and what happened when I called back (computer message refers to the above automated answer response):

Number Caller ID Display Date Time When called back
732-290-9983 VA B 5/26 12:11pm no answer – rings forever
971-220-1003 UNKNOWN NAME 5/18 5:21pm computer message
971-220-100 USF 5/18 1:52pm computer message
503-592-2287 5/17 6:49pm computer message
253-246-8514 USF 5/17 11:31am computer message
732-290-8621 VA B 5/16 8:42pm computer answer – dial parties’ extension or 0 for operator.  Dial 0 – it hangs up
253-246-8514 USF 5/16 5:02pm computer message
407-434-9999 FLORIDA 5/15 12:42pm no ring – no answer, dead
801-410-7985 UTAH 5/8 5:57pm call cannot be completed atthis time
832-551-5674 UNKNOWN NAME 5/4 7:03pm busy signal
253-246-8514 DIRECT ACCESS 5/4 6:43pm computer message
253-246-8514 DIRECT ACCESS 5/3 6:56pm computer message
253-246-8514 DIRECT ACCESS 5/3 4:50pm computer message
253-246-8514 DIRECT ACCESS 5/2 6:57pm computer message
732-290-3257 VA B 4/30 12:41pm computer answer – dialextension number of 0 for operator
503-457-1166 PACTEL 4/27 7:17pm computer message
733-321-2060 4/27 6:09pm press 1 to book a cruise
503-457-1166 PACTEL 4/27 4:54pm computer message
503-457-1166 PACTEL 4/27 2:32pm computer message
503-457-1166 PACTEL 4/26 4:58pm computer message
425-390-8149 LHELP 4/20 1:56pm computer message
425-390-8126 NEW CO 4/20 12:43pm computer message
971-373-2989 PACIFICTEL 4/19 2:35pm computer message
425-390-8126 NEW CO 4/18 7:55pm computer message
425-390-8126 NEW CO 4/18 4:55pm computer message
949-111-7689 CALIFORNIA 4/16 7:21pm number not in service

There were multiple UNAVAILABLE and UNKNOWN number calls that I obviously, cannot trace.

After keeping a log of all the calls, I started to notice little patterns that lead me to believe most of these are calls from scam artists or really unreliable companies and here’s why:

  1. Why would any reputable company, not have their company name and information on their answering machine message? Do you think when you call AT&T or your doctor, they simply identify themselves as “a commercial entity or its representatives”? No. They are going to let you know who they are. Why would they ever hide their name?
  2. It seems that some of the numbers are only in use for a few days and then they slightly change the number to keep on dialing.
  3. Most of these calls don’t leave a message as to what they are selling. In the past I have received garbled messages in very bad English that are almost impossible to decipher. Again, would a reputable company that wants your business do this? Why would they want to make it hard for you to call back and buy the product.
  4. Most of the automated computer messages that answer when you call back sound exactly the same.
  5. I’m on the National Do Not Call List and any reputable company would abide by that, making these calls illegal. Do you want to do business with any company that is blatantly breaking the law?

I started searching these numbers online and I’ve found pages of complaints about these numbers:

732-290-9983              Number from New Jersey

971-220-1003              Over 1,500 complaints about a company supposedly selling alarms

503-592-2287              Phishing for credit card numbers – many calls rude

253-246-8514               From Kent, Washington trying to sell home security systems

407-434-9999              Card Services – calls on various things – many rude calls reported

801-410-7985              Some calls claim to be Microsoft, others vacation tickets, hundreds of complaints, speak poor English

832-551-5674               Some type of automated call going on a political rant

732-290-3257               Tied to the same New Jersey number as above

503-457-1166                Tom from Home Protection – may be selling another home security system

425-390-8149               Tom from Home Protection – different number

425-390-8126               Yet another one for Tom from A New Co – still selling security systems

971-373-2989               Claims to lower credit card interest rates

949-111-7689                Selling loans and pay day loans

You can click on the numbers above to see a page of complaints about each.

Looking at all the numbers, you can see where certain callers are slightly changing their callback number to avoid getting blocked. You can block multiple numbers from ringing you, but take Tom for example, he just changes a few digits or the area code and he’s dialing again.

Another thing you can do is to pay to have your number unlisted in the phone book. But, you will still receive calls when a computer dials a random number. My parents’ number is and has been unlisted for decades, but they still get the robo calls at about the rate of one per week.

Until our government steps in more to regulate these calls, they are going to continue. They have caught a few, but its a hard job to police these people and once the noose is around their neck here in the United States; they’ll just move overseas like many of the spam companies that flood your email box with junk. This process of phishing, just like casting your line into a lake and getting a bite or making a sale in this case, is going to continue as technology makes it easier.

In the past, telemarketers would have to purchase a set list of phone numbers and were charged per call. But, thanks to many low cost long distance companies and to the advancement of technology, it is now very inexpensive to purchase an automated calling program and add an extra phone line. The flat rate calling plans now mean, these people can call just about anywhere and not have to pay anything above their set plan. It’s just like how most cell phone companies sell plans by the minute, but you can call anywhere in the country for free.

There are a few things we can do to at least try to fight back:

  1. Do not answer these calls. Let them leave a message on your answering machine and inform you of their business. If it happens to be a real person that you missed by accident, you can call them right back.
  2. If they leave a name or call back number, look it up on the internet. You’ll know instantly if they are reliable.
  3. If you have a flat rate long distance plan, you can call their number right back. Be careful that you are not dialing some international number. But, if they are a real company, you will at least get their name if they properly answer. No name… no business.
  4. Never give out any of your personal information to companies like these over the phone. You never know who’s hands it is getting into. Only give to upstanding companies that you can be sure about.  f you have any doubt, look them up online, or say that you need more time to think about the product.
  5. Some companies claim that you can press 1 to be removed from their calling list. I’ve read many complaints online where this didn’t work and the calls from the same company kept going on. I would probably not do this. If they don’t care enough to check the Do Not Call List like the law says in the first place, they probably aren’t going to care about removing your number from their records.

Just like spam mail, none of these tips are full proof, but at least it will help to prevent you from getting scammed.

THE 411

What: telemarketing and phishing phone calls

How: calls to your home phone or cell phone, often randomly dialed by computer


Always be careful with your personal information. I strongly recommend not giving out any of your personal information over the phone to a company you know nothing about. Plus, you did not win a prize, you did not win a trip anywhere, and there is no Nigerian prince hoping you can help him get out of prison. There are a few reputable charities and survey companies that do call and solicit donations, but they will clearly identify themselves, and can send you information via mail to verify their claim if you request. The United Way, The Fraternal Order of Police, your local fire department are examples of those. Local political officials and your political party are also legally allowed to call you as well.

Bottom line… if you don’t know who they are – don’t give out your personal information. Would you walk up to a stranger in the street and hand them your social security or credit card number? There are a lot of dangerous people out there and this is just the latest in a way for scammers to make a buck off of you.

If your number is on the National Do Not Call list, then you should not be receiving these calls, as this is against the law. Do you really want to do business with a person or company that’s committing a crime? So, make sure both your home and cell phone are on the National Do Not Call List. Click here to add your name.

Image credits: Tim Dorr, Mike Licht – NotionsCapital.com, & Chris Pirillo