A telemarketer is someone who phones you unsolicited to
sell you something or to solicit a donation. If you bought from them before, or
contacted them previously, under some circumstances, this is legal for them to do.
Political campaigns often use robocall machines that deliver a pre-recorded message.
For sales, robocall machines will often dial lists of numbers from a database, or all
possible numbers, wait for someone to answer, then hand the call over to low-paid
human agent who uses a script to interact with you.
Even though there are laws against making unsolicited phone calls, they are more
common than ever since low long distance rates make it feasible to call from foreign
countries, where the law does not apply, using close to slave labour.
My strategy is to quietly hang up on a telemarketer as soon as possible. I have no
beef with the agent calling. They had to take this horrible job simply because they
could not get any alternative employment. My quick and firm dismissal, I hope, will
be automatically recorded to discourage future calls.
If you to take the effort to prosecute, which few people do, you will need to
trick the illegal telemarketer into identifying themselves. You could try something
like this, This sounds interesting, but I am in the shower just
now. (I have to race to toilet. There is somebody at the door. The kitchen timer just
went off). Could I call you back? In any case record the precise details of
the call, who they claimed to be, its date, time and duration and a recording of it
Clues A Call Is From a Telemarketer
- blocked caller id.
- There is a few seconds dead air while their primitive robocaller equipment
allocates an agent to handle a call where the mark picked up the phone.
- They don’t say May I please speak to X, where
X is someone in your household. They apparently don’t care whom they talk
- They open with How are you today?
- The caller does not properly identify themselves and the purpose of the call,
e.g. This is Jane Doe of the White Bison Credit Union calling
about some suspicious purchases on your debit account. If they tell you only
their first name, they are informing you, that you would never in future want to
contact them personally and that this is purely a sales call.
- They tell you that their name is something quite discordant with their accent,
e.g. Chip from someone with a Mumbai accent.
- Most people have no trouble detecting a telemarketing call. The call just
feels insincere within the first few words. Your subconscious is expert at
- They seem to be reading a script.
- They talk and talk without taking a breath of air. They are taking advantage of
your politeness, that you do not interrupt people. (Exclude your mother.)
- The sound quality of the call is considerably less than average.
- They do not mention their company specifically by name, but say something vague
like This is Miss Lemus from the bank.
- They make vague reference to accounts you do not have. e.g. This is Mr. Kaplan from Visa calling about a new incentive plan to
decrease your interest when you don’t have a Visa card.
- The agent doggedly sticks to a script. They refuse to talk about anything else,
not even minor small talk like What’s the weather doing
where you are?. Telemarketers are monitored and are not permitted to
- Any form of deception, dissembling, vagueness or misleading wording.
Clues A Call Is Not From a Telemarketer
- They offer a plausible reason to believe you have met before, like This is Mary McFagin. You might not remember me, but we met at the climate
change rally last September at Centennial Square.
- The mention a specific referrer Billy Burke said you might
be willing to help me.
- They explain how they got your number. e.g. I am calling
everyone who attended West Van High in 1964. or I saw
you ad for a free couch..
- They seem nervous or frightened. Just ask How can I help
you? If you are an advocate for some unpopular political cause, you will get
calls from nervous strangers who need information but are highly reluctant to
- Never give financial information or passwords over the phone, even if you are
sure the person is legit. Ask how you can send them information securely. Then
check that the address/url is a legit one for that organisation. Be firm.
- If someone claims to be from your bank, ask them something that only an
employee of that branch or bank would likely know. You can be sneaky Is that dear old Mrs. Doubtfire (fictitious) still working there? and Mr.
Andersen (the manager) he was such a dear. It was such a shame what happened to
him.. For ideas, see old Rockford Files reruns. Make up your
own examples that would require a mixture of yes and
no to pass. Lot’s of people know your bank
account numbers and credit card numbers, every merchant whoever accepted them.
- Never type anything into your computer that an unsolicited caller tells you to.
You must call them first (not just in response to their call) and you must know
them to be legit.
- If they don’t say May I please speak to X, it
could be they recognise your voice but you don’t not recognise theirs. If the
voice seems familiar, but you can’t place it, given them the benefit of the
- There are some telemarketers you might be willing to talk to, e.g. political
parties, charities you donate to, political causes you support but have as yet not
had any contact with advocacy groups for them. These are often manned by volunteers
who come across as sincere and knowledgeable. Such groups sometimes also use
professional robocallers. I would not donate through that method. Too much of the
donation goes to the robocall company and I want to discourage your pet charities
from using such means.
- Don’t humour them. Automated equipment will record this as a friendly,
but a tough potential sale and flag it for another try later.
- You could have fun, asking the caller for a password, then hanging up when they don’t know it. It makes
the rejection less personal and might get you off the call lists faster.
- If you want to be mean, excuse yourself in the middle of the call for a second, then leave the phone off the hook until they hang up.
That costs the robocall company. It should discourage repeat calls. Of course, they
might assume you are just absent-minded and call back.
- In theory you could install a call-screening device, that let calls through
from a white-list of numbers, blocks black-listed numbers and demand other callers
tap in a time-limited password or take a message from them.