How much do we hate robocallers?

After my recent article about the obnoxious junk calls I’ve been getting from a Sacramento carpet cleaning service called Ray’s, I was deluged with calls and e-mails from folks who’ve been driven half-crazy by persistent and annoying robocallers.

Some readers had tips for tech gadgets they’d used to thwart the unwanted callers. Some shared ideas on how the government could do more to help out the bombarded masses. And many just wanted to vent alongside me as we wallowed in each other’s pain.

I thought I’d share some of their comments with you in the hopes of getting YOU angry as well so that you’ll join the chorus of: SOMEBODY PLEASE DO SOMETHING TO STOP THESE CALLS!!

Jim Handy from Los Gatos, who recently blogged about the subject, had a clever suggestion:

I was thrilled to see that something is indeed being done by the Do Not Call list people.  Before reading your article I thought that that particular law was a toothless tiger.

As a technologist I can think of a way to solve the problem, but it would require a law to be passed to force the telecom companies to trace all calls that people complained about.  With today’s technology this would be trivial, no matter how hard it appears to be on the detective shows on TV.  Say that someone who received a Spam call just hit something like *99, and it would be registered.  An offender who got over 5,000 of these could then be automatically fined.  Simple as pie!

I love this idea. But, again, one of the biggest problems with robocallers is that they’ll often switch their phone numbers around. So while you might block the number they leave on the first call, the next call will be coming from a completely different number.

Jay McKnight of Cupertino wrote to share his very simple solution to the robocall problem:

We use an old but effective way to “block” robocallers: We have an  answering machine, with a message “This is the McKnight residence. Please leave a message.” We NEVER answer a call unless the caller  identifies himself, and we want to talk to him. With this, most  robocallers just hang up.

OK. But that wasn’t the case with Ray, my automated carpet-cleaning nemesis. He would leave his recorded message right there on my machine every time.

Terry Liu, a marketing manager who works in Santa Clara, has has  particularly unpleasant robocaller experiences.

I just read your article on Robocallers and also hate them.  I thought I would add to your list of robocaller issues we have.  The issues we have are normally in the middle of the night or early morning which causes lost sleep for my family.  Obviously we could turn off the phone, but I always worry about that important/emergency call we might miss from our family.

In the middle of the night, I have been receiving calls that usually have a caller ID show up as 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005, and 1006.  What’s annoying about these calls is that when you pick them up, they don’t say anything and when you hang up they will call you back 4-5 times in a row.  Can’t even understand what the purpose of that robocaller is – a malfunction?

Now THAT”S a real nightmare. And he raises a point I’d made in my story: some of these automated calls seem to be coming from non-existent companies. I tried, but failed, to track down Ray’s Carpet Cleaners. It’s as if Ray doesn’t really exist and, instead, some crazy computer gone-haywire is making harassing phone calls just for the heck of it. Which totally baffles me: I mean, what’s the point of it all?

Terry had another robocall problem, one I’m very glad I’ve never experienced:

Finally, I also dislike robofaxes.  It has happened since I changed my phone, but when I had a phone in Sunnyvale I would get 2 or 3 fax calls a week.  As I didn’t have my phone connected to a fax it would call back every 5 minutes trying to fax us something.  So, I bought a fax and when the calls would come, I would wake up, turn on the fax.  Get the fax.   Then make a call back to the company to take us off the list.  I had that phone number for about 8 years.  We still received faxes till we moved.

 

Eric from Washington state swears by a cool robocall-killing gadget called an OOMA. I’m unclear how it could block robocallers’ numbers if they keep swapping them for new ones, but it’s worth checking out, I guess:

 

I have to totally agree with your article, “Robocallers remain a scourge”. One way to deal with this problem is to block incoming numbers.  You can do this easily if you have OOMA.  What is OOMA?   Costco sells it. Check them out at www.ooma.com OOMA sells Voice over IP (VOIP) technology that you install instead of your Ma Bell phone service. I’ve been using OOMA for years and love it !

And finally, one reader offered this solution:

Thanks for the great article in today’s Merc on robocalls.  I’ve got an idea for catching those behind robocalls for local services such as carpet cleaners. A reporter would agree to accept robocalls and sign-up for carpet cleaning when offered. When the cleaners show up they would be greeted by the reporter and a camera crew that would document their identity.  This info would then be reported to the authorities for legal action and also published.  It’s essentially a sting operation.

I wish it were that simple, because I’d be thrilled to confront my harassers! But as I said before, I’m afraid Ray doesn’t even exist!

 

Patrick May Patrick May (289 Posts)

With more than 30 years on the front line of daily American journalism, I'm currently a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News, covering Apple and writing people-centric business stories from Silicon Valley.