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I receive unwanted commercial phone calls around two or three times a week, where they want to sell me things, which of course I never want.

I live in Belgium. We have a law that forbids commercial calls if your number is explicitly registered on a list, which I have done. However with the globalization, some companies now use foreign call centers to circumvent the law and still call you, explaining the two to three calls I still receive each week.

These call centers are relentless, and they're often the same people working for various customers. I know that because the voices that call me are mostly the same (not similar: the same). The number is hidden so I can't get it. Also, my provider can't stop them because even if the number is hidden (and they have to respect that), they use a different number every time from various countries, I'm told. Being professional, I can't not answer a hidden call.

I tried everything in my book: politely declining, playing along to grab the name of the seller in order to ask them to stop doing such practice (spoiler: they don't), abruptly end the phone call, playing bagpipes on the phone, being very rude, reversing the situation where in the end I try to sell them something, etc.

Nothing works: in the end the very same group of three people will call me for different customers.

How can I force/trick them into not calling me anymore?

closed as off-topic by JohnP, JAD, A J, Tycho's Nose, Xander Oct 20 '17 at 6:29

  • This question does not appear to be about interpersonal skills, within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Related interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/269/… – user57 Aug 4 '17 at 8:39
  • @YvetteColomb I was about to mark as duplicate. You say it's only related? The answers there already address the question here. – NVZ Aug 4 '17 at 8:42
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    Possible duplicate of How do I politely end a cold call I've received? – NVZ Aug 4 '17 at 8:43
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    @YvetteColomb Indeed, I don't want to end the call: I want to end the calls. – Olivier Grégoire Aug 4 '17 at 8:48
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's not about interpersonal skills. The people on the phone aren't the ones directing the call. This is about how to effectively remove a phone number which is not a person to person interaction. – JohnP Oct 19 '17 at 17:02
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I particularly cannot stand cold calls:

How do I politely end a cold call I've received?

I will go to great lengths to avoid cold calls.

  1. I have a private/ unlisted phone number. I haven't needed to use the site to take my number off a call list for some time, as it hasn't been caught for a while - touch wood

  2. If your number makes it onto a call list - change it and keep it private. They pass them call lists around and I've found that asking to be taken off these lists doesn't work - as you have found.

  3. I don't give my home number out to anyone - not a soul - except. It's there as back up - in case a landline is mandatory for the children's school for example. I find mobile phones are much easier to screen calls than landlines.

  4. Make sure you have caller id on your landline. Don't answer a number you do not recognise.

  5. Some telcos will allow you to whitelist numbers for your landline - this can be problematic - as if you cannot predict all the numbers you may want to connect with you, as numbers not on the whitelist won't be able to get through.

  6. I change my phone number regularly - if too many people have it and I no longer need to communicate with a lot of those people any more - I change it. It's a little inconvenient, but people are used to me changing my number every year. I prefer the inconvenience of sending out a text and updating accounts than receiving cold calls.

  7. I block private numbers on my mobile phone, so I don't even hear them ring. The call goes to message bank. Cold callers rarely leave messages.

  8. I have a white list on my mobile of callers who can call me, so I'm only notified of their calls.

  9. With all of this locked down, the only thing that cannot be avoided is the use of randomly generating phone numbers - as any number can then come up. As I don't talk to people, it usually goes nowhere. If I happen to answer such a call I tell them to remove me and hang up.

  10. Occasionally I have received a phone number and I receive calls from the previous owner of the number being on lists or not letting contacts know of the change. I just change that number quickly.

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    Is it really that easy to change a number? I don't think it would be.... and then you have the hassle of letting all of your contacts know... This answer seems excessive/overkill and not super practical – Collatrl Aug 4 '17 at 15:23
  • @Collatrl it is that easy - it takes being organised in informing people and updating accounts and usually will involve a fee. This is what I do - as I hate receiving unsolicited calls and guard my phone number - so it is the extreme end, but the questioner is at their wits end also, so I'm just sharing what I do. Of course most people are not so extreme and I'm aware that my phone habits are not the usual. I really hate talking on the phone. I like to make calls in lieu of texting i.e. short. I find conversing with people incredibly draining and I do it sparingly. – user57 Aug 4 '17 at 15:34
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    When I got my cellphone, the number I received had been previously used, and I get a bunch of (spam) messages directed at the previous number holder, as well as at least 10 calls a day from random numbers who either leave a two second, empty voicemail, or leave advertising voicemail. Are you suggesting getting a new number as the only solution? – Stephen S Aug 4 '17 at 15:51
  • some providers even offer a way to automatically update/inform people that you changed your number : from a white list on their website, in your private backoffice, or from the contact-list of the cellphone. Your folks receive a short text with greetings and your new number. – OldPadawan Aug 4 '17 at 16:42
  • @StephenS in my case - yes. As mentioned - once the number is in circulation - it's very hard to stop being solicited. I got one number once and I kept getting text for betting, as in gambling, the previous owner had been an avid gambler. I couldn't get off the list for all of them and they'd send the texts with different numbers. Some would have a reply to stop it, there was one viral one that didn't. – user57 Aug 4 '17 at 21:56
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A solution would be not answering calls from anonymous numbers, or from phone numbers you don't recognise. However, that would mean you might miss calls you do want.

A possible solution could be a combination of technology and interpersonal skills.

Answering Machine

Get an answering machine if you don't have one already, one that allows you to hear the messages as they're being recorded.
Also, get a phone that shows the number of the caller, and with a built-in phone book that shows the name of the caller if the number is in the phone book.

Then record a welcome message on your answering machine that explains that you don't answer calls from anonymous or unrecognised numbers, but that you might pick up when you hear the caller. You can also add to that welcome message that your number is on the do-not-call list.

This way you can screen your calls, while reducing the hassle as much as possible for legitimate callers.

Keep in mind that most anonymous or unrecognisable numbers are either unwanted callers, or businesses with legitimate calls ("your book has arrived", "your car has been repaired and is ready for pick-up"). Those businesses won't mind an answering machine.

  • Yep totally agree with this. I mentioned that in my answer - cold callers don't like leaving messages – user57 Aug 4 '17 at 9:12
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    Frankly, I like this answer much more than the accepted one. The accepted is from the extreme end, while it certainly works, it will very likely be too much for 99% of all users (and the OP specifically stated that he uses the number professionally so changing it frequently or hiding it is not an option). The good old answering machines solves it perfectly and should be pretty acceptable for any authorized caller. – AnoE Aug 4 '17 at 16:58
  • I agree that this answer is better than the "accepted" one. If you set up a voicemail box on your phone, you can ignore any number you don't recognize. If it is important for you, they will leave a message you can call them back in 5 minutes after listening to it. WAY more practical and useful than the other answer. – Collatrl Aug 4 '17 at 17:48
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If you're like me and you have to have your phone open to calls all the time, and you have some time to waste on this matter, then I suggest the following:

  1. Let them talk. Let them talk all the things they want to talk about.
  2. Ask questions about ALL the products they have. Stupid and minute detail questions, stuff they really wouldn't want to go into on the phone.
  3. Ask about how the caller's day is going and talk about yours. Go into detail and tell them why you really can't buy what they're selling. Talk about your sick grandma, how you have a lot of debt and how you're hopeless about getting out of this situation (to be clear these are all lies).
  4. Keep wasting their time as much as possible.
  5. Get blacklisted (by most companies that are smart to hold statistics about call-center time to buy ratios)

This will work for many companies. I do not get called by any company that I have wasted half an hour to an hour of and I think I might even have my phone up on a few meta blacklists... (and yeah, I did ask about this to a friend and he did look my phone number up on Vodafone, it's there)

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First of all: you can't convince those people not to call you, because they are paid for doing it, and are required to do whatever a machine orders them.

You must understand under what terrible circumstances those people work. They are working for minimal wages, they usually are unable to find any other work because they have no special skills and they come from regions with high unemployment. Their employees make advance of their poor condition and treat them as cheap labor doing work that brings profit only because they cost so little.

What can you do is:

  1. Ask where your number comes from. Often they have no information, but in many jurisdictions this is considered criminal activity, so with a bit of luck, you will get an answer about data provider. In many cases you can order such provider to remove your data (ask before, if they got your data from other source). If you are very lucky, you'll remove the source of your problems.

  2. Being less lucky, you're still able to filter out most of such connections. Most of them are so-called mafia numbers (with hidden number). Such numbers can be easily blocked with any blocking program for smartphone. Most others come from big call centers that have a large pool of phone numbers. With a bit of research you can batch-block all such pools.

  3. If someone still got through, even if the call center workers are cheap, they are not free, so the script orders them to disconnect once it's obvious you're not interested. Say clearly that you are not interested with their product.

  4. Some of them have utterly stupid scripts, that disallow them to disconnect, even if you say 'no' hundred times, before they read you the whole offer. Usually the only exception are violent threats or sexual harassment (I suppose you don't want to use them). Saying clear and loud 'no' and disconnecting will be a release for both of you.

  5. Lobby to your government to force providers to block such calls and provide the facility of suing operators of such business models.

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If you are talking about your mobile, you could use an app eg: Truecaller. It has a wide database of actual phone numbers, which they of course create by reading the contats of the app users. Anyway the app has a list of spam callers and you can automatically block calls from the spam list for your country. Also if connected to internet while the phone rings, it instantly decodes and displays the caller name/organisation and even lists if it has been reported by others as spam.

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