A small victory in the battle against telemarketers

We get far too many cold calls. What’s more, we’re on the Telephone Preference Service, making the calls illegal, and the salespeople are really, really bad at their job.

There is something terribly selfish and patronising about these calls. They have taken no time at all time find out who we are and what we do (often so little that they struggle to read our company name out loud in their opening line) and yet they expect that we have plenty of time to hear all about them, whenever it is most convenient for them.

Where they come from

Trying to find out where they originally got your number from can be difficult. There has been a positive correlation between our SERPs and the number of cold calls that we get, especially from abroad, leading me to think that many of them simply Google search for companies in a specific sector. Unfortunately there isn’t much we can do about this – we rely on potential customers seeing our website and calling us.

The WHOIS directory for domain names and IP addresses seems to be an equally common source. We’ve had a lot, again mostly from overseas, calling to try to sell us services for a newly registered domain name (that they also struggled to pronounce). For this, there are a couple of solutions – many domain registrars offer “WHOIS protection” or “private registration” options for exactly this reason, where they substitute your information for theirs and then discard any queries. The other option is to enter valid, but anonymous, details. All of our domains are registered to:

Name: Domain Admin (to date, nobody has called asking for Domain Admin but I’m sure it will happen!)
Address: Our office address
Phone number: a number goes straight to voicemail
Email address: a separate mailbox just for domain WHOIS contact

The other common source is from marketing lists. These are the most common among callers in the UK, who are the ones who really need to respect the TPS to avoid a fine. One of the big list-builders is Dun & Bradstreet that allow businesses to register themselves and get a “DUNS number”. The DUNS number, strangely, is a necessity to register an EV SSL certificate with Comodo, and to supply certain other organisations, oddly including Lancashire County Council.

As regards Comodo, I can only assume that they receive a royalty from Dun & Bradstreet for this requirement, which they are increasingly having to rely on with competition from Let’s Encrypt.

The solution

I have seen no reduction whatsoever after being on the TPS for more than a year. It’s possible that some unscrupulous companies might even buy the TPS list to add to their databases.

The solution I’ve found is to try to waste as much of their time as possible. Over the years, I’ve employed various techniques to do this, including telling them that I’m “transferring their call” and leaving them on hold until they hang up, speaking to them a bit and telling them “I just need to get my credit card” and then leaving them on hold until they hang up, and treating it like a prank call.

The problem with these is that they not only waste their time, but they waste our time. In other words, it doesn’t scale.

Recently, I found the Jolly Roger Telephone Company. They have received a lot of press coverage for their service – a sort of automated soundboard that pauses and speaks at the right times, and follows a script that keeps transferring them around and asking them to repeat themselves.

Now, if they call, we tell them that someone will call them back and add their phone number to a list that goes straight there. One cold caller wasted 12 minutes (!) with our soundboard last week.

The next step is to collate a list of the worst telemarketers so that we don’t even have to talk to them once. I was surprised that there doesn’t seem to be one in the public domain. Perhaps a job for someone on Fiverr.

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