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How to Stop Dedicated Phone Harassers?

By Stalked in Culture
Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 12:35:12 AM EST
Tags: Security (all tags)

I've been receiving harassing phone calls for almost a month, and it's been a nightmare. I'm hoping you can learn from my experience and help me resolve it. (I'm posting this anonymously out of fear of reprisal and ridicule.)

Here's how it happens.

The harassing phone calls started a month ago and don't look like they have a pattern. Sometimes they're in the early morning. Sometimes in the evening around dinnertime. Sometimes late at night. All around the clock. The phone calls themselves varied in theme. Sometimes they were just hangups (many in a row). Sometimes they were heavy breathing. Alot of the time, they were grunting noises and snickering. It isn't anything I didn't do or get growing up, but this guy was persistent.

After the harassment started, I called my phone company (Verizon) and got callerid installed. They took a week to install it, and in the mean time, I bided my time reading about anonymous call blocking. Once I had callerid set up, I set it to block all calls that didn't disclose their number, and the harassment slowed down a bit but not all together. I was still getting phone calls from (214)848-9736 and (214)848-9738, which look like a couple payphones in Texas. I read some more about ACR (anonymous call rejection) and they say payphones are in a different class with international calls which can't be blocked as easily. If anyone knows how, then please tell me.

I don't know where the idiot got my info, since I've been careful with it after taking down my resume and things in November. That's what makes me wonder if it's some kid pulling my number out of the phonebook or dialing randomly, or whether it's someone with a real grudge. If it's one of you guys, then I hope you got a big laugh out of yanking my chain for a month. If you don't like me, then moderate my comments down. Don't harass me in real life. (I only bring it up because I'm almost sure one of the calls said something about "mojo," though my ears could have deceived me and it said "mofo." I don't know what to think anymore.)

I have talked to some friends who are in law enforcement, and they advised me to seek a "harassment restraining order, where I fill out some forms and get the courts to restrain the idiot who's harassing me. I have been taking notes of the harassing phone calls like the experts suggest, and I think I have enough to write an affidavit. One of my friends suggested calling the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, since they deal with phone harassment of their clients alot and I'm not far from their offices. But should I call the police myselves?

Has anyone done this stuff successfully? Do you have any tips to share? How can I stop an anonymous harasser from another state?

Note: Originally I posted this as a diary entry, but I have decided to post it as a full article in the hope of more complete advice.


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What should I do?
o Call the police? 84%
o Wait for it to go away? 15%

Votes: 45
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Also by Stalked

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How to Stop Dedicated Phone Harassers? | 24 comments (24 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Don't Answer Your Phone (4.80 / 15) (#1)
by Seumas on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 10:22:17 PM EST

I treat my phone like I do my door-step. I treat my door-step like I treate my mail.

How is this? -- I deal with it when I want. If someone knocks on my door and I don't know who they are, I typically won't answer it. They can call me, email me, leave a note on my door... They don't have to be bothering me at my door-step. Chances are they're trying to sell me a newspaper subscription or a religion and I just don't have the time or patience for that.

Same goes for the telephone. I telecommute and don't want the bother of two phone lines, so I share my work/personal line together. I'm usually pre-occupied with whatever I'm doing and don't care for the interruptions that a ringing phone presents. "Oh god! The phone is ringing! I better drop what I'm doing and answer it immediatley!". I wait for the machine to pick-up and if it is someone I want to talk to, I intervene immediately. If it isn't an emergency or someone I want to talk to, they leave a message and I get back to them when I feel like it (sometimes right away, some times a few hours or days later -- or never if it's not someone I know). This makes my life less hectic, keeps solicitors, creditors and strangers at bay and puts me in control. Anybody who knows me (and, thus, I would even be interested in talking to) knows that I screen my calls and that if they mention their name I'll pick the phone up. They also know the other ways to get in touch with me if needed (pager, email, mail, work-voicemail). So I'm not cutting myself off from the world in any way.

So, get yourself a decent phone. I have a panasonic 'Gigarange Extreme' 2.4ghz cordless phone with caller-ID. It has a built-in digital answering machine, paging/intercom service and some other cool functions. Erasing messages is as simple as pressing the 'erase' button two times -- so it's not a hassle to deal with messages I'm not interested in. I can also limit how long each message can be (you can have up to 15 minutes of messages on the machine and can limit each caller to 1 or 2 minutes if you want).

I imagine a prank-caller or harasser would get rather bored if all they ever got when they called you was an answering machine (with a standard non-informational, non-specific greeting).
I just read K5 for the articles.

i hate the phone (4.62 / 8) (#2)
by jlb on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 10:29:28 PM EST

The phone and how people generally treat it has always been one of my pet peeves. I live in a house with 3 room mates. We have callerid. If the phone rings, and it's not for me, I don't answer it.

Some people however are rude and persistant. They don't understand that if the person they're calling for has not answered the phone, then they are probably not home. I've actually had people call, let the phone ring 30 or 40 times, hang up, call back, and let it ring another 30 or 40 times. This is particularly annoying when I'm sleeping.

Either way, two of my room mates live 2 floors above me and are rarely home. Why do I need to trudge upstairs everytime someone calls just to say "Yes, they didn't answer the phone after it rang, because they're not home."

People don't seem to understand that I pay for my phone and it is my tool, and I'll use it when and if I want to.

[ Parent ]

Re: i hate the phone (2.00 / 3) (#13)
by cvincent on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 09:25:11 AM EST



[ Parent ]
Non-descript answering machine message. (3.00 / 1) (#11)
by gromm on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 03:37:35 AM EST

I imagine a prank-caller or harasser would get rather bored if all they ever got when they called you was an answering machine (with a standard non-informational, non-specific greeting).

You mean, like this? :)

<computer-generated voice> Hello, you have reached the number you have dialed. The person or persons you are be trying to reach, may or may not be available. If you leave a message at the beep, you may or may not recieve a reply. Thank you. <end of message>

I couldn't resist. :)
Deus ex frigerifero
[ Parent ]

Answering machine greeting (4.00 / 1) (#14)
by loner on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 12:26:52 PM EST

I used to know this guy whose answering machine greeting was the recorded message that you hear when you dial a number not in service. His friends knew this and would stay on the line to leave a message, whereas strangers would just hang up.

This works even better these days in conjunction with services like onebox.com. You can give your home number with the trick greeting to friends, and use the free voice mailbox for businesses who may need to reach you from time to time.

[ Parent ]

telepathy (none / 0) (#23)
by angharad on Fri Feb 09, 2001 at 11:59:06 PM EST

That is already my greeting, although it's a human voice. "You have reached the number you dialed. If it's the number you want, leave a message." Good to see I'm not alone!

[ Parent ]
Technolgy is hard to fight sometimes (4.20 / 5) (#3)
by turtleshadow on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 10:34:52 PM EST

I'd suggest
  • getting a soft voice mail box and set it to ring straight to that
  • Qwest has a service where the caller must state their name and you have to press a button, 1, upon hearing that name to accept the incoming call. Check with your company
  • Change your number
  • Switch to a cell phone if you make few calls
  • load Freebsd, get a voice capable voice modem with caller ID and run mgetty and spend several weeks trying to setup an intelligent answering machine
Then again this is could be a thinly veiled attempt at some wierd 2600 phone phreaking thing where the date, time, shout to the guild and location of Warez site is obscured in the coded form of your post.

Change your number (3.40 / 5) (#4)
by fossilcode on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 10:37:48 PM EST

And while you're at it, make sure it's not just unlisted, but unpublished, which makes it even less available. Screen your calls with an answering machine. I use caller id with my machine (rather than voice mail) and if the no number comes up, or if it's one I don't recognize, I let the machine take it and listen to the incoming message. If it's somebody I want to talk to and not a telemarketer, I pick up the phone. Harassment only works if there's somebody to harass.
"...half the world blows and half the world sucks." Uh, which half were you again?
Don't know if it helps.. (3.83 / 6) (#5)
by Sheepdot on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 10:41:52 PM EST

I really can't offer a lot of advice since I have had little to no experience in this area. I did have a friend who was receiving some ridiculously odd phone calls in the past and he ended up just moving from one dorm room to another, that seemed to stop them even though his student info on the web changed to reveal his new number. I guess it was just a case of one number being the "prank number".

I'd suggest just changing your number, but you must be in a situation where you can't or would be worse off if you did. I would imagine that the person doesn't know your home address and would leave you alone if you did that.

I would also suggest that you keep your number one concern to be not entertaining the person calling. If they know that they are causing you hell, they will keep doing it. If you just simply answer it and find that it is them, set the phone down (not on the hook) and leave it there for about 20 minutes, then hang up. If they are at a pay phone, they will just be wasting their time and money to stay on.

Another option is to hang up the phone after a rude call, cout to 10 or 8 and then pick it up and leave it off the hook for about 20 minutes. They'll keep getting a busy signal and it won't matter to you.

And lastly, I'd go ahead and do any legal stuff you think might be necessary. It's totally up to you.

Try the FCC (4.50 / 4) (#6)
by pope nihil on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 11:00:45 PM EST

Really want them to stop calling you? Fill out a complaint with the FCC here. Hope this helps.

I voted.

Get a new number (4.00 / 3) (#7)
by /dev/niall on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 11:15:56 PM EST

I know it's a cop-out, but it does help. If it's just some kid, chances are good it'll end there. If it's something else and the calls continue after the new number, then you know you have a problem.

Good luck to you, I've seen a lot of friends in the same position, and it didn't look easy. They all made it thru it, and hopefully so will you!
"compared to the other apes, my genitals are gigantic" -- TheophileEscargot

Some Ideas... (4.00 / 3) (#8)
by CyberQuog on Fri Jan 12, 2001 at 11:46:56 PM EST

First off, talk to the phone company about it. I'm positive they have methods for dealing with this. Also, if the calls are comming from two specific phone numbers, ask the phone company to block those numbers for you. I have heard of harrassment cases in the past where this has been done. You could also probably pay for some blocking service (money can get you places fast), but it might be cheaper (but not so much easier) to change your phone number.

As a last resort take a visit to your local highschool, and look for the nerd who's hooking up the crazy electrical stuff to the payphones. Give him a $20 and watch the magic happen ;).

A couple deterrents (4.00 / 2) (#9)
by Armaphine on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 12:40:59 AM EST

I've had similar problems, although not to this extent, usually just telemarketers (which are fun as hell to screw, IMHO). Here's a couple of tips to discourage them...
  1. Let the machine get it. Screen your calls.
  2. Keep a whistle by the phone. Guy stays on the line for more than two seconds, blast him with it.
  3. Changing the number, while it can cost a few bucks, will at least buy you some peace. Be sure to chip in the extra few bucks for the unlisted number.
That's about everything I can think of. Best of luck with this...

Question authority. Don't ask why, just do it.

by ao on Fri Oct 18, 2002 at 06:06:52 PM EST

and whoever my harasser is still found out my new number. the phone numbers appearing on the caller id are long distance so i have no way of blocking them. i tried calling these numbers back but it said that the person can not be reached thru the numbers. i filed for a police report but i don't know what that could do. whoever this person is having a lot of fun...

[ Parent ]
My experiences are a bit different... (3.75 / 4) (#10)
by GreenCrackBaby on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 12:42:27 AM EST

...but hopefully a bit helpfull.

The number my phone company gave us was a previous fax number. This fax number had gotten on all the junk fax lists in the world apparently. The problem was, we didn't realize this until 1 year after getting our number -- that's when the months of hell started.

For some reason, 1 year after getting our phone number, we started to get more and more faxes; normally in the wee hours of the morning, many in a row. We tried leaving our phone unhooked at night (and always forgot to plug it back in), we tried calling back companies, etc.

The end solution for us was a very nasty confrontation between my wife (my chief negotiator) and the phone company. They argued the best they could do was to change our phone number. This was unacceptable for us, and through some very nasty talks my wife finally got the phone company to give us free call blocking (this should solve your problem). It is not unreasonable to demand this from your phone company!

I also noticed a new service that may really help you out. I don't know what they call it, but here's the gist: you enter a series of trusted numbers into a database, any other number when calling you is greeted first with an automatic answering service. The service asks them to identify themselves (much like a collect call), and then your line will ring. You have the option of hanging up before they even get on the line. This kills telemarketers (yeah!), and harrassing calls will stop.

Hope this helps...

FCC unsolicted FAX regulations (none / 0) (#21)
by turtleshadow on Tue Jan 16, 2001 at 10:59:47 PM EST

Here is where we've successfully begun our fax crusades agains SPAM FAX

[ Parent ]
Happened to me, no solution found (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by DesiredUsername on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 08:48:35 AM EST

I was getting phone calls in the middle of the night...like 2:00 am. Usually there was a whining or screeching, but sometimes it was someone mumbling in a foreign language. Turns out that a nearby company had printed OUR phone number as THEIR fax number on some international brochures.

I eventually got the company to pay for 6 months of caller id to try to track the remaining people with the wrong number, but then found that international calls don't show up on caller id.

I vaguely remember a feature related to caller id where you could block specific numbers....could you try that? Or call the phone company that covers Texas and ask them where those pay phones are, maybe you can track down who the person is.

Play 囲碁
Phone # misprints (none / 0) (#19)
by nstenz on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 12:33:13 PM EST

Those things hurt a lot... especially if you're in the situtation we are at work: Some of Gateway 2000's business cards/literature/something have our 800# printed on them instead of whatever it should have been. I don't know if it's a sales number or tech support or what, but our bills are already high enough from our normal tech support calls... We're trying to get Gateway to reimburse us for the cost... hopefully things will go our way. We're a tiny tiny company, and we can't afford to keep paying for all of the calls. =\

Yes, we've had several customers read back the number they had printed sitting in front of them... It's definitely our number, and not a bunch of mis-dials. *frown*

[ Parent ]
Cancel your land line....get a PCS phone (none / 0) (#15)
by CrazyJub on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 12:32:01 PM EST

PCS phones are much better equiped to take care of problems like these. Deny any calls from anyone you haven't programmed into your phone...no more strange calls or wrong numbers either! Coverage is International (US and Canada) and the long distance rates are very competitive. I'm doing this myself very. very soon.

Stake out (2.00 / 8) (#16)
by emad on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 04:32:03 PM EST

The 214 area code happens to be that of the Dallas, TX area. Seeing how I live in the areai, if you manage to get me an address of the 2 pay phones I could make a nice game of watching the activity on the phones. It is worth a shot.

You'll probably have to change your number... (3.00 / 1) (#17)
by cr0sh on Sat Jan 13, 2001 at 10:29:05 PM EST

That's what my GF and I had to do at one apartment - we weren't getting harassing phone calls - indeed, all the people we talked to were pleasant, and merely had some problems they needed answers for.

When we got the first call, we assumed it was a wrong number. But then we started getting call-after-call-after call. Turned out somehow are line got put into the pool for a Psychic Hotline! No kidding! After we figured this out, we tried to get in contact with the company by talking to the people who were calling to determine what hotline it was (some people we talked to we were actually able to help - one actually called back to thank us!), we tried to contact them, but it turned out to be an impossible task (makes me wonder how you get "employed" by them).

In the end, we had to have our number changed...

Getting 'employed' by a phychic hotline... (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by nstenz on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 12:35:08 PM EST

It's easy... If you're a psychic anyhow... You just know... *grin*

[ Parent ]
fight back (5.00 / 2) (#18)
by SEAL on Sun Jan 14, 2001 at 04:14:31 AM EST

The way to put a stop to this is to make up your mind that you're not going to put up with it anymore. Expend whatever effort is necessary to learn the laws in your neck of the woods. Then work to coordinate the police and the phone company and teach this guy a lesson.

With that in mind - my best tip on this is to use the phone-company caller id system.

Consumer caller-id sucks. The caller can be out of area or blocking caller-id. Same for *69.

HOWEVER, there is a lesser-known code you can use: *57. This code is specifically used to deal with harassing / threatening callers. It creates a log at the phone company of the info on the last call you received. It is oblivious to all caller-id blocking and out of area problems. The hitch is, this info is only accessible via court order. Once you've used this code I believe you must take action within 10 days (at least with my telco) -- before the log gets purged.

So get this guy's info and turn his life into a legal mess. Once you get the ball rolling, phone companies are surprisingly cooperative in this department.

Good luck,


It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.
Inform the police and the phone company (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by cezarg on Fri Jan 19, 2001 at 11:22:04 PM EST

This happened to me when I lived in the UK. I had someone making nusaince calls all round the clock. At one point it got so bad that I decided to not put up with the shit anymore. I asked my phone provider to change my number and tap the old number and allowed them to inform the police about the abuse. I haven't had any problems since. Now I don't know if they ever caught the bastard as I moved to a different country but I found my phone company (Hi LocalTel) to be very efficient in dealing with the asshole. I know exactly what you're going through. Good luck.

How to Stop Dedicated Phone Harassers? | 24 comments (24 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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