Spam phonecalls

I get two types of spam phonecalls. The first kind I call the “callcentre bastards that won’t leave me alone”, the second kind I call the “silent ones that just hang up”.

Dealing with both kinds is easy – when the phone rings, pick it up and listen. Can you hear anything or does the line sound dead? If you can hear something, does it sound like a callcentre? If you can’t hear anything, send a good irate sounding “HELLO?” down the phone, most of the time this’ll get you cut off and you can go about your day.

If you hear a callcentre, continue to sit silently listening. It can be quite interesting hearing other people’s calls. At some point the caller might give an inquisitive “hello?” down the phone at you. Your mission now is to figure out whether they’re someone important like the bank, or just a telesales callcentre. Telling your bank to go away and procreate with themselves isn’t always wise after all. Listen for telltale signals like them asking for generic terms – “Can I speak to the householder?” “Is the major bill payer available?” etc.

If they ask for you by name, continue keeping your guard up… it might be your bank, but it could be their “let’s sell you a loan” department.

If it’s a genuine spam caller, and they’re now rattling off their spiel at you… simply hang up, they’ve wasted enough of your time already. Don’t bother trying to politely get them to go away, they don’t care. Don’t even bother trying to waste their time, it’s like peeing on an oil fire to put it out – the difference you make is not measurable. Just cut them off and continue about your day.

You can then wonder and marvel at modern communications. Every form you fill in that demands your phone number probably has a “tick this box to opt out of marketing and time wasting calls, we promise to only use your number for legitimate reasons… things like the parcel courier getting lost”. And yet we still get these calls. Does adding your number to the TPS actually do anything, or is it really a trick to harvest our phone numbers?

Oh and never, ever put your mobile number in there. However “You’ve rung me at a really bad time, I’m actually on the toilet” is possibly the best way to get rid of someone on the phone.

I have greylisting on my email server – if you email me, initially your email gets rejected and your mailserver gets told to try again in five minutes. If it does this, you get accepted and the mail goes through. If only I could make my phone emit a busy tone the first time an unknown caller rings, and then if they ring back later it lets them through…

0845 0304436 Market research spam

Hopefully they’ll not call back after I mashed all the keys on my phone repeatedly, but out of boredom I reported this number to the TPS, after it phoned me with a recorded market research questionnaire (“How many people live in your house? Press the key on your phone to indicate. How much do you earn? Press 1 for …”).

The TPS even replied, but it seems that while trying to sell things to me over the phone is naughty, bothering me with automated questionnaires is perfectly acceptable. I think the TPS do mostly work though, this is the first phone-spam since having this number activated in August.

Thank you for your complaint regarding the receipt of a research call.

The Telephone Preference Service (TPS) aims to reduce live “direct marketing” calls and is unable to stop calls from organisations who are conducting research. Research calls are not deemed as direct marketing as they generally relate to information gathering or seeking of opinions whereas the purpose of a direct marketing call would be to sell or market a product or service.

If you want to stop these calls you will need to contact the companies that make them directly or inform the caller that the call and any future calls from them is not welcomed. Additionally, you can also request that they suppress your details. They are obliged to comply with your request. If the company continues to call disregarding your request you may seek further guidance from the Market Research Society (MRS), furthermore the MRS has a code of conduct which all members must comply with. Their details are:

Market Research Society (MRS)
15 Northburgh Street, London
EC1V 0JR
Tel: 02074904911
Fax: 02074900608
Web: www.ico.gov.uk

I trust the above is of help, but if you have any further queries please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur Cummings
TPS Team Leader

It’s a shame I can’t funnel all my phonecalls through my GMail account, that’s pretty much stopped spam from reaching anywhere I bother to look.

Welcome to the timewasting top up line!

Why is this not simple?

Hi there! I’m an annoying phone system from a well known UK mobile phone operator! I know you want to top your phone up, that’s why you dialled 4444. However, before we get to the bit where you give us money, let’s tell you about some irrelevant special offers! Did you know that if you give us £15 you can win prizes! Just top up £15 or more to be in with more chance to win it big.

Now, if you’re still listening, I need to tell you about the terms and conditions, so press # to hear them otherwise… if you have used this card before, mash the keypad followed by hash… now type in your inner leg length in whole furlongs, followed by hash so for example if your leg is … and now type in the last three digits on the back of your mother’s VISA card …

We’re sorry, your topup was not successful, would you like to go around in an endless loop and try again and again? Or would you like to dig out that unused VISA card you have in a box somewhere and try that? Please remember that the simple act of topping up your phone will trigger a call from your bank’s anti-fraud team so be at home tomorrow at 4am when they ring. Once you’ve dealt with that your card will never work on our system again. You could always top up using that plastic card we gave you, but we’re betting you lost that shortly after putting the SIM in your phone.

It really should be a short, straight to the point system. Type in card numbers, type in back of card numbers, type in amount, job done. It really doesn’t need to tell me all the special prizes I can win in competitions if I top up the phone. I definitely don’t want to know about these awesome surprises when I can choose between a crappy “free day out”, “£5 off at Interflora” or a “Music Download”.

Tomorrow’s rant: Why do I have to pay an extra £7.50 for Internet Teathering on my iPhone 4 when it already comes with 500MB of Internet as part of the Simplicity tariff?

Communication Failure

There I was, happily Consuming some Internet and doing my part to fill popular social networking sites with noise when … things started to go a bit funny. First browsing stopped working, then Skype went offline followed by Google Talk finally noticing my Internet was offline. After some investigation I noticed my ADSL router no longer had an IP address but was syched with the line.

So I switched it off, waited a bit, switched it back on… Lights flashed, lights went green… then orange. Orange is a bad colour, it means “something is broken”. Thinking that maybe my ISP had finally got around to enabling my static IP address I configured that. Lights went green, but no data flowed. Having run out of options I dug out the router provided by my ISP (it was in the loft in a box, it’s not very good) and that also failed to work. Just to check things over I plugged in the ADSL router I used to use before I moved house – this one hadn’t been reconfigured or messed with since I unplugged it in my old house. That didn’t work either, it also didn’t sync at a speed faster than 7Mb so that went away again.

There then followed a series of support ticket requests with my ISP, with my problem being escalated to higher and higher levels of support technician. I even requested a line test from BT after my ADSL router decided to tell me “No ATM activity detected on line”. To further confuse matters, my ISP rang me on my landline and I couldn’t hear them, but they use some nasty VOIP rubbish for their calls, so I figured that was broken and hung up. Then I picked up the phone again and … it was dead. Uh oh. But my ADSL was still synched OK. Err…

Another support ticket from my ISP solved everything. They gave me the details for my static IP address again and also told me my phone handset is probably faulty as they could hear me fine. I phoned myself using my mobile phone and sure enough, my cordless phones are broken. Nothing to do with my Internet being down, but irritating all the same. Now got a corded phone plugged in and a renewed desire to work out where these phone extension wires run so I can use them.

The source of all this weird confusion and problems? My static IP address details were wrong… or perhaps not wrong, but different. I think the house move process went a bit wonky and I got a new static IP address assigned to me. Or they couldn’t figure out why nothing was working and gave me a new one, the support technician did say he couldn’t ping me either at one point. They even had the phone exchange configuration reset and tested to make sure that was correct, so at least I now know I have a properly working line with no errors.

Tomorrow I might give this post a try to see if I can convince my Zyxel router to do more than 7 meg.

Should I get an iPad with 3G or an iPhone 4?

I’ve spent the past 18 months with my Android phone (this is not an Android/iPhone debate) and didn’t really make use of the mobile Internet or its various apps. I own an iPod Touch (1st gen) and use that for music every day in my car and in my bedside clockradio.

I also use my iPod Touch a lot for quick browsing, gaming and a bit of youtube viewing and find its small screen really irritating. It’s useful though being able to pick it up, prod a button and discover if I have any new email without having to wait for my laptop or netbook to wake up. Or I’ll be watching telly and want to look something up.

See, I don’t really use my mobile phone and am quite happy with a cheapo one on pay-as-you-go. If i had an iPhone it’d combine my current iPod Touch with a phone in one unit which is convenient. If I had an iPad it’d be like a giant iPod Touch which is useful but wouldn’t fit in the dock connector on my clockradio and might look a bit strange in my car. I do also own a Macbook and a small netbook – although they tend to stay plugged in as their battery lives are pretty awful. The battery life on my Android phone was equally crap – what’s the point of a phone with fancy stuff that drains the battery within a few hours?

I am quite happy to own a cheap 10 quid mobile phone, but do find mobile Internet useful at random times.

GPO 746 Rotary Dial Phone – Remember these?

UK GPO 746 Rotary Dial Telephone

When I was small I have memories of my grandma and my parents owning one of these phones, not that they had much choice of course since it wasn’t until the early 80s that other companies were allowed to make phones in the UK; before that it was the good old GPO’s job to rent one out to you. I took mine to bits to fix the dial, it kept sticking, and while taking it apart I took some photos which are attached to links throughout this post. Read on, this is more than a bunch of photos…
Continue reading GPO 746 Rotary Dial Phone – Remember these?

Surreal Saturday

Isn’t it awful being woken up by the phone ringing? It means you’ve got to go from being asleep to talking to another human in about two seconds. isn’t it even worse when you can’t find the damn phone and by the time you do they’ve hung up? You could have just stayed in bed asleep.

So I pick up the phone this morning after excavating it from the mess in my office and stare bleary-eyed at the display to read the caller ID. On it I see my own number… right, that’s odd. Let’s ring 1471 to see who called. The BT robot dutifully says

Telephone number 01xxx xxxxxx called today at 8 am. To return the call using BT, press 3

The number she reads out is my own phone number. The number of the phone I have in my hand. Somehow my own phone number has managed to ring itself.

I hang up in confusion and then decide to ring it, just to check I’m not in some strange universe. When I pick up the line again I hear the modified ringtone that says I have a waiting voicemail, so instead I go to check that. It turns out to be a voice text, which is what happens when people SMS landline phones. I press the required button to listen to it.

I stand there slightly confused as the slightly robotic BT voicemail lady appears to be coming onto me. She then finishes her slightly dodgy message by reading out the number of the person sending the text…

To save my sister the embarrassment, I won’t write the text message here but I now know she was drunk this morning at half four and couldn’t wait to get home to see her boyfriend. I also know that in her phone I must be listed just above her boyfriend in the phone book.

She’ll work this out when she wakes up and reads her Facebook updates 😉

For those that’ve never received an SMS to their landline, it gets read out by the same BT robot that does the 1471 stuff, it then reads out the digits of the sending phone’s number rather than a name or anything.

I have a new mobile number

So if you think you need it, contact me. I’m on O2 now after taking my phone to a dodgy bloke in the market and handing over my phone and ten quid. I then had to endure the lengthy and boring welcome messages from O2 and receive the intense session of SMS spam they send out to configure the phone.

Unlocked phones are great, so is not being on a contract. I could have kept my old number but the thought of sitting on hold to Orange customer service was too much to bear.

Phone Spam

I had some phone spam yesterday from some American company doing an opinion poll.

Once I worked out it responded to buttons on my phone I spent a gleeful five minutes prodding random buttons. Then, tiring of this I hung up… but the other end didn’t… for ten minutes until an operator came on to take my details so they could send me my winnning prize.

So I hung up on him instead, which seemed to clear the line.

Next time I may respond with “Autorisation code please… what? how did you get this number. Forget you ever called and never call back, this is an unlisted number” 🙂