How I Beat the Telemarketers

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This page last updated on 01/26/2019.

Copyright 2001-2019 by Russ Meyer

If you've bothered to click on this page, you likely understand the frustration of that blasted, cursed breed...Telemarketer Scum!

One day the whole family piled into the van for a day-trip out somewhere.  When we got back, there were 12 messages on the answering machine.  Playing them back, we discovered two were from friends and the other ten were telemarketers!  This pretty well summed up our daily phone experience.  The Telemarketer Scum had turned a wonderful invention like the telephone into a bane.  We frequently did not answer our phone at all because it was usually THEM.  It had gotten to the point where I would just cringe when the phone rang.

After enduring years of torture at their hands, something changed inside of me; frustration dissolved into grim determination.  A singular thought obsessed my brain; propelled by a hot coal of growing rage.  I had to beat them...I HAD to beat this Telemarketer Scum!  I began hatching a multi-layered defensive plan.

The first thing to do was change our phone number.  That would throw them off for a few weeks, but they would eventually rediscover our new number in the phone directory.  No, no...the phone number had to be unlisted so they couldn't find it.  We would only give the number out to family and close friends.  That would work most of the time, but we would also need to occasionally give it to commercial entities like the doctor's office, and who knows what unscrupulous things would happen to it after that!  Businesses buy and sell phone lists all the time.

We really needed two phone numbers, one for friends and family, and one for commercial entities.  I decided to get a second phone number assigned to my phone line.  If someone dialed the primary number the phone would ring normally.  If someone dialed the secondary number, the phone would give two short rings.  When we dialed out, our primary phone number would be presented to anyone with a Caller ID box.  That posed a problem, because businesses often obtain your phone number off their Caller ID boxes and add you to their phone lists.  I decided to let our primary number be the "public" number and our secondary number be our "private" number.  No one would ever see the private number on their Caller ID box.  The secondary number had to be unlisted too.

When someone called us using the primary number, I wanted to route them immediately to an answering machine.  Someone calling on the primary number probably wouldn't be someone we would want to talk to anyway.  I needed another answering machine for the secondary number.  To make all this work, I needed something that could recognize what type of ring the phone was long ring (public number) or two short rings (private number)...and direct the call to the appropriate answering machine.  I found a Distinctive Ring Decoder on the internet that would do just that.  Cool!

One last thing remained.  Sometimes Telemarketer Scum will just randomly dial numbers fishing for an answer.  They use automated dialers to do this.  Since they are dialing randomly, they don't know whether the number is valid or not.  If they find a number that's invalid, they delete it from their phone number database.  I needed some way to fool their autodialing equipment into thinking my phone number was invalid if they happened to stumble upon it.  When their autodialers place a call, they listen for a three-tone signal called a Special Information Tone (SIT).  The phone company plays this tone to tell equipment on the other end of the line that the number is invalid.  Adding a SIT to the beginning of the answering machine greetings should throw the autodialers off the scent.

I've been using this set-up for some time now, and it works great.  No more Telemarketer Scum interrupting dinner, leaving loads of useless messages on our answering machines, etc.  It's probably an expensive way to combat them, but it works.

Here's the stuff I had to buy:

  1. Change primary phone number:  $40 one time Verizon charge
  2. Get secondary phone number:  $6/mo from Verizon
  3. Make primary and secondary numbers unlisted:  $1.65/mo from Verizon
  4. DR4X-01 Distinctive Ring Decoder:  $134.95 from Telesoft
  5. El Cheapo GE answering machine:  $8 from Best Buy after $7 rebate

Other stuff I needed:

  1. SIT tone

The answering machine connected to the public line is set up to answer after 3 rings; the one connected to the private line answers after 7 rings.  Here's how it was all hooked together:

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • Since completing my installation, I've discovered alternatives to the DR4X-01 Ring Decoder.  These are cheaper and would probably work just as well:
    1. RD2 Distinctive Ring Line Sharing Device........usually about $20
    2. SR2 Selective Ring Call Processor.................usually about $110
    3. ComSwitch 5500 or 7500...........................$120 and $140 respectively
  • Phone companies have different names for the Distinctive Ring service.  Verizon calls it "Distinctive Ring - 1 Number."  Southwestern Bell calls it "Personalized Ring."  I've seen it listed by other companies as "Teen Service."
  • Verizon offers two different types of "private" phone numbers...they call them "Unlisted" and "Unpublished."  Both of these are priced the same.  Apparently "Unlisted" means your phone number is simply not listed in their telephone book.  They still provide your number to anyone who dials 411 and asks for it.  It also appears that they publish your "Unlisted" number on the customer lists they sell to other businesses.  So, an "Unlisted" number only prevents someone from getting your number from the phone book.  By contrast, an "Unpublished" number is not listed anywhere...not in the phone book, not in the 411 database, and not on any list sold to other businesses.  It is truly a stealth phone number.  Both of my phone numbers are of the "Unpublished" variety.  Verizon only charges a fee for this service on the primary number.  The service is automatically extended to the secondary number at no charge.  Cool!