Anyone who has a phone (nearly everyone, these days!) will have, at some point or another, received numerous unwanted phone calls - whether from pesky telemarketers, pranksters, or obscene callers. While there is a way to combat unwanted calls from telemarketers by registering with Do Not Call lists, how do you stop nuisance, obscene and harassing phone calls? Some effective methods to report, track, and put an end to these are discussed below.
Reporting unwanted calls. Immediately report the matter to your phone company. In some cases, they would prefer that you also file a report with the local police authorities, especially if the calls are obscene or threatening in any manner. Often, phone companies may not want to take any action if you've received just one call; therefore, it makes sense to keep track of the dates and times of such calls, and record them, if possible.
Setting up traps or call traces. There are two methods by which your phone company can help you identify unwanted or harassing callers. A "trap" can be set on your telephone line, for a period of not more than a fortnight, to trace the origin of your unwanted calls. You will be required to maintain a detailed log listing the dates and times of each individual call.
A "call trace," on the other hand, is an easier method than placing traps, since you don't need to keep any logs. Instead, all you have to do is is to dial *57 on your phone immediately after receiving an unwanted call. Those who have rotary dials can use 1157 to trace the call. The downside of call trace is that it works only within the local phone network area, so if the caller is from an external jurisdiction, you will not be able to trace its origin. Also, unlike a trap, this is not a free service and must be set up in advance.
Any information that is collected by the phone company from either a trap or call trace is not given to you, but forwarded to local law enforcement, who will then follow up and take the necessary action. These methods are also useless if the caller uses various phone booths or many phone lines to avoid detection.
Dealing with the problem yourself. You might be tempted to get angry and start shouting at the caller. Instead, simply disconnect each time you receive such a call; do not encourage the caller by talking to him or her.
Using an answering machine or voice mail service. Using an answering machine or voice mail service are a couple of good ideas to screen your calls. If you are getting too many of these calls, do not answer the phone each time it rings. Allow the machine or voice mail to pick up and record the content for further investigation by the phone company or local police. If you think you will want to go to the police, it also helps to keep a written log of the date and time each call came in. Keep this in a safe place along with your answering machine tapes or voice mail recordings, and take everything with you when you go to make your complaint.
Get an unlisted number. If the problem is getting to be unbearable and you've been unable to trace and resolve it; get a new number for your use and do not list or publish it. Give the new number only to trusted people such as family and friends.
Other measures. These are basic common sense solutions:
- Do not disclose any personal information, including telephone numbers, to people you do not know.
- Women usually are the target of obscene or harassing phone calls, so do not list your full name in the phone directory. Use only the first letter of your given name as an initial along with your surname.
- When someone calls and asks to confirm the number they've dialed, don't rattle away your number; instead, ask the caller who or what number they are looking for.
- Take the time to block unwanted calls to your cell phone as well as your land line.
- If you have children at home instruct them not to give out any information if they happen to pick up the phone. Tell them to collect details such as the name of the caller and their telephone number along with the time and date of the calls.
- Don't include telephone numbers in any of your answering machine or voice mail messages.
Unwanted phone calls can be a major nuisance and in extreme cases, cause lots of stress and create a feeling of insecurity. It may take a little bit of time, but by following the steps listed above you can get rid of this annoying problem.