How to Beat a Telemarketer: 8 Surefire Ways to Keep Them from Calling You Back

8 Surefire Ways to Keep Them from Calling You Back

Telemarketers can be as terrifying as a villain from a horror film. Your phone rings with an unknown 800 number, and you immediately fill with a sense of dread. There's no way to get them to stop calling; you imagine the number appearing on your phone at all hours of the day and night, haunting you.

Even worse, if you accidentally answer one of those calls, you'll be stuck in an endless conversation that even the fiercest "no" can't save you from.

But dealing with cold calls doesn't have to be a nightmare. If you know how to handle them, telemarketers will disappear in just a minute or two—and never come back to haunt you.

Why Are Telemarketers So Relentless?

I know quite a bit about telemarketing—I used to be one of those annoying, dinner-interrupting callers who wouldn't stop making your phone ring off the hook.

As a former fundraising caller for my alma mater, I spent my evenings as a student sitting in a call room wearing a silly headset and dialing alumni across the country. It my was job to wheedle them into donating money to the university, and it wasn't an easy task.

Image via Shutterstock

However, thanks to the four years I spent calling strangers and begging them to fork over hundreds of dollars, I learned a lot of the tricks telemarketers use to keep people on the phone and convince them to pull out their credit card. Take my experience and work it into your interactions with telemarketers and, chances are, they'll let you off the line faster.

1. The "Do Not Call" List Doesn't Apply to All Telemarketers

What happens when you add your phone number to that handy Do Not Call list? In theory, all telemarketing calls are supposed to stop. Yet in some cases, absolutely nothing changes and telemarketers will still call.

No matter how often you tell the people on the other end of the line that they aren't allowed to call you, they are going to keep calling.

When I solicited donations, people threw around the Do Not Call list, often calling me a criminal for interrupting their dinner. Unfortunately, the organizations blowing up your phone most likely fall into one of the biggest loopholes of the Do Not Call list: all nonprofit organizations are exempt. This means groups like political campaigns and national fundraising organizations are allowed to contact you, regardless of any list.

Exempt organizations that meet the FTC's requirements do not have to check the DNC registry. Image by National DNC Registry/FTC

If you truly want the phone calls to stop, forget about that big government list. What you need to do is get onto the individual organization's internal "do not call" list.

To accomplish this, you'll need to answer their calls. Tell the next person who calls these magic words: "Remove me from your call list." Unless a contact says that phrase, organizations will kept calling. As soon as you're removed from their internal call list, though, you'll be taken out of the computer system.

2. Don't Hang Up That Phone

Admit it: you've hung up on a telemarketer or two. I'm willing to bet you enjoyed it, too. Yet each time you hang up on one, you're increasing the number of times they'll call you.

Don't hang up just yet... it might just mean more calls later. Image via Shutterstock

When you hang up, you get marked in the computer system as a "no answer." As a result, you'll get called back repeatedly—until, of course, you actually speak to the human on the other end.

If you accidentally pick up a telemarketer's call and are about to hang up mid-spiel, don't. This causes the interaction to be noted as a disconnect, or even "not home." And, to be honest, we hate getting hung up on, so we take a little pleasure in knowing that someone will call you 900 more times. Consider it telemarketers' revenge for being rude.

No one is safe from clever telemarketers. No one. Image via Reddit

If the person on the other end of the phone isn't actually a person, but an automated spam bot, it's better to forget this advice. Hang up immediately, or you'll be stuck on the phone listening to the robot's prerecorded message.

As Lois Greisman, director of the Federal Trade Commission, advised in an interview with ABC News, legitimate marketers don't use spam bots: "Our advice is straightforward. Hang up. There are virtually no legitimate marketers trying to reach you to sell you something using a prerecorded call."

3. There's Never a "Better Time"

Ever notice that cold-callers never begin a conversation with the phrase "Is this a good time?" There's a reason: if you give people options, they'll always choose to avoid talking, especially when it comes to frustrating telemarketers.

Mimic this method when answering their calls. When they ask if they can call back, they mean it. They're trained to trick you into sharing your schedule with them. If you sound busy, or like you're somewhere with weak reception, the caller will ask if they can call you at a better time.

Saying something like "Yeah, actually, call me back later," gives telemarketers like these ones the green light to call you repeatedly. Image via Shutterstock

Never give a telemarketer the okay to call you back at another time. While it might seem like a quick, easy way to get them off the phone, you're setting yourself up for harassment in the future.

If you tell the caller that you're free on Tuesday afternoon, expect to get a call—you just let them know that on Tuesday, the chances of you answering your phone are great. It's better to suffer through their pitch immediately than postpone and risk receiving call after call.

4. Speak Another Language

Speak a language other than English? If you've ever considered feigning a language barrier while listening to a telemarketer blab on, you're not alone. It might sound like a genius tactic, but chattering away in Russian won't stop the phone calls for long. It's only a short-term solution.

"Govorite po russki (Do you speak Russian?)" - They will the next time they call. Image via Shutterstock

You'll be noted as having a "language barrier," and someone who can speak your language will give you a call later. Not all calling groups have multilingual staff, but switching up your languages most commonly ensures you'll get at least one more call back. You'll have better luck with this approach if the organization calling is a small one.

5. Go Ahead, Be Rude

Contrary to what your mom might've taught you, being rude can actually get things accomplished. In the case of constant cold calls, rudeness can end the call quickly and solve the problem for good.

Well, being this rude might be overdoing it. Image via Shutterstock

Telemarketers are trained to keep you on the phone. The more you chat with your caller, the better their chances of selling you on their pitch.

Universities rope alumni into donating by encouraging callers to reminisce with potential donors about their great college experience; political fundraisers try to snag your wallet by appealing to your beliefs and party lines. The more you share with a telemarketer, the more ammo they have to convince you of their cause.

So, the next time you get an unwanted sales call, keep your answers short, and feel free to tell your telemarketer that you're not interested immediately—and be firm in your "no." Don't be afraid to cut the caller off mid-sentence. The more curt your replies, the less time the telemarketer wants to spend talking to you.

Image via Shutterstock

There's another aspect to keep in mind, though. If you share a lot of information about yourself, your caller might take notes in their dialing system's software. Those notes will get passed along to the next person who calls you, and they can use your previous conversation against you.

For example, if you share that you just paid rent and can't offer a donation, your next call will come at a different time of the month to ensure you have more money in your pocket.

6. But Don't Bother Trying Any Crazy Tricks

We all respond to cold calls in a different way. While working as a caller, I experienced just about everything: people screaming unintelligibly into the phone; others who speak a fake language; and even more ridiculous responses like pretending to order takeout. Feigning crazy or screeching into the phone when a telemarketer calls, however, isn't going to do any good.

Image via My Secretive Blog

Unless you speak normally and in a understandable manner, your number will get recycled back into the system as a "no contact", meaning the telemarketer wasn't able to speak with you. The more annoying you are when you answer the phone, the greater the chances you'll receive twice as many calls.

7. Say "No" Three Times

The number three holds a lot of weight for those who cold-call for a living. Three is the number of times we're required to pitch you—and three is probably the number of times you want to punch us, too.

Image via Shutterstock

Telemarketers will ask three times, even if you scream and threaten them (and yes, people do that), and you can be certain they'll ask three times if their supervisor is anywhere nearby. No matter what group is calling you, or what they're trying to sell, they are guaranteed to ask you to get on board with their pitch three times.

Why three? It's kind of related to stamina. Our willpower is tested each time someone asks us the same question repeatedly. So, each time a telemarketer asks you if you'd like to contribute to the governor's election campaign, you're a little less likely to say no.

Essentially, the caller is trying to wear you down. They ask the question in a slightly different way each time they pitch you, and will often throw in appeals to emotion. Each time they ask, you quickly reconsider and weigh whether or not you're really interested in what they're selling or offering.

This guy is about to say "yes"... but not because he wants to. Image via Shutterstock

Know their tricks before the conversation begins. Be upfront with the caller, and let them know you're not interested immediately. They'll cut out the rapport-building portion of their spiel and jump right into the ask. You'll save time, and, as soon as you say no three times, the call will end—and you won't get a call back.

8. If All Else Fails, Let Your Voicemail Handle Them

When you've tried every possible tactic and are about to throw your phone against a brick wall, it's time to let your voicemail take over.

Image via Kevin Burke

The less you answer your phone, the less an organization will call. There's nothing more annoying as a cold caller than seeing an account with five or more attempts, all of which are marked "voicemail" or "no answer." We know you're pretty much a lost cause, and that the chances of you picking up are nonexistent. So after a certain point, we just give up.

To skip the voicemail message altogether, you can also just block the phone number (though, they might use another one next time) directly on your smartphone. Most Android phones offer a way to do this using a reject list, and even iPhones have it built-in (since iOS 7). If you don't have that option, you can block the number with your carrier.

Adding a number to the built-in "Reject List" on a Samsung Galaxy model device. Image by Osas/WonderHowTo

Dedication pays off eventually. For example, my university stopped calling "no answer" individuals after 10 attempts. Each organization has its own magic number, so it may take months for the calls to stop—they will, at the very least, become few and far between.

Enjoy the (Almost) Telemarketer-Free Life

With these tips, you're ready to break free from those frustrating phone calls and telemarketers who won't take "no" as a sign that it's time to hang up. Those automated spam text messages, however, are a different story.

Just updated your iPhone? You'll find new features for Podcasts, News, Books, and TV, as well as important security improvements and fresh wallpapers. Find out what's new and changed on your iPhone with the iOS 17.5 update.

Cover image via Shutterstock


Deafness helps

None of this helps. This has got to be one of the worst help lists Ive ever seen

Share Your Thoughts

  • Hot
  • Latest