The forward march of progress, AI to trick your telemarketer

Hanging up on annoying telemarketers is the easiest way to deal with them, but that just sends their autodialers onto the next unfortunate victim. Roger Anderson decided that telemarketers deserved a crueler fate, so he programmed an artificially intelligent bot that keeps them on the line for as long as possible.

Anderson, who works in the telecom industry and has a better understanding of how telemarketing call-in techniques work than most, first created a call-answering robot that tricked autodialers into thinking there was an actual person answering the phone. So instead of the machine automatically hanging up after ten seconds, a simple pre-recorded “hello?, hello?” message would have the call sent to a telemarketer who would waste a few precious moments until they realized there really wasn’t anyone there.

But Anderson then wondered just how long his robot could keep a telemarketer on the line for. It turns out, for surprisingly long.

…Here’s the best part: anyone can connect telemarketers calling and harassing them to Anderson’s auto-responding robot using the simple instructions he’s posted to his site

There is more here, via HarpersNotes.


"What is truth?" Of course, those words, spoken to Jesus by Pontius Pilate, are the most universal and prophetic. The human capacity for deception has no bounds. Nor does the human capacity for falling prey to deception. It's as if humans are programmed to deceive and be deceived. This being the presidential political season, it's on full display. Most impressive is Sen. Cruz. Even though he cannot resist that smirk when he says those ridiculous things he says to voters, things he no more believes in than he believes in the tooth fairy, voters fall prey to the deception. If our most respected citizens can profit from deception, why shouldn't some poor telemarketer.

You choose Cruz as an example of this? He's probably 5th guilty of those running today.

Right, anyone who supports an ethanol subsidy will burn in a special ethanol-fueled section of hell no mater what they say, the truth of their statements, or who believes them.

A Psychopath?

A bot called "It's Lenny" has been doing the same thing for at least three years.

We should somehow contrive to get Lenny and Jolly Roger on the phone together.

I have a bee on me.

Oh yeah, I have a bear on me.

Oh yeah, I have TWO bears on me.

Oh yeah, I have a robot on me...

(I can imagine it now.)

How about you record the following message and tell all your friends that you are doing it:

Hello you have reach the John Smith tech support center. Your call is important to us. The current wait time is 20 minutes, please hold. You call will be taken in the order that it was received.

That's only defensive. The bot attacks telemarketers by making lose their time. At the end of the shift is the telemarketer spent time talking to boys, the performance (sales) statistics will signal incompetence.

Ive always had success with the do not call list. AT&T is the only firm that ever made its one mistake in the first 30 days.

For a while i was mailing empty Business Reply Mail envelopes back to the junk mailer. I wish everyone would do this. Merely ending the USPS would stop most junk mail.

I was just considering exactly this. Most won't leave messages but I won't answer an unknown caller who doesn't but if they did leave one I could more easily block them.

My strategy with cold callers is that I answer the phone, and if there's any sort of dead air or delay I simply hang up. Any call important enough to waste my time is important enough that the person on the other end can dial the damned phone personally.

It's still annoying, but at least they can't force me to have to interrupt some pitch and be rude to get rid of them.

My strategy if there's a delay is I wait for a human to come on the line, then I press and hold down the # button. If you get me out of my chair to answer the phone, I'm willing to spend a few more seconds blasting that at you. The satisfaction is worth it.

When I was a teenager and built my own dialup modem, I discovered you can blast a pretty strong signal down the line -- so strong I limited it to something I didn't think would cause a problem for the phone company. I've since wondered just how loud a signal the phone system can take. If someone offered a device much more powerful than the # button, I might be interested in buying one of those. Ideally, it would incorporate tones at frequencies that would be optimally annoying, probably with a sort of warble to enhance the effect.

WOW. That's devotion!

Comedian Tom Mabe's approach, trick the caller into believing he called a murder victim and start interrogating him.

I'm pretty sure that, as a rule, murder victims never answer the phone

"Hello, this is Homer Simpson, a.k.a. Happy Dude. The court has ordered
me to call every person in town to apologize for my telemarketing scam.
I'm sorry. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, send one
dollar to Sorry Dude, 742 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield. You have the

Telemarketers? "Please wait while I get my credit card" keeps most on the line, often for a surprisingly long time.

Also, while his instructions are useful, you can use system signaling seven commands to automatically forward calls to the robot as you would voice mail, then just continue your regular practice of not answering calls from anyone not known to you personally.

You can google the codes for your preferred carrier.

You could probably write an app that had a button on the phone to automatically do this.

You might hate telemarketers, but that's one of the low end jobs that employs a fair number of low skill people. And when you make them stay on the line for no good reason, you just sent them closer to the poverty line. like most salespeople, they get paid on commission. much better to just hang up on them, so they can make the next call.

No! We would all be better off if resources currently devoted to Telemarketing (and to evading telemarketing) were allocated instead to other, more efficient uses ...

No sympathy from me.

1: Many of these robocalling "telemarketers" are fraudsters, and the agents are expected to do things that make it clear that the agents know that they're trying to steal your credentials. They get low yield, but they make it up in volume.

So it's up to us to gum up the works.

2: Don't these people have agency? Would you hold blameless a person who was being paid to walk dogs without regard for whether they were relieving themselves on people's lawns (sans cleanup)? That's what they're doing.


Most of them are selling crap. Just a few examples:

Fake charities. The fake police and veterans ones are probably the worst.
Penny stock guys.
The people promising to lower the interest rate on your credit card debt.
The people selling medical devices that "Medicare will pay for".

They are particularly preying on those with incipient dementia. Better they begged on the street; at least they wouldn't have a job enriching the crooks they work for.

When I worked in telesales the main metric used to gauge my performance was not sales or volume of calls but average call duration ("talk time"). I loved it when people tried to waste my time, they were doing me a favour.

As if robots haven't already taken over the other end of the line!

It seems almost certain that the idea for Jolly Roger came directly from Lenny.

Roger Anderson posted a blog post on July 31, 2014, explaining how he used a whitelist to get rid of all of his telemarketers. You can read it here:

On December 22, 2014, someone named R#G posted a comment and suggested that Roger look into Lenny.

Sometime thereafter, Jolly Roger was born.

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