It is estimated by telephone officials that over a million people each year receive telephone calls that could be categorized as being annoying, malicious, harassing, crank, obscene or nuisance calls. Whichever title or heading they are referred to, these are telephone calls which serve no legitimate purpose and represent an unwarranted invasion of privacy.
Annoyance or malicious telephone calls can become a chronic problem for some people, particularly women. They may include random calls by pranksters, calls at late-night hours (at student residence facilities), frequent pointless calls or those where the caller says nothing, obscene calls, calls from former romantic interests, or calls where a threat is made. These calls are intended to upset the person who receives them, either for revenge or to gratify the caller’s personal urges. These calls can often be prevented or avoided by persons learning and using some simple techniques to decrease their potential for victimization.
- Hang Up. If the caller doesn’t speak, is obscene, asks inappropriate questions or you simply don’t feel comfortable talking to them, hang up the telephone. When doing so, don’t slam the receiver down. This will only let the caller know you are upset and may encourage them.
- Don’t Talk To Strangers. If the caller asks “who is this?” or “what number have I reached?” don’t give an answer. Instead ask, “who do you want?” or “What number were you calling?” Don’t give out any information to anyone you don’t positively recognize or who fails to give satisfactory identification or affiliation., If the caller asks for your roommate or another member of your family, simply say you’ll be glad to take a message and have the call returned as promptly as possible. Under no circumstances should you give the names of others living with you to someone who doesn’t already know them.
If you have children, instruct them not to talk to strangers on the telephone. Burglars or other criminals will sometimes attempt to obtain useful information from unsuspecting children. Teach children to ask for the caller’s name and number so someone can return the call later.
- Keep Cool. Don’t let the caller know you are angry or upset. This is the reaction they want and will often encourage them.
- Don’t Play Detective. Don’t extend the call attempting to figure out who is calling. This may be the reaction the caller wants or needs.
- Don’t Try To Be Clever. A witty response may be interpreted as a sign of encouragement.
- Don’t Try To Be A Counselor. The annoying or malicious caller probably needs professional help, but he/she may only be encouraged by your concern and will continue calling.
- Be Careful Who You Tell About The Calls. Many calls of this type are actually made by friends, family members or someone else you know. If they find out you are upset or concerned, the calls may continue.
- Place Ads With Caution. When placing an ad in a newspaper or on a bulletin board, use a newspaper or post office box number, if possible. If you must use your telephone number, do not list your address. Crank callers are often avid readers of classified ads.
- Report Annoying Or Malicious Telephone Calls. A recommended form for making a record of what time calls were received, what was said, what the voice was like, etc., is at the end of this chapter. Persons who receive annoying or malicious calls should use this form and contact their local police department. If the telephone calls are threatening, the appropriate law enforcement agency should be contacted immediately.
What Can Be Done to End the Calls?
Unfortunately, different telephone companies in different parts of the country have varying policies about what can be done to end annoying or malicious phone calls. Usually, if there is a continuing series of calls (ideally documented), if the calls are of an obscene or threatening nature, or if there is reason to believe the caller intends to inflict bodily harm or property damage, it may be possible to install a device on the phone line to identify where the calls originate from.
Another alternative is to change the telephone number and have the new number unlisted, if desired. A change in telephone number due to malicious calls is often without charge to the customer.
A technique that has been known to be successful in discouraging an unwanted caller is to blow a police whistle into the telephone.
Some telephone systems now have caller ID systems that automatically identify where an in-coming telephone call is originating from. This may be an effective way to deal with the problem.
Messages Left on Answering Machines
If an annoying or malicious message is left on an answering machine, do not erase the tape or delete the message. It may be useful to the possible criminal investigation of the incident.