back to article Telco sets honey pot for nuisance marketers

A small telco has decided to turn the tables on irritating unsolicited calls by setting up a block of dummy phone numbers that play messages to trick marketers into lenghty and pointless sales pitches. The wheeze is the work of Andrews and Arnold (AAISP), a small business provider, and was prompted by a deluge of unsolicited …

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How about ...

... getting the telemarketers to talk to each other?

With 4 million lines, the chances are there'll be more than one illegal caller in the system at any given time. Instead of playing recorded messages to each one individually, it should be possible to connect 2 of them together. That way each will be talking to a real person and eliciting "normal" responses from them,.

You never know, if they're any good, they might end up selling each other some unwanted stuff.

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Connecting them to themselves...

I did something similar a while back - kept getting pestered by a company called (Ironically) "The Listening Company". Anyway, I detected their number coming in on my home BT line and bridged the call back out to their own 0800 number via VoIP... Haven't heard from them since...

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What a brilliant idea!

Lets hope they guy who set it up is reading these comments!

I love the idea of two marketeers talking to each other, not really listening to the answers and trying to sell!

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Anonymous Coward

I wanted to do this

With a clever answerphone message, no need to declare that its a recording or anything - what's the point, they're outside the law with regard to the TPS. We could have a competition as to who can get the highest call time.

" Hello? .. yes, OK, what are you selling? ... sounds great, what do i have to do? Oh, hang on, there's someone at the door ...

(interlude clearly audible to anyone with a headset, man delivering new luxury motor or something) .

....Right, back with you now, gosh, you'll never guess what's turned up, have you heard of the Toyota Prius? - insert worthy anecdote here - , so, sorry, what were you selling again? ...

repeat and develop as necessary.

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Funniest thing I've heard for quite a while

4,000,000 lines and apparently some of the tele-marketers are calling up and trying their own version of a DDOS by putting them on hold to tie up their lines. I think the Rev has it right, Morons.

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Is that all

I've had them on the line for over half an hour, even went through to a supervisor as the guy was so desperate to make a sale.

If I'm not doing anything when they call I always keep them on the line as long as possible as their whole business model revolves around talking to as many people as possible. If we all held them up pretending to want what they're selling, they'd soon go out of business.

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"Can You Please Tell Me...

...the model number on your copier? It's right on the front."

"hold on ill go look, it's on the third floor....

tick

tick

KLIK (waterning farmville crops>)

...FIVE!"

etc.

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I managed something similar

I was at home when got a call from someone selling conservatories. Kept him going for about 15 - 20 minutes, asking about options, double glazing, heaters, etc. I think I spoiled it for him when I said "I know that building techniques have advanced, but just one little thing - exactly how are you going to attach a conservatory to my third floor flat?"

I nearly had a little toilet accident at his reply :)

Anonymous coz I don't want retribution

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Happy

Ha - you're A. B. aren't you?

Haaaaaaaa!

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Is that all?

"I've had them on the line for over half an hour, even went through to a supervisor as the guy was so desperate to make a sale."

Well done!

However, this was purely a recorded message, no smarts AT ALL. 3.5 minutes is quite good.

Considering they had a human marketer on the phone for more than three minutes with an answering machine, that MUST say something..

But yes, we used to take the micky out of them too. My boss (yes!) used to put the phone on hands free, and motion us into his office. We'd stand around trying to stifle the laughs while he managed to get the marketer to insult HIM.

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Happy

@ AC ("Third floor flat")

Brilliant! I think I will file that for future reference. After all, it's a cold call on a phone number, how are they to know any different?

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utter genius

What a superb idea! I'd love to make a (modest) donation to this project.

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What I was going to do with my old ISDN phone system

... was program a dungeon game into it.

"You are in a twisty cave of passages. Press 1 to go north, press 2 to go east, press 3 to go west, press # to kill the grue."

The idea was that any sales calls for me could get transferred into the dungeon. If they work their way out, it dials to my extension and I'd talk to them.

Sadly I never got time to get more than the first room done, so it was never used! Don't use phone systems any more (anyone want an old ISDN phone exchange?)

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Genius

in the evil sense...... surely a modern system could do this even easier for you.

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spooky

I actually made a small dungeon once on an old Envox CTI system some years ago, was actually quite funny :o)

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@Pete 2

Utterly, utterly brilliant :-)

Nothing beats a bit of live telemarketer on telemarketer action

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Whats the point?

I am not totally sure why telemarketers bother calling TPS registered numbers. They are phoning someone who has already said they don't want to be cold called, what possible chance do they have of making a sale?

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autodialling

Says in the article. They anticipate that most of the calls will made with illegal autodialling rather than anyone being such a dickhead that they ring someone who basically has already said "f*** off.

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And the staff sound very foreign

This is getting to be a nuisance, and it's hard to identify just who is making the call.

I can't afford to mess around with these people. And "f*** off!" doesn't work. I think they have more nthan one list they're working through.

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Happy

I'd pay for this service

Especially if the charged me for each minute of telemarketer

time wasted

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Happy

Premium Rate Lines?

Then telemarketing people could fund discount telephone services for AAISP customers, by calling premium rate honeypot lines.

And there I was thinking telemarketing people were a pointless waste of space.

Someone has found a use for them at last, genius.

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Pint

BRAVO!

well done! Beer on me for the telco and Pete2 (for his even more excellent idea).

Only suggested improvement for the telco idea is to remove the admission that the line is a honeypot. Let the bastards figure it out on their own.

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Happy

Honeypot...

... sweet. :)

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Heart

AAISP *rock*

That is all.

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Re: How about ...

From the blog:

"Yeh, one idea if we get enough callers so there are always a few concurrently is drop them all in to one big conference call and stream it live on a web page."

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Utterly superb

</nuff>

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This could do so, so much more

Three and a half minutes? Pah! With a little programming, these lines could potentially waste hours of the telemarketer's time! Start with "hello" and wait for the marketer to go into his monologue, and keep listening until the line goes silent. When it does, play a message like "Huh, that's interesting - can you tell me more?" At this point, you go into a loop, playing messages that ask for more information, details, pricing, etc; keep them suitably vague so they work for the largest number of callers. Meanwhile, in the background of the call, play some background noises - pots and pans banging, typing, baby crying, etc. Every two or three "keep them talking" questions, interrupt them speaking and play a recording that asks the caller to "Hold on, I have to (check my stove, feed the baby, answer a call on another line, etc.), could you hang on, won't be but a minute!", and then just wait for two or three minutes - and of course, ask them to repeat themselves when you "return". Every time it plays the "interrupted" message, double the time; eventually you'll have them on the line for quite a while.

Given a few recordings, I'm sure you could tweak it to last the longest amount of time. I'm all for it!

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Grenade

Even better

How about some voice recognition software to pick out some keywords and feed those into an ELIZA routine?

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Pint

won't make a bot of difference.

Why?

Because most of them are calling from outside the UK using VOIP.

You know this when you get a heavy Indian Voice saying this is Max and I want to talk about....

The current one is Government Grants for loft insulation. I just gently put the phone down and walk off.

Sometimes, these poor numbskulls are still at it after 5 minutes.

Now if the TPS could stop these international callers, then that would be time for a pint of T.E.A.

(just got mine from the brewery and is cooling nicely in the cellar)

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Pint

Put the phone down…

I did that once after some teletwit fast-talked Mrs. Fetched into a 10-year supply of septic tank treatment. He called to confirm the order while I was eating breakfast one morning, I told him to cancel it. Right away, he started arguing with me, quickly building to a full-throated rant. I simply laid the phone on the table and went back to my breakfast. He continued to rant to an unattended phone (I could hear the squawking) for nearly 20 minutes, with me snickering on occasion, until Mrs. Fetched got mad and hung up.

Beer, because you need it after dealing with a telemarketroid.

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Happy

4 million lines...

I very much doubt they have 4 million lines / numbers available to them, more likely they are making a point, quite a valid one at that.

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4 million lines

they're VoiP lines. Easier to get millions of than "real" land lines, but still a massive block of numbers to trap illegal telemarketeers with.

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'point'

or they could just have got a lot of free publicity.......

Kudos anyway.

If we could make baiting telemarketeers into a national passtime, it might stop the bastards wasting so much of OUR time.

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Maybe, maybe not.

If they have their own "area code" then they may have 9999999 numbers to allocate -- so it's not infeasible.

Does anyone know whether they do?

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Absolute Class

Kudos to the guy for doing this. Hopefully he can forward on his file of criminal callers to the TPS and the authorities to do some, ahem, follow up on.

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title

TPS don't do anything - there used to be a form you could fill in that would elicit a response, but it was reorganised so that it all goes into a 'monthly report' (aka. the bin) now. Spammers know this, hence the thousands of calls AAISP get.

They're opening the calls with a recorded message anyway which is already not allowed.

I'm all for naming and shaming the companies they represent. Complete with recordings of their most clueless 'employees' (since you'll never find out who the call centres actually are).

btw.The spammers are paying someone.. it's not free to make phone calls, and whether you start with VOIP for the international leg or not it's got to enter the UK phone system at some point - if it was VOIP end to end AAISP could just blacklist the netblock and be done with it.

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it's not about phonecall costs

It's about burning the telemarketer's time.

The more time they're talking to the bot, the more time they're not making a real sale, hence less revenue, less commission, less income.

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Happy

To clarify

As a telco we have 4 million numbers due to go live to sell to customers (full UK geographic roll out). We plan to set the unallocated numbers when called from withheld numbers to go to the honey pot to see how many junk calls we trap. We do advise it is an unallocated number first but junt callers don't hear this and stay on the line. We may set up a web site so that people can make one sided conversations to try, and have a league table for who can keep them on the line the longest, etc. The numbers are not (yet) TPS registered, though our office ones are. Calling with a recorded message is illegal whether TPS registered or not unless they have prior consent.

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Big props

Lovin' your style, RevK

Can you divert them to one of my 0845 numbers? LOL

Hangon, I'll just grab an 09xx 1.50/min line....! (I wish)

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Happy

@Kevin Christoforou: not 4 million lines but 4 million numbers

They're a telco. They have substantial number blocks in many geographical and non-geographical ranges and they're simply putting the unallocated numbers to very good use. Their boss has blogged several times recently (revk.www.me.uk) about his time being wasted by dodgy marketing calls to his own TPS registered numbers and now it's payback time.

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Happy

Can't fault the guy...

...for doing something novel. Bully, I say. And as others have pointed out, there may be ways to expand on the idea.

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VOIP a Firebrick?

Sounds like some of the ideas he put into his firewall box years ago to potentially keep hackers online, but slowly, rather than just dropping them. :-)

Pity BT wouldn't fund their Ad campaign using the "sod.ms" domain.

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What a *brilliant* test environment

For both real time speech generation and real time connected speech recognition.

The challenge. The *most* convincing simulation of a caller with most authentic "voice" (neither robotic nor pre-sampled speech) and plausible questions and answers.

Let the games commence.

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Joke

neither robotic nor pre-sampled speech

Do you get bonus points for the Indian accent?

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The great fresh smell of

A Festival/Cepstral project in the making :o)

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Lovely

Well done!

My own non-technological approach is to spend about one minute providing promising feedback and asking a simple question or two, then saying, "Sounds like a good deal. Hold on while I get my credit card." Then I just put the phone down and go on about my business for a while before hanging up.

Remarkable how few sales calls I get any more.

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More I have tried:

* I'm not the homeowner, I'm burgling the house and I only answered the phone to stop it ringing.

* The person they were asking for is dead. I am only around the house sorting through their personal effects.

* Play them a snatch of that Kevin Bloody Wilson song. (You know which one.)

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Heart

This is even better...

...than my old idea of taking spam faxes, filling them out with contact info from other spam faxers, and sending them in. That was fun though...

Fight the good fight!!

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Go

Another fax technique...

...I heard about was to take a spam fax, make 3-4 copies, stitch them together in a loop through the fax machine feed tray and let 'er rip back to the spammer.

It wouldn't be long before they were calling you to say "err, is there something wrong with your fax machine?" To which came the sweet rejoiner "No - it's working perfectly! We just thought you would like to see how much of our paper you have wasted."

It was especially effective in the old days of thermal paper on rolls, because the result was a loooooong stretch of fax paper which wasn't any good for recycling. These days cut sheet fax machines are just glorified photocopiers and the effect is not so dramatic.

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Go

For an extra twist of the knife.....

...make sure the pages are all coloured solid black.

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