No More Mister Polite for Me!

No More Mister Polite for Me!

© David Burton 2018



     I’ve always tried to be polite to others. This includes taking telephone calls. But the time has arrived when being polite is counterproductive. My land-line telephone calls are now preponderately robocalls – probably around 90% of all my incoming calls. I've now taken to being an embittered and nasty old man when responding to robocalls!

     Sally calls me quite often to tell me that she represents Mastercard and Visa and that I have been such a great customer by paying my credit card bills on time that she wants to reward me with reduced or zero rate interest on my outstanding balances. Sally tells me to hit the number 3 button on my phone if I am not interested or if I don’t want her recorded call to be repeated. I’ve punched the #3 button - It does no good! She still calls me two, three or more times just about every day. Sally also told me to hit the number 1 button to speak to a live person and save myself a fortune in reduced interest costs on my credit cards. What I often do nowadays is to hit the #1 button and keep the live Idiot who is now talking to me tied up for as long as possible. The conversation goes something like this.

Idiot: “Is this mister so-and-so?”
Me: “Yes.”
Idiot: “Do you have a large balance on your credit cards?”
Me: “Yes.”
Idiot: “About how much?”
Me: “About $10,000.”
Idiot: “Do you know the interest rate you are being charged?”
Me: “I guess around 15%.”
Idiot: “Would you like to get your interest rate down to 10% or lower?”
Me: “Yes.”
Idiot: “Which credit card has the biggest balance?”
Me: “My Mastercard.”
Idiot: “Tell me your credit card number so I can you the lower interest rate.”
Me: “O.K. let me go get my wallet so I can get my Mastercard number for you. Hang on.”

     At that point, my part of the conversation ends. But the Idiot continues.

Idiot: “Hello are there yet?”

     After about 5 or 10 minutes I hang up the telephone. If Sally and Idiot want to waste my time by continuing to call me, then I don’t mind wasting Idiot’s time. Maybe he won’t have time to bother someone else! No more mister polite for me when it comes to these annoying people. In my case, I have the time and the desire to spoof these telemarketers and waste their time. But unfortunately not everyone else does and doing what I just described isn’t an option for many people.


     Back in December of 2016, I complained about telemarketing robocalls (Ref. 1). The problem hasn’t gone away and, here in mid-2018, my experience is that the problem has grown exponentially! Back in 2016, I wrote:

     “I long ago signed up with the government’s Do Not Call Registry (DNC), but doing so did little or nothing to stop the flood of telemarketing robocalls that come to my phone each and every day. The ‘Do Not Call Registry’ established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2003 is not working. The number of complaints about telemarketers have climbed in just about every year since 2003 and, as of 2012, reached a then all-time high of almost 4 million.[2]
     “The FTC has been totally ineffective, either because of incompetency or because they don’t have the legal weapons they need to get the job done. As of 2014, ‘the FTC {had} only taken action against 600 illegal telemarketers since the list’s inception in 2003.’ [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 3)
     “I recently re-listed my phones on the Do Not Call Registry. Did that do any good? Absolutely not - I still get calls from parties that want to reduce my credit card interest rate, sweep my non-existent chimney, clean my rugs, get me a free cruise, get me an alarm in case I fall and can’t call anyone, etc., etc., etc.
     “If you think you’re protected from telemarketers because you are using your cell phone, you’re wrong. And what’s worse is that these unwanted calls use up time on your ‘minutes’ package. You have to pay for overages on these plans.
     “Why doesn’t the Do Not Call Registry prevent robocalling? Even though it may be illegal for robocallers to contact someone who hasn’t given his or her express consent to receive such calls, many robocallers simply ignore the Do Not Call (DNC) list, betting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and/or the FTC won’t come after them - and they are right. Just a handful of robocall operators can cheaply make millions of calls.
     “For example, back in 2012, the FTC offered up to $50,000 to anyone who could help stop the infamous ‘Rachel from cardholder services’ robocalls. At the time, it appeared they didn’t need that much help, as the agency filed complaints against five such operations based in Arizona and Florida. ‘The FTC chairman thundered that, ‘Rachel from Cardholder Services is public enemy number one. . . . We’re cracking down on illegal robocalls by bringing law enforcement actions and pursuing technical solutions to the problem.’ (Ref. 4) In the 'Rachel From Cardholder Services' scam, ‘Rachel’ dangles lower interest rates to get you to reveal your credit-card number. Today, some four years later 2016, I still typically receive several ‘Rachel From Cardholder Services’ calls each week. So much for hoping that he FTC and the federal government would stop these robocalls. We can send man to the moon; we can provide technological wonders like virtual reality; we can have driverless automobiles and drones but we appear powerless to get rid of unwanted telemarketers and robocalls. Isn’t there something seriously wrong here?

     That was back in 2016, What has happened in the nearly two years since I wrote all of that?

     Today my phone doesn’t stop ringing with calls from prerecorded voices. There’s Rachel from card services and someone claiming to be from Microsoft, saying my computer is infected with a virus. Yet another purports to be an Internal Revenue Service rep, threatening that I’ll be arrested if I don’t immediately pay up. Still one more tells me that the local police are coming after me because there are four supposed crimes I have been charged with and I need to call some number immediately to avoid arrest. I even received one call at 1:00 o’clock in the morning telling me I was eligible to receive some medical device. Nothing seems to stop these robocalls.

     “These calls are a blight. The Federal Trade Commission reports consumers lose $350 million annually by falling for these rip-offs. The IRS con alone cost consumers almost $30 million, the Treasury Department reports.” (Ref. 5)


     In 2015, “the FTC received more than 3 million complaints about telemarketers. That’s more than triple the number in 2009. If current trends continue, there will be more than 5 million complaints by the end of 2016. The feds do what they can, but it’s an all but futile battle. They’ve handed out more than $1.2 billion in fines. They’ve collected less than 10 percent of that sum. But it’s hard to chase people down in Russia. Or Bangladesh. Or India. Or wherever that call about a free cruise (you’ve won!) really comes from.” (Ref. 5)

     In 2017, the plague of robocalls had continued to spread like wildfire. “Consumers received more than 18 billion in 2017, a 75 percent increase from the year before. They are the number one consumer complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). . . .
      - - -
     “Those calls can be more than just a nuisance. One study found roughly 25 million Americans lost an estimated $9 billion to phone scams last year.” (Ref. 6)

     “Complaints to federal regulators are also increasing sharply. The Federal Trade Commission, which oversees the Do Not Call Registry, said there were 4.5 million complaints about robocalls in 2017, more than double the 2.18 million complaints logged in 2013.” (Ref. 7)

     By April of this year (2018), the robocall volume had continued to skyrocket, reaching an estimated 3.4 billion a month! That’s an increase of almost 900 million a month, or more than 25%, compared with a year ago.[7]

     In addition to the hundreds of robocalls in English that I get in the course of a year, recently I received a series of calls in Chinese with a New York city area code. Being unable to understand Chinese, I hung up. I have subsequently found out that the New York State attorney general had “warned consumers about a scheme targeting people with Chinese last names, in which the caller purports to be from the Chinese Consulate and demands money. Since December, the New York Police Department said, 21 Chinese immigrants had lost a total of $2.5 million.” (Ref. 7) Apparently someone thought my non-Chinese last name sounded Chinese.


     “The federal Do Not Call List, which is supposed to help consumers avoid robocalls, instead resembles a tennis net trying to stop a flood. The list may prevent some (but not all) legitimate companies from calling people on the list, but it does little to deter fraudsters and marketers, some of them overseas, who are willing to take their chances and flout the law.” (Ref. 7)

     And still the unanswered question remains: what is our government, e.g., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doing to once and for all put an end to this telephone abuse? Absolutely nothing that is obvious to me and to millions of other telephone users!

     As I’ve already said, adding your phone number to the government’s Do Not Call list has proven useless. I’ve done that – and I’ve done it more than once. The government’s do not call list is a joke! Putting my telephone on the list has had absolutely no effect. In fact, it seems that I got more frequent annoying robocalls after I signed up than before. Filing a complaint with the FCC or the FTC is also not likely to significantly improve the situation. On a few occasions, I’ve reported telephone scams to my local police where the robocaller had warned me that the IRS or the police were after me for tax liens or for outstanding arrest warrants. I never heard back and I doubt that anything positive resulted from my reporting the scams.

     One solution to ending these abuses rests in the hands of our legislators. They need to stop their preening and posturing in front of the TV cameras and the microphones and get serious about serving their constituencies. Let’s get our Senators and Representatives to do their part in cleaning up this mess. They can pass and/or update federal laws that will put an end to this gross misuse of our venerable telephone system. They can put teeth into the laws that should be protecting us. Jail time and/or large financial penalties should be imposed for those who choose to ignore the laws. They can fund watchdog agencies based upon performance, i.e. end the abuses or lose funding. They can defund and terminate agencies that don’t do the work they are tasked to do. If our government agencies aren’t up to meeting the challenge, then farm the work out to the private sector. Again, fund these private enterprises on the basis of performance. Financial incentives have historically worked wonders in America’s free enterprise system.

     I want those telemarketers who blatantly ignore the Do Not Call Registry to face very significant fines and/or jail time. No law should be enacted that cannot be or is not enforced! I don’t want to keep hearing about how hard it is to catch and/or prosecute the miscreants who thumb their noses at the law, our lawmakers and the federal agencies that are supposed to protect you and me from these predators.

     I don’t accept the excuse that the technology isn’t up to finding and stopping the perpetrators of these abuses of our privacy. Don’t tell me that agencies like NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and a multitude of other alphabet-soup agencies, either singly, or combined can’t find and prosecute the perpetrators of these abuses. If our law enforcement and spook agencies can’t locate these abusers and put an end to their predatory practices, then let’s hire people and organizations that can and will get the job done.

     But not all the blame should rest upon the shoulders of the U.S. government. The telephone service providers should also be doing much more to put an end to this massive waste of our time and resources. Our telecom giants could take more steps to make life better for their customers - but they haven’t. At a minimum, the telephone companies should be offering their customers free and easy access to robocall-blocking technology.

     It is claimed that “it would be possible for phone companies to offer their consumers easy access to services . . . which works on VoIP lines to block most robocalls. Then there are apps that would make a serious dent in robocalls to cellphones—which is a good thing, since the vast majority of automated calls to cellphones are illegal thanks to a 1991 law, whether or not the number is listed on the Do Not Call registry.
     “Traditional landlines are the most difficult to protect from robocalls, but there’s still hope. In Canada, . . . there’s {a service}, which . . . works to block robocalls on both traditional landline and broadband lines. The company {which offers the service} claims almost 90 percent of its customers cite that as the No. 1 reason they stick with {them}; it also claims the service would work in the United States.” (Ref. 5)

     Some of the things that we, as individuals, can try are the following:

“• Ask your phone company to offer robocall-blocking technology for mobile lines. Most already offer some form of protection, although a few charge a fee.

• Use a robocall-blocking app, and be sure to alert those apps when a number has slipped through so they block those calls in the future.

• Don't answer a call from an unknown or suspicious number, since that tells scammers they've reached a legit line they can sell to other telemarketers and scammers.

• File a complaint with the FCC or the FTC. The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines, but it doesn't award individual damages. The FTC can file lawsuits against companies or individuals violating its rules.

• Forward spam text messages sent from a phone number to 7726 (or SPAM), a free text exchange among wireless carriers.

     “{But, the} bottom line: There's no single solution to slowing down the flood of robocalls and spam texts. . .” (Ref. 8)

     If your phone service has caller I.D., you may not want to answer the phone if you don't recognize the number. If someone really needs to get ahold of you, they will probably leave a message - telemarketers and scammers usually do not.

     “As much of a hassle as it is, the best way to deal with unwanted robocalls is to simply hang up on them. If you answer a robocall, try not to say anything immediately. If you do say anything, just say hello. If it is a recorded message, the Better Business Bureau suggests you just hang up. Do not press a key or number or ask to be removed from a calling list. This only tells the spammer that they’ve reached a working number. The BBB says that will result in you getting more phone calls from automated dialers.” (Ref. 9)

     In my case, I receive more than 10 times as many robocalls on my land line as I do on my cell phone. As a result, I’m considering a more drastic solution to my robocall problem. And that is to terminate my land line telephone service. You could do the same, whether your service comes from a telecom or a cable provider. If you do this, make sure to let the telephone service provider know why you are ending its money-making service. Maybe, just maybe, they will then take action to do away with the robocalls that are causing them to lose customers and revenue.


  1. Inundated With Commercials, Telemarketing Calls and Spam, David Burton, Son of Eliyahu: Article 274,
    8 December 2016.
  2. Fighting Telemarketers: When Do-Not-Call List Fails, These Strategies Work, Alan Farnham, abc NEWS,
    21 January 2014.
  3. Does It Feel Like The ‘Do Not Call’ List Isn’t Working? This May Be Why, CBS San Francisco,
    20 November 2014.
  4. FTC Declares Rachel From Cardholder Services 'Enemy Number 1'; Files Complaints Against Five Scammy Robocollers, Mike Masnick,, 1 November 2012.
  5. Congratulations! You Lost., Helaine Olen, Slate, 24 May 2016.
  6. Robocalls are getting worse, and some cities are top targets, CBS News, 5 July 2018.
  7. Yes, It’s Bad. Robocalls, and Their Scams, Are Surging., Tara Siegel Bernard, The New York Times, 6 May 2018.
  8. Will anything stop robocalls to our cellphones?, Marguerite Reardon, CBS News, 11 November 2017.
  9. The best way to deal with robo calls, Jamey Tucker, WPSD Local 6, 11 May 2018.


  16 August 2018 {Article 332; Whatever_64}    
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