Under Attack From All Angles

My morning routine goes something like this:

Wake up (I won't say what time. The fact I don't travel to work is probably enough to make you sick). Come to office and turn PC on. Go downstairs to make cup of tea and a bowl of porridge. Come back up to office, log-on and start Mozzerella Thunderbird and FeedDemon. Start fighting fires.

First thing I have to do each day is delete email spam. Not that I get that much now. I've learnt the hard way and managed to reduce it to maybe 20 messages a day, if that. Thunderbird does a great job of getting rid of most of them for me. The rest I simply mark as Junk and they're removed. Then I have to check on this site's activity over night. Every time a comment is posted I get an email with name and IP address in the subject and URL in the body. I normally get ten or so that are obvious bots comment spamming the site. I launch Notes client and click the shortcut to the database's "everything" view where I can quickly get rid of them all. Not just the spam but the posts from people "testing" the post form. It's now got to the point where articles receive more "test" comments than real ones!

Over to FeedDemon where I update the RSS feed to recent changes at the CodeStore Wiki and find that it's has been spammed that little bit closer to death. I had started by deleting all the spam links each day, but soon gave up. I've tried locking the wiki but it failed. Later today I might see what patches there are to prevent spam on wikis. If this fails I'll be forced to remove it altogether.

This morning I completely removed the CodeStore PHP BB, which was probably to blame for me being hacked.

It's disheartening to see how these PageRank-hungry spammers are destroying the web and the work some of us put in to try and make it a useful place. I try not to get too down about it, but it's hard sometimes.

Just as I've put out all the online fires and started doing some work the phone will ring. The display will show me no number and a little aeroplane to tell me it's a foreign call. Sometimes that could mean it's a client, but more often it's a call center in India or thereabouts. I can tell it's one of these calls straightaway as you answer the phone to silence. After the pause they then ask if I am "Mr {Insert Karen's Surname}" (her name is listed). I say "No, what do you want!?" and they tell me about the great new offers from OneTel or Telecom 3 or whoever. I've tried alsorts of approaches with them, including playing-along, anger and simply pleading for them to stop, but the calls continue. Sometimes four or five times a day. Registering for the opt-out schemes hasn't worked and I'm now forced to consider a change of phone number (ex-directory this time).

Online spam I can live with and it doesn't annoy me that much. Phone calls are another matter altogether. It makes my blood boil. Sitting at a desk with a phone on it makes it easier to handle them. If I'm outside or otherwise indisposed and I have to stop what I'm doing and come running in to catch the call only to find it's India calling I am literally fuming and I can't repeat some of things I've said to them.

A day-dream of mine is that I live in the past. Maybe in the middle-ages or the Victorian era. Another is that I'm a hermit living on a remote island in Scotland. Anyway, it's Friday. Cheery, cheery Jake!


    • avatar
    • DaveW
    • Fri 27 May 2005 05:44

    When I lived in the UK the opt-out scheme did work, but I bet there's a little caveat that says if they call from overseas it's all legit.

    I know of lots of people in the UK who are being "phone-spammed" like you these days.

    We don't have that problem in Norway, and I'm just thankful that as of yet none of these Asian call-centres have Norwegian speakers :-)

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Fri 27 May 2005 05:56

    You lucky, lucky man Dave.

    I wouldn't say they really had English speakers either. Well, they can speak it, but they can't understand it. Or they pretend not to be able to, depending on what you're saying.

    Another dream of mine to retire to Scandinavia.

    • avatar
    • Gernot Hummer
    • Fri 27 May 2005 05:58

    Haha, actually a blog entry I really can relate to. But here in Austria it's more about market research, trends and whatever.

    Usually it starts with "May I ask you a couple of questions in about five minutes?". Those five minutes usually last about half an hour, if not more.

    So every time a market research guy or girl is calling me I started to tell them my hourly wage and ask them where to send the bill to. This at least keeps the researchers away. =)

  1. Maybe this will help ...


  2. Like all things, they are measured on number of calls completed, And long calls costs them money.

    So get a speakerphone (its easier on the shoulders). And when they call, wait two to three minutes before answering each question, and of course dont answer sensibly. Repeat a lot of stuff.

    Ask them what their name is. What the weather is like. Where they are sitting. Where they live. What they are wearing. What underwear they are wearing.

    At one point on that line, they'll try and stop you for being intrusive. Keep it going and see how long you can keep them. Use the usual "Whats your name, your company name, address", etc and then point out that they're breaking the law.

    Oh - if you know they're calling, pick up and say "Camberwick Green Police Station" and see if you can pull that one off... Get all pissed off at them for wasting police time. Thats a good quick-termination one. Or "Emergency services, how can I help you". Or "Mr Gupta's call center - how can I help? "

    Another favourite is "I'll go get her". And every minite, keep it going. My record is 30+ minutes so far. (double glazing)

    if its the same call center, they'll blacklist your number at some stage. You'll almost certainly drive the person at the other end insane.

    Only downside is that it does hold up your business line.

    Just use Skype for business stuff from now on....

    ---* Bill

    • avatar
    • Mike
    • Fri 27 May 2005 07:10

    Jake -

    There's a comedian over here in the states that has put out a few CDs that consist of him taping calls he receives from telemarketers and harrasing the bejesus out of them. Absolutely hysterical. I think you may be able to listen to some tracks off his website:


    -- Mike

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Fri 27 May 2005 07:25

    Bill. I'm almost willing them to call now. They've not called yet today ;o(

    Mike. That's brilliant. This one {Link} is hilarious.

  3. I know the feeling. When I lived in the UK I had the same until we went ex-directory.

    My parents, who are in their seventies, do live in the UK and they receive at least five or six calls a day. Unlike yours these are mostly not from call centres but are completely automated, so the most amount of pleasure you can get is simply to put the receiver down. It's like having Marvin the depressed robot phoning you every other hour. Contacting BT has done nothing at all and like you they are planning on switching numbers. Personally, I think this nothing short of corporate harrassment.

  4. Easiest way to stop a telemarketeer is to say when they ask you if you're interested in product "A", say 'you work for product B company"-their competitor.

    So if theyc all asking you to change to Onetel, say you work for BT, etc. That'll stop your call in seconds.

    • avatar
    • Craig
    • Fri 27 May 2005 07:44

    I got a call the other day from a survey company, and I was feeling quite pleasant so I went along with it. I was rewarded by the Indian guy telling me that if I didn't want to answer any particular question I could say "pass"!! After about 20 questions and a 100% "pass" rate, he frustratedly said "sir, you are abusing the power".

    It didn't work though... I just passed the whole lot :¬)

    PS. I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the "pause" between saying hello and then having to say hello again before they respond when it's someone calling from an overseas marketing company. If they don't instantly respond now, I hang up.

    • avatar
    • Mike
    • Fri 27 May 2005 07:51

    In the states our government instituted a "Do Not Call List". It's very easy to add your name to this list and it's illegal for companies to "telemarket" people on this list. Our phone has been much more silent since we added our names. So with the help of this list and caller ID, I haven't spoken with a telemarketer in many many months.

    -- Mike

  5. Jake -

    We just started to let the answering machine pick up all these calls - it avoids a lot of frustration.


  6. We have taken a pretty hard line on spam at our company and started to completely block tons of mail servers. Our CPUs are for business, not for penis enlargement emails or whatever the latest subject craze is out there. In some cases, we have blocked entire subnets because the spammers have attempted numerous times to look for open relays. It's always nice to come in first thing, check your log file and see spammers connecting to your mail server every 6 seconds over the course of the 8 hours you were sleeping at home. "Ok, that will be enough of that," as I add them to our deny connection list....

    I have been disappointed with the amount of control Notes gives you for SMTP. Most of the rules you can setup are focused around the From and Subject fields. Spammers have gone way beyond using those fields. The next version of Notes/Domino really need to focus on allowing the admins to establish rules for any and all SMTP fields that come in.

    I have built a very small database in Notes that gets all of our dead mail which 99% of the time are replies back to bogus email addresses telling them that one of the thousands of email combos they have tried does not exist in our domain. It rolls up all the email by the last IP address that connected to our mail server and tells us how many we had in the last 24 hours. It's not the best solution but it has allowed us to idenify a whole ton of mail servers out there that are being used for spam.

    As far as phone spammers, I find that keeping an air horn next to your phone for those types of calls works very well. Deaf telemarkers don't stay in business that long. :)

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Fri 27 May 2005 09:32

    tgraham. It concerns me also that jakehowlett.com has been hijacked by spammers also and is used as the From address in the format randomword@jakehowlett.com. I have to only let in jake@ and turn everything else away. I feel defenceless!

    I've tried lots of approaches with these phone-droids. You'd think that the screen in front of them would have a form on it with a "How did it go?" radio-button. Options might be "Not In", "Busy", "Hung up" and - you'd imagine - "Very angry. Don't call this number again". It looks like this last one is missing.

    • avatar
    • Stu
    • Fri 27 May 2005 09:38

    Try this..


    Do you get the oneswith a women that sound like she's on happy pills that goes "You have Won....!!!!""""

  7. I only use a cell phone now, which doesn't ever get any telemarketing calls. Although 99% of the calls were a complete disturbance, they sometimes provided a nice means of "ventilation" on a frustrating day.

  8. With this counterscript you battle with the same weapons:


  9. I made a solicitor cry once on the phone. It was for some credit offer and I was pretty upset because they had called the previous weekend at the same time and I told them to never call me again. Well, this was a guy with a high-pitched voice (think Jacko...) and I honestly thought it was a lady. I said once "no ma'am" and he said "I'm not a woman". I apologized and he kept going.

    I explained that I was not interested and that I have previously requested them to never call me again. I told him I wasn't interested but he persisted. Finally, when he was hanging up he said "I just don't understand why you are not interested in this great offer for credit" and was actually crying when he said it. Poor guy, can't last too long doing that!

    There is also a huge telemarketer's conference here in the US. A group of people will rent rooms at the hotel where the telemarketers stay and will just call all the rooms at the hotel at 3am waking up the telemarketers... hilarious!

  10. The reason that there is a delay before they answer is because your number is generated and dialled by an automated machine and then put through to the operator that is free/just about to be free at that time.

    The machine will often dial the number before the operator is ready, or even generate more calls than operators can deal with leaving lots of people with either a small gap or no-one on the other end at all, which doesn't do a lot for the heart rates of the elderly - I'm sure it's illegal for more than 5% of all automated calls to have no-one on the other end. Which is when I become more boring.


  11. >It concerns me also that jakehowlett.com has been hijacked by spammers...>

    Ever try explaining that very scenario to executive managers? :)

    The CEO of our company had his email address used in a virus spam campaign. When all the mail servers that rejected the virus guess where the rejection notices went to? That was a rather fun day for me.

    But the good part was that he finally understood the spam problem. It's not just an issue of using up valuable system resources and annoying emails anymore.

    • avatar
    • John Fazio
    • Fri 27 May 2005 13:40

    I too dropped my hardline a couple of years ago and rely solely on a cell phone. I used to tell them that I wasn't the person they were looking for and then I'd give them a phony long distance number to where they could reach me. The my dog is having a seizure trick worked good too but some of those creatons would ask if there was a better time to call. Just start screaming oh my god over and over then hang up. I did work for a telemarking company years ago but after two weeks, no commitments and the fact that I told people what percentage actually went to the police I was asked to leave. Fortunately the initial pay was hourly so I got the gas money I needed.

    I can only suggest you have a little fun with the telemarketers and good luck with the electronic plague!

  12. This thread is becoming a spam...

    • avatar
    • Allen
    • Fri 27 May 2005 16:26

    Mr. T Graham?? Is that the one I know?

    Anyway - Jake I spent 8 years in Sweden and got very very bored....


  13. Hehe. I have two numbers mapped to the same phone line (they ring differently), so I know if I get a telemarketeer call on the first number, I'll get the next call about 20-30 mins later. By that time I'm ready for them.

    I've used to try answering with some odd phrases.

    "Battersea Dogs Home Donation Line. May I take your card number please."

    "Wimbledon Insanitarium, Napoleon Bonepart speaking how may I help you?" (This works wonders if you suddenly start going off at a real tangent... such as the benefits of Brussel Sprouts or snorkeling in Lemonade.)

    But seriously, if you have registered with the Telephone Preference Service {Link} all calls stop within a month. I rather miss winding up marketeers. They were fun way to liven up a dull day.

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