The 13 best ways to get rid of cold callers

Once unwanted callers make their initial incursion by dialling your number, their aggression can be matched by yours

Sean O'Grady@_seanogrady
Friday 11 December 2015 22:52
Sean O'Grady, deputy managing editor of The Independent, deals with cold callers by keeping them on the phone for as long as possible.
Sean O'Grady, deputy managing editor of The Independent, deals with cold callers by keeping them on the phone for as long as possible.

OK troops. The fightback starts here. No longer will cold callers make our lives a misery. No longer will we take their impertinent questions lying down. No longer will we permit them to insult our intelligence by thinking we will fall for their blatant artifice. This, my fellow citizens, will be our El Alamein, our Agincourt, and our battle of Kursk – the turning point in a titanic struggle.

What are the weapons at our disposal? Obviously, the telephone itself. When they call you they embark on a journey into the unknown, because, despite all their slights and slyness, they don’t know if you’ve had an accident in the past three years, whether you have double glazing, whether you qualify for PPI or anything else. Yet once they have made their initial incursion by dialling your number, their act of aggression can be matched by yours.

A swift end to a conversation can be had by just putting the phone down; but that means that you haven’t wasted much of their time, cost them much money, and they will be away to pick on someone maybe more vulnerable.

So engage them in verbal combat; take the initiative by asking them questions; use techniques of distraction and deception; the shock and awe of a request for a date; the carpet bombing of logic chopping; the chemical weapons of forcing them into linguistic traps.

Never will so many nuisance callers be so confounded by so few. Here are first-hand accounts from this field of human combat…

1. This is my millionaire boss’s number. Can you call back?

I pretend to be the secretary of the person they are calling. I tell them my boss is a millionaire and at this moment is on his yacht in the south of France with his trusty Jack Russell and ask could they call back in a couple of days. When they call back, I say my boss has rushed off to another amazing place, racing motorcycles for the Ducati factory. The next time, I say he’s on a humanitarian mission to an orphanage in India and could they ring back. So far the record is 11 ringbacks! At which point I was informed by the caller that they now use me for training new staff as I am the most evasive time waster they have met.

Mike, Stockport

Clamp down on cold calling

2. Take a piece of the action from Goodfellas

I once spoke with a survey caller about pizzas and spent about 20 minutes saying “Goodfellas” to every question asked. Both myself and the questioner had a lovely time.

Neg Dupree

(Via Independent website)

3. Didn’t we have a hell of a time back in 1985?

Sometimes I pick up the phone, listen to their alias name, repeat it several times in an incredulous tone and then – bam! – pretend to recognise them. I ask them if they remember the hell of a time we had at the 1985 summer camp when we set fire to the wooden shed, and I keep making things up and go on and on until they end up terminating the call.

Other times I interrupt them very politely to say “sorry, I’m not at all interested”. But so that we can remain on good terms I offer to sing them a song of my choice. (One of them, with a sense of humour and some extra time to spend, asked for an extra song).

A friend of mine pretends to be having a heart attack.

Marie-Christine, Lyon

4. The person you called has been murdered. This is CID

The best I heard was answering as a detective at a crime scene where the person the caller wanted was a murder victim. Asked where he was calling from, a call across to a fictitious CID colleague to get the caller’s local police to visit him, sends the caller into a state of panic. Asking how he knew the person and what relationship they had with them puts them on the defensive. You can keep this going for quite a long time.

Man the Barricades

(via Independent website)

5. Whistle while they work – it’s really a blast

Keep a whistle by the phone, then give them a blast on it, amazing how quickly they hang up.

Tom Cassidy

(via Independent website)

6. Turn the tables and become the salesperson

Try to sell THEM something and be very insistent. Works well. Also good for door-to-door sales people, especially if they’re wearing poor shoes.


West Oxfordshire

7. Place an order if there are no money/details upfront

The best I have been able to do is agree to buy new, fitted aluminium gutters. When the truck and fitting crew arrived and found that I had a thatched roof, they asked me if I was stupid. To which I readily agreed.


(via Independent website)

8. Let their sales proposal fall on deaf ears

I tell them I’m very interested but a bit deaf, my hearing aid is not working properly and can they speak up. The idea is to deliberately miss-hear what they say, ask them to repeat, only louder, and see how loud I can get them to shout. After a while I say “I’m not really deaf” and was just wasting their time, as they were doing with me.

Fun for all the family.

Phil, Borehamwood

9. Married? My wife has just left me for my best friend

I recently kept a caller chatting for at least half hour. I had tremendous fun.

When the caller asked if I’d be willing to answer a few questions, I said: “Absolutely, I’d be delighted.”

Caller: “Thank you. May I ask which age bracket you fall into?”

Me: “50-60, but I’ve been told I’m not likely to make it into the next bracket.”

Caller: “Oh. Can I ask, are you married?”

Me: “I was married. Up until two weeks ago. My wife left me for my best friend, Malcolm.”

Caller: “Do you own your own home?”

Me: “I did. But my wife wants me out. Her and Malcolm are moving in on Tuesday week.”

Caller: “Do you own a car?”

Me: “Repossessed. Couldn’t pay. I own a bike. I say, ‘own’. It’s Malcolm’s – he’s going to want it back any time soon, I suppose.”

Caller: “Any pets?”

Me: “A cat. Wilf.”

Caller: “Pet insurance?”

Me: “No need. I’m looking at Wilf’s freshly dug grave. Dug it myself two days ago. Rest in peace, Wilf.”

Caller: (pause). “Have you had an accident in the past three months that wasn’t your fault?”

Me: “Yes. No.”

Caller: “What type of accident was it, please?”

Me: “It was my own fault, actually. No one to blame. I lost my left leg just below the knee. I’m having a new fitting tomorrow morning.”

Caller: “Okay, well, that concludes all of the questions I have for you today.”

Me: “Do you have to go? I can answer more questions if you like. I haven’t spoken to a soul in three days.”

Caller: “Thank you for co-operation...”

Me: “Please don’t leave...

That was it. My wife was sitting with me the entire time. We both really enjoyed ourselves.”

Steve, Swindon

10. How am I today? Let me tell you about all my problems…

Most callers irritatingly ask: “How are you today?” So I decided to waste their time by telling them I am not well and asking if they could talk to me about my problems because I have no one else.

After deciding on this tactic, my first nuisance call was from India and related to something being wrong with my Windows operating system. The guy asked “How are you today?” and I launched into my hard-luck story and asked if he could spend time to discuss my problems. I was rather taken aback when he said “yes”. Rather ashamed of myself, I mumbled that I was just testing him and put the phone down.

Tom, Cricklewood

11. Get some of your own ‘put-on-hold’ music

My partner deals with nuisance calls by saying he needs to find some information for them and puts them on “hold”. He then puts the phone next to the music speakers and leaves them to listen to very loud music whilst he gets on with work. One of the Windows scammers was still on the line waiting at least 40 minutes for him to give the information to hack the computer.

Helen, Bedford

Cold calling can be stressful and inconvenient

12. Keep me laughing all the way to the bank

I used to work at Halifax as business development manager and helped launch a 4 per cent current account – which was very successful.

So when I got a cold caller I would ask them who they bank with, and point out that if they transferred their salary to Halifax they would earn 4 per cent whilst the other banks were offering 0.1 per cent. The reaction was great.

A third found it funny. A third would get angry, which was great fun and the final third said they might be interested. Two callers said they would go to a Halifax branch to investigate further – a potential sale for me.


13. I’ve lots of cash on my card, but it’s on top of it

During one particularly enjoyable nuisance call from one of the Windows scammers, I was asked if I had a bank card?


What’s it like?

“Its about 3 inches by 2 inches and it’s plastic.”

What does it say on it?


We spent quite a few minutes discussing banks and numbers on cards, but unfortunately, and despite my very best efforts, I wasn’t too helpful to him. I even accused him of not listening properly as I had to tell him a few times about my Matalan card. I did confirm when asked if I sometimes put money on it.

I said: “When I take the cash out of my pocket I sometimes pile it up on top of my Matalan card, but not every night; sometimes I leave the card at the side of the money.”

This phone call had lasted 18 minutes so I decided to put “Steven” out of his misery and told him I had been taking the piss. He didn’t twig at first. So I said I wasn’t really having Windows problems on my iPad. “But how can you have Windows problems on your iPad?” he said.

Then he twigged.

Andy, South Yorkshire

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