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How One Man Turns Annoying Cold Calls Into Cash 227

Posted by samzenpus
from the hoisting-with-his-own-petard dept.
First time accepted submitter georgeaperkins writes "A man targeted by marketing companies is making money from cold calls with his own premium-rate phone number. So far he's made £300 profit following a £10+VAT initial investment. The premium rate regulator has 'strongly discouraged' the practice, as it violates the code of practice. Nevertheless, the novel idea is sure to resonate with everyone worn down by mindless cold calling!"
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How One Man Turns Annoying Cold Calls Into Cash

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  • So Full Of Win! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:37AM (#44704545)

    This is epic win.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      It's just a shame he could only make 7p/minute from it. What happened to £1/minute premium rate lines?

      By the way, my free time is worth approximately £100/minute, in case anyone wanted to call me about PPI insurance.

      • Re:So Full Of Win! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Zarjazz (36278) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @07:35AM (#44705041)

        It's just a shame he could only make 7p/minute from it. What happened to £1/minute premium rate lines?

        This isn't a new trick to me since I work for a telco that provides the infrastructure for a lot of these cold callers, I've seen it before.

        The premium rate 09 lines you are talking about are separately regulated and abuse is prosecuted. However the guy missed an opportunity here. He should have actually chosen an 070 number which is allocated by Ofcom for use of Personal Numbering Services, these can cost 50p - £1 to call. But since they start 07 most people think it's just another mobile number.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

          Fantastic, how do I sign up? £1 is only 1/100th my normal rate but still better than 7p.

        • The premium rate 09 lines you are talking about are separately regulated and abuse is prosecuted.

          The only abuse here is the cold-calling (I am, of course, writing from an ethics point of view, which should not be confused with the legal or telco views.)

      • Re:So Full Of Win! (Score:5, Informative)

        by shortscruffydave (638529) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @08:04AM (#44705167)

        It's just a shame he could only make 7p/minute from it. What happened to £1/minute premium rate lines?

        Actually, going for a cheaper rate is a smart move. A lot of companies block outgoing calls to >=£1/minute numbers, but something in the region of 10p/minute could slip through those filters....that allows him to get - and make money from - calls that he might not get if he'd gone for a more expensive line. And yes, I agree - epic win

      • by Dogtanian (588974)

        It's just a shame he could only make 7p/minute from it.

        7p per minute is 60 x 7 = £4.20 an hour (US $6.52). That's only two-thirds of the UK national minimum wage of £6.19 and below even the lowest US minimum wage of $7.52.

        Of course, if he could leave them hanging on the phone at that rate, or not bothering him, that'd be different.

        • I often tell them I'm off to get whomever they claim to be calling, then get busy, back to doing whatever it was before the interruption. For that level of service, $6.5 is almost reasonable.

      • by ultranova (717540)

        By the way, my free time is worth approximately ã100/minute,

        You meant your answering machine's time, right? And with phone lines being digital nowadays, is there some reason you can't get, say, 1000 numbers all connecting to the same machine configured to pick up and slam immediately? Maybe something running on a Rasberry Pi...

  • by dicobalt (1536225) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:51AM (#44704599)
    Now that's an idea.
  • by korbulon (2792438) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:52AM (#44704605)
    Well I guess even whores have a code of practice.
    • by voss (52565) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @07:05AM (#44704923)

      Comparing regulators to prostitutes is really unfair to prostitutes.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        taking pot-shots at the monumentally, epically difficult jobs of regulators is lazy comedy.

        / no, i am not a regulator, but I know what they do.

        • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> on Thursday August 29, 2013 @08:01AM (#44705147) Homepage

          taking pot-shots at the monumentally, epically difficult jobs of regulators is lazy comedy.

          / no, i am not a regulator, but I know what they do.

          I would have more sympathy if the regulator's response to flagrant law-breaking wasn't always simply to write a "stongly worded" letter to the company responsible, reminding them of their legal obligations. I dunno, but if I personally broke the law, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get a letter reminding me that what I did was illegal and told not to do it again, especially if I'm doing the law breaking on a large and organised scale...

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            They just haven't noticed he's a person not a business.
            If you personally broke the law, you get bubba up inside you for five to twenty years.
            If a business does it on a large and organized scale, bad, bad business. shouldn't do that. Feel bad. Feel bad? Good, we're done here, you can keep doing it now. Campaign contributions maybe? awww, so sweet, thank you.

        • taking pot-shots at the monumentally, epically difficult jobs of regulators is lazy comedy.

          / no, i am not a regulator, but I know what they do.

          Presumably they regulate...

        • by Tokolosh (1256448)

          What regulators do, is get captured.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regulatory_capture [wikipedia.org]

    • Personally I'm bothered that it bothers them. Obvisouly there is no rule yet that you can't use premium call services to get paid by telemarketeers because they are just people. The regulator seems to think that it's wrong that telemarketeers are compensating him for wasting his time. Why? They are a bunch of corporate sellouts thats why.

  • by StripedCow (776465) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:57AM (#44704617)

    "I'm calling because I'm selling this great new product that can save you time and money."

    "Now that sounds very interesting! Could you hang on for a moment, I'll be back in a minute."

    ** leaves phone off hook **

    • Re:Conversation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by StripedCow (776465) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:01AM (#44704637)

      Now, premium rate phone number or not, if this is how ALL people treated markteers, then there would be no more cold calling.
      Quite simple if you think about it.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        as TFA says, after implementing this the number of cold calls dropped from 30 per month to 13.

        The regulator says you have to be transparent about the cost, so personally, I'd always make sure I read out a pre-written information sheet that informed the caller that he was being charged, and why, and what my policies about charging were, and how they didn't impact on the rights of the caller, and... well you get the idea :)

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        That's what my dad does. He doesn't say "hang on a minute", when they start their spiel he puts the phone down and when it finally goes BEEP BEEP BEEP he hangs it up.

        I don't have a landline so I get few of these. I just curse them in the vilest language for calling cell phones when it may cost the person they're calling. I never leave my cell # with any commercial entity, but leave my work # instead. Not sure what I'll do when I retire.

      • by schwit1 (797399)

        If this became the norm the cold call lobby would influence their legislators to force the telcos to give them an exception.

    • by marcansoft (727665) <hector@marcanso f t . c om> on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:19AM (#44704707) Homepage

      I started doing this after getting a dozen Vodafone marketing calls. Except instead of just leaving the phone off-hook, I said "please hold while I transfer you" and then treated them to an endless random shuffle of Never Gonna Give you Up, Friday, Trololo, Caramelldansen, and Nyan Cat, played via a voice modem.

      They stopped calling after they got that a couple of times.

    • Re:Conversation (Score:5, Interesting)

      by jamesh (87723) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:38AM (#44704789)
      "Hang on I'll just get my credit card" is likely to keep them waiting for longer
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I left the phone 'off the hook' once after I had said "no thanks, not interested" 3 times. Half an hour later I get a call from my mom saying this guy had called several people with the same last name because he thought something had happened to me.......

      • Yes - they are humans on the other end of that line working in what I believe is the highest turn-over industry out there (at least I think that's true for the US, and I think the highest turnover sub-set among cold-callers is those who are on the debt-collection calls). I don't know what the turn-over rate is in the UK, but I suspect it's probably about the same.
        • We have some inbound call centers {customer service and tech support} and some of our people left when another company opened an outbound sales center in the area thinking they could make more on commission. After two or three months they all wanted to come back about half were told no.

    • Or transfer them to a recording of you saying, "Ok, I'm back!" followed by silence interspersed with an occasional "Ah" or "uh-huh" or "yes, I see...."

      • by nschubach (922175)

        You probably don't want a 'yes' in there unless you want them recording you agreeing to something.

  • by sociocapitalist (2471722) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:57AM (#44704619)

    Anyone understand how this violates the 'code of practice' and if such a violation is just frowned upon or is actually illegal ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Premium numbers must always be accompanied by pricing information (consumer protection laws). This guy probably just puts his premium number into forms without giving pricing information.

      • the forms don't have a space for the prices. They don't care about the price.
        • Re:and why not? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jamesh (87723) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:43AM (#44704817)

          the forms don't have a space for the prices. They don't care about the price.

          Then it would be against the code of practice to put your premium number on such a form.

          Still... if it wasn't _your_ number, then I guess you couldn't get into trouble. You wouldn't receive a cut, but the idea of them trying to sell something to the girl on the end of the "naughty nun spank hotline" might give you a smug sense of satisfaction.

          • :0 but that is my number?
          • Writing other peoples information on forms is probably identity fraud to some degree or another
          • by eth1 (94901)

            the forms don't have a space for the prices. They don't care about the price.

            Then it would be against the code of practice to put your premium number on such a form.

            Still... if it wasn't _your_ number, then I guess you couldn't get into trouble. You wouldn't receive a cut, but the idea of them trying to sell something to the girl on the end of the "naughty nun spank hotline" might give you a smug sense of satisfaction.

            So just pair up with a buddy. You put his number on forms, and he puts yours.

            • So just pair up with a buddy. You put his number on forms, and he puts yours.

              How does that fix anything? Your number is still getting dispersed into the wide, wide world of telemarketers. It's just your buddy doing it, instead of you.

              • by nschubach (922175)

                It could be argued that I don't have to tell you that you will be charged for calling a number that isn't mine.

      • by gbjbaanb (229885)

        then just put the pricing information on the form, anywhere you like, maybe on the back or in the margin.

        If the company wants to transcribe that into a computer system and discard the pricing info, that's their choice. And if they want to sell on your number to other marketing companies, that's their lookout, not yours (best to include a disclaimer saying they cannot do this, then its a potential lawsuit too!)

      • by namgge (777284)
        Marketing companies making cold calls are not, AIUI, 'Consumers' and are thus not entitled to much in the way of protection.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, because I RTFA. Try it.

    • Re:and why not? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Xest (935314) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:39AM (#44704791)

      Businesses have often lobbied for codes of practice to be unenforceable so that nothing comes of them if they breach them so I doubt this is illegal, he'll just get a telling off from the regulator - as if he gives a shit.

      It breaks the code of practice supposedly because you have to list pricing information alongside premium rate numbers and when he fills in the forms for his phone number etc. there is no form field to do this.

      But I'm not convinced the code even applies, because the pricing information is meant for consumers and he's only giving these details to businesses who tend not to be covered by consumer protection laws (they're not protected by the sale of goods act for example).

      I think this is more the regulator trying to avoid a headache than him actually doing anything wrong. I'd be surprised if any enforcement could actually be taken against him successfully which is presumably why the regulator has said "We advise against this" rather than "We're going to have a word with him and make him stop because he's breaching the code" - I suspect they're "advising" and not "acting" because there's actually fuck all else they can do about it but we'll probably find out before long.

    • by RDW (41497)

      The summary is misleading. In the BBC article, the regulator is claiming anyone who does this will be liable IF they breach the code ("Premium rate numbers are not designed to be used in this way and we would strongly discourage any listeners from adopting this idea, as they will be liable under our code for any breaches and subsequent fines that result.").

  • by Captain Hook (923766) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @05:59AM (#44704627)
    I've got a personal number which costs more to ring than a standard mobile line, I set it up for the similar reasons, after entering details of an accident when I renewed my insurance I got bombarded by ambulance chasers.

    The only difference is that I don't get a cut of the call costs, I just wanted a way to give a telephone number on websites which comes through to my mobile phone but could easily be rerouted to voicemail off when the frequency of spam calls gets too high.

    Family and friends all get my real number while all companies get the forwarding number so I know that sending everything from the forwarding number to voicemail isn't going to affect people I actually want to talk to.
    • by memzer (2033838)
      I have a second prepaid mobile sim card for this purpose. It costs ~$30 for a year (au) and it's worth every cent.
      • The nice thing about the personal number system is it's free for me, the cost of the service is paid for through the higher call charges, thats why I don't get a cut of the increased charges like the bloke in TFA.
  • Clear something up? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Justpin (2974855) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:12AM (#44704679)
    In Hong Kong it costs money to receive calls, they call it a connection fee. Which means that people simply never answer calls to unfamiliar numbers. It there such a thing in the US? As far as I know there is no such thing as a connection fee in the UK.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      That's going to be a great precedent and standard to set, especially when your daughter needs to use her friends phone to call you for help because hers just got trashed/out of credit/stolen.

      "I don't know this number, fuck that!"
    • by heypete (60671) <pete@heypete.com> on Thursday August 29, 2013 @06:28AM (#44704745) Homepage

      For landline phones in the US, the recipient does not pay unless they have a toll-free number (e.g. a 1-800 number). There's no connection fees for receiving a call.

      Mobile phone numbers in the US are no different than landline phones for the calling party: there's no extra fee or anything for calling a mobile number. Calling a mobile costs precisely the same amount as calling any other phone number in that area code. The person with the mobile phone will be charged on a per-minute basis (unless they have an unlimited calling plan or it's during the "free nights and weekends" time that many plans offer) regardless of whether they are making or receiving a call.

      This is different from, say, Europe, where mobile phones are assigned numbers in special mobile-only prefixes. The person calling a mobile phone pays a slight premium, while the person receiving a call on their mobile pays nothing.

      • by Kjella (173770)

        This is different from, say, Europe, where mobile phones are assigned numbers in special mobile-only prefixes. The person calling a mobile phone pays a slight premium, while the person receiving a call on their mobile pays nothing.

        Yes, but at least here in Norway it's only cheaper to call a landline from another landline as the cell phone operators only offer you one price per minute for both. This means there's no incentive to have a landline, you can't control how others can be reached (so people prefer the cell phone for convenience) and you pay nothing to recieve either way. Result: 5.7 million cell phones (113% coverage), a total of 1.5 million fixed lines of which 0.5 are broadband phones and 1.0 genuine landlines (PSTN/ISDN).

        • by nospam007 (722110) *

          "Yes, but at least here in Norway it's only cheaper to call a landline from another landline as the cell phone operators only offer you one price per minute for both."

          I'm from Europe too I'm paying 49€ for unlimited data and calling to all operators and landlines. Ditto for SMS and MMS.
          And the latest iPhone is included, since the family decided on a common phone OS against my wishes, but what can you do. (girls:-) At least we all got the TomTom application for the price of one that way. Since roaming i

    • by MrDoh! (71235)
      In the US, you pay for calls made and received (all part of your call allowance). In the UK, anyone calling you pays, after all, why should you pay for them to get in touch with you, you didn't ask them too. A far better way to handle it. Alas, in the US, you get charged both sides of the equation because... they can. *some networks mask this, offer free calls at certain times, or on same network, but you never know if the person calling you is going to cost you or not, after all, how do you know what ne
      • In the US, you pay for calls made and received (all part of your call allowance). In the UK, anyone calling you pays, after all, why should you pay for them to get in touch with you, you didn't ask them too. A far better way to handle it. Alas, in the US, you get charged both sides of the equation because... they can.

        While that is true the reality is most consumers don't have to worry about charges because of all the "free minutes" exceptions. With free nights, in network and out of network calling not charged minutes, rollover minutes, etc. (depending on the carrier) most caller's calling patterns mean they probably don't use much of their base minutes and probably should check their usage and lower their plan tier.

      • by mcgrew (92797) *

        In the US, you pay for calls made and received (all part of your call allowance).

        That depends on your carrier and plan. Some charge for all minutes used, some give you a number of "free" minutes. The one I'm on is a flat $40 per month, no limits on anything except I'm not allowed to tether..

      • by Politburo (640618)
        " In the UK, anyone calling you pays, after all, why should you pay for them to get in touch with you, you didn't ask them too. "

        Don't answer the phone then.

        I've never understood the concept of making other people pay because I want the convenience of a portable communication device.
        • by Anaerin (905998)
          You're not. If you want to use said portable device, you can do. And (In the UK at least) portable communication devices are in their own calling prefix, so you as a user know you're going to call a cellular customer ('cause you have to put in a cellular prefix), and that you're going to be charged more for it. If you don't want to pay extra to call me when I'm not at home or at work, you don't call my cell.
      • > A far better way to handle it.

        15 years, I might have agreed with you. The upside of the American billing model is that it put direct competitive pressure on phone companies to make incoming calls (or at least their first minute) free, and to create calling plans with thousands of minutes, free nights/weekends, or outright unlimited airtime. The net result is that most Americans with normal mobile phone service never pay for airtime above and beyond what's included, but in Britain people are still force

  • by Meeni (1815694) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:17AM (#44706197)

    If human, ask them how they got the number and if I had previous business relationship in the past. Most collections are illegal, they will hangup immediately never to call again, because these words mean trouble to them.

    Robots: Reported to the FCC, everytime.

  • by RevWaldo (1186281) on Thursday August 29, 2013 @10:18AM (#44706203)
    They could wind up calling Lenny. http://itslenny.com/ [itslenny.com]

    .
  • I used to be pretty patient, but after getting hammered with them for the first 3-4 years after I bought my house, I developed terribly rude phone etiquette. Just this morning, I got probably the 20th call from a "doctor's group" trying to sell me chiropractic services after I've told them each time "no, please remove me from your calling list". I think that's the biggest annoyance. People I've never had business with, told 10 times "I'm not interested" will continue to call every month or two.

    One trick

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