The telephone solicitors

ONE OF THE many positives of moving to Mexico, at least years ago, was that I was no longer bombarded by junk calls around dinner time.

old-phone-3Alas, like so many aspects of living here, both good and bad, we’ve become more like the nation up north.

Starting only in the last year, junk calls started coming in a lot, and almost all were from banks. It’s either my own bank, BBVA, or my previous bank, HSBC. Calls from BBVA are usually to offer me a credit card or sell me insurance. I need neither.

But the real nuisance was HSBC, a bank I simply abandoned about three years ago. It’s a nightmare bank, so I did not bother officially closing my account. I merely zeroed it out and walked around the corner to Bancomer BBVA, which now goes by BBVA only. It’s a Spanish bank, as in Spain. As far as banks go here, it’s the best, I think.

Junk calls are not restricted to the dinner hour. It’s an all-day-long thing. Most were coming from HSBC. I don’t know what they wanted because I simply hung up on realizing it was that damnable nightmare bank yet again.

I have solved the problem, however. I installed a call blocker on my cell phone. At first, I simply had it block further calls from numbers that annoyed me even once. But it seems that banks have an endless variety of numbers, probably to dodge this sort of blocking.

I’d block one bank number, and then they’d just call me from another.

So I’ve set my call blocker to block all calls, every single solitary one that is not on my list of contacts. I now live in peace. However, my contacts include my entire Google list, so anything important appears to be getting through.

Being a hermit, I don’t get many calls anyway.

I wonder if the dinner-time sales calls still happen above the Rio Bravo. But the junk calls happened at dinner time, of course, because that’s when people were home, and before they were watching I Love Lucy at 8 p.m.

But cell phones mean people are “home” all the time. I imagine the dinner calls have ended above the border. Or have they? I have no clue. And do they come mostly from banks or from all over the place like before?

21 thoughts on “The telephone solicitors

  1. First, they come all day, starting around 8 a.m., and as late as 8:30. Currently, Number 1 is auto extended warranty. They are recorded messages, where she (usually) offers to switch you to an agent, then you hear another recorded message, “All of our agents are busy helping other customers.” No. 2 is a tie: medical alert devices (“help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up”) and Medicare supplemental insurance. Unfortunately, there is no way to get even with recorded calls, other than punch 1 to talk to an agent, then leave the phone in front of a radio speaker, preferably a talk show. If I get a live agent, I try to string them on to see how long before they hang up on me. “I’m sorry, I’m having trouble hearing you, can you repeat that?” They’ll wait a long time if you say, “Just a minute while I get a pencil and paper so I can write that down. I used to have a recording, starting with electronic tones (use your phone keypad), followed by “I’m sorry, the number dialed is no longer in service. Please make sure you have dialed the number correctly.” If they ask for “Mrs ….” I always answer, “she died last week, who’s calling?” They always hang up immediately. Having fun is the only way to handle them.


    1. Phxxer: Well, reading your responses was fun for me. Oddly, I have received almost no recorded messages. There are always people on the line. This is before I installed the call blocker. And so your calls are not restricted to banks. Actually, medical alert devices are good things for older folks living alone.

      I got an odd call via my Skype number a couple of days ago. I only have Skype installed on my PC, so my cell has nothing to do with it. There was a so-so connection when I answered, which I did because I happened to be sitting at my PC when it rang. Appears I’m in very hot water with the U.S. government. I didn’t catch the specifics, but it told me to hang on and I would be connected with a “federal agent.” Yeah, right. I just hung up.


    1. OMG, that is sooooo funny.

      When we see that it is a telemarketer, sometimes we answer the phone, “Sheriff’s Department Fraud Division!” Of course, if it is a recording, it doesn’t work!

      When this started years ago, my husband would answer the phone and as soon as he knew it was a person, he would say, “I am sooo glad you called, but can you hang on a minute?” Of course, he would never come back.

      I have had one as early as 6 a.m.


      1. Beverly: Putting the phone down and walking away is an old and effective response. I like it. Since I only have a cell phone, it’s not quite so practical.

        Yep, that video is a major hoot. Tip of the sombrero to Phxxer for sending it to me.


  2. I get more texts that phone calls here in Mexico, had a lot more calls up in the frozen north. How come we can’t hear the phone number and address of the phone solicitor? We could call them and do a phone survey. If that was a real recording, it is way better than anything I have ever thought of.


    1. Kirk: I have a second phone app that takes care of annoying text messages. It sifts the good from the bad.

      If you’re referring to the video, and I think you are, I believe that is a real telemarker the fellow had on the line. He finally caught on when the prankster started with the gay stuff and the Mexican midget.


  3. We were getting calls all day. My wife gave some money to a so called “Charity.” And they sold our number to what seems a Gypsy tribe. Then there was the folks with the Indian accents that call all the time wanting to fix my computer or make things right with the IRS. Unplug the damn thing! At night after taking my pills, I plug it into the socket and go through the messages. Very few of these callers want to leave a message.
    I don’t have a cell phone. My wife does, but she doesn’t answer calls. If she wants to talk to someone, she calls them.


    1. Señor Gill: Cut the landline, get yourself a smartphone. Both of you install call blockers. Voilá!

      Smartphones are great. It’s like an electronic Swiss Army knife. Much more than phone calls.


  4. We use to get telemarking calls all day and evening when we had a landline. We recently got rid of the landline as well as cable TV. I do seem to get more telemarking calls on the cell phone. If I don’t recognize the number I pushed the side button to stop the ring and they either leave message or hang up. Then I usually block the number. It’s easier to block the number on the cell phone than landline. Most of the calls are from India saying I have a warning alarm on my computer or it’s the occasional fake IRS.


    1. Thirsty: So it’s not just at dinner time up there anymore. Didn’t think so. Good idea not to have a landline. First, it’s unnecessary and second, well, it’s unnecessary. My cell does not have a side button to stop the ring. That would be handy.


    1. Señor Gill: Didn’t think about that, but it makes sense. I have no alarm service. I depend on the 24-hour sex motel next door to discourage unwelcome visitors here. The motel is always open. It’s worked so far. I think.


  5. I am a fan of VOIP phone service, to take the place of a land line. It connects to the phone network through your internet ISP. It requires a high speed connection, and a router. “Magic Jack” was the first, but their service had a lot of complaints. Mine is through “Basic Talk,” part of Vonnage. It includes free domestic long distance, caller ID, voice mail, call waiting. It costs me $15.63 per month including taxes and fees. Magic Jack costs a little less ($50 a year, paid in advance, plus taxes) and $39 per year to renew.

    When you activate, you specify the area code Great if you move a long distance. You can keep your old area code so friends call you with a local number. Basic Talk also keeps an online record of every call. So if you go out of town for a week, you can see who called you during your absence, even if they didn’t leave a message. It is easy to set up. It has a box about the size of a pack of cigarettes, that has three recepticals. It has 3 cords to connect: one goes from the box to your router, one goes from the box to any household phone (I use a cordless with 3 handsets), and the final is a power supply that plugs in the wall.


    1. Phxxer: Magic Jack can be purchased in Mexico to call the U.S. and Canada, but it apparently does not work here to call other numbers in Mexico. I have had Skype for years for the few calls I make to the U.S., 99 percent of which are for financial matters. I pay about $50 U.S. a year. My cell phone will not call above the border. It would if I signed onto some extra service, but I don’t need that since I have Skype. There are also two internet services, Poptox and LetsBrink, that are similar to Skype, but you don’t get your own number. They’re just for outgoing calls. They’re free. You just pay a small amount for each call. I have accounts with both of them, but I’ve never used them.

      For the first decade I lived here, if I wanted to talk with my mother in Atlanta, I had to go stand in a booth downtown at a hole-in-the-wall business that provided long-distance service. It was a nuisance, but I phoned her fairly regularly. She died in January of 2009, and I discovered Skype just a few months later. Bad timing.


      1. If you have Telcel Sin Limite (150p for 26 days), you would have unlimited calls to Mexico, the US, and IIRC, Canada. I use my cell phone often to call the US, and I’ve received calls from the US from a fellow Mexican Telcel customer who just happened to be in the US at the moment. That’s nice when you’re not around a Wifi connection to access Skype.


        1. Ms. Shoes: Oh, I know that option is available, but my calls to or from the U.S. are nonexistent. The only exception is financial stuff and those I can count per year on the fingers of one hand, plus I don’t do it away from the house ever. Skype takes care of that handily.


  6. The calls come anytime between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. out here on the Texas frontier. I use only a cell phone, although La Gringa has both a landline and a cell phone, The apps have done a lot to recognize spam/fraudulent calls. However, they are not nearly as good at it as I am. If a calling number is not in my phone contacts, I never answer. If they leave a voicemail asking for a call-back, I will respond. I have often blocked numbers, but they always seem to have several. I get very few voice-mail messages.

    Simple stuff.


    1. Ricardo: Normal blocking, i.e. number by number, does not work because, as you have noticed, the bad guys have a million numbers they use. My cell app just blocks everything that’s not on my contact list. Works great.


  7. Whatever you do, do not give money to any so-called charity that calls you. Your number will end up on a sucker list that will be sold to anyone who will buy the list. Just say no!


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