really aggressive spam callers are giving me anxiety attacks

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question.  A reader writes:

Most of my company has been working from home due to the pandemic, like everyone. The only people in the office consistently right now are me, our VP, and occasionally the president. Since I am the most junior person in the office now, I have started answering the phones and have been doing this since March; this includes vetting calls and taking messages, pretty straightforward stuff. Periodically over the years I have answered the phones, but I used to also work in the field so I wasn’t doing it consistently.

Aside from normal calls inquiring about our services, forwarding calls to the appropriate person, and other general things one might have to do when answering calls, I have to rebuff solicitation calls and scam calls. This usually isn’t a problem, it’s usually as simple as saying no thank you and the “spammer” will hang up. I get maybe a hundred of these calls a week, usually without incident.

My problem is this new type of solicitation call I have been getting. It’s always someone who says they have a meeting with our president (a lie, he only does Zoom meetings or he gives his cell phone out to the other people involved) and when I say that he isn’t available, they get very aggressive insisting on speaking to him. When I let them know that he is on a call/not in the office/ unavailable, they become even more aggressive.

The last time this happened, the person said they had a 3:30 meeting with him. When I said he was on another call, he said verbatim, “Listen dumbass, I have a meeting at 3:30, what time is it now? Are you capable of reading a clock, idiot? Put him on the f****ng phone NOW!” I cheerfully said, “Its 3:25 and he is busy, would you like to leave a message?” and he started calling me a laundry list of names. My VP saw what was happening, motioned for me to hang up, and said that if he called back she would answer because she could tell I was flustered. This person always calls back, and one time she answered and he called her a dumb receptionist who couldn’t think for herself. The second she answered the phone, he launched into a tirade about how stupid I was, calling me the C word, thinking it was me. She let him know that she was the VP and that we do not deserve to be spoken to like that and hung up. He didn’t call again that day. I know the calls are fake because the first time this happened I was so shocked that I sent the call through, only for the president to slam the phone down a few minutes later in shock.

What in the world is this? I get that having a job where you get hung up on all day must be tough but why resort to this type of anger to make a sale (or whatever their goal is)? It is obvious that they do this to scare the receptionist into sending the call through (because he threatens to have me fired if I don’t forward the call). He is also banking on the fact that the president may have forgotten a scheduled meeting.

Aside from my general confusion as to why this is a thing, it is really affecting my mental health. I know I have support from my president and VP and they are very apologetic when it happens, but there is no way to stop it. We have blocked the numbers the calls come from, but they just get another number and do it again a month later. My heart races when we get a call from a number I don’t recognize and when it is this same thing again my whole day is ruined. One time this happened, the person called 14 times in an hour. I just had to pick up, get screamed at for 10 seconds, put the phone down, block the number, only for them to get a different number two minutes later. It is exhausting.

Is this a thing? Do you have any solid ways to stop the calls? Most importantly, how can I shake this off? This happened yesterday, one of the worst and most aggressive times it has ever happened and I am so anxious when the phone rings today that I am shaking at my desk.

What on earth. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. Readers, have at it in the comment section.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 724 comments… read them below }

    1. 3DogNight*

      Feel zero guilt about this. Hang up. You have permission.
      For the anxiety, this is what I think your real problem is. It will help you if you can pinpoint the cause. If it’s the yelling, hang up before it get there. If it’s fear of getting in trouble, confirm with your boss about hanging up. If it’s fear for your safety, work out the risk and find a way to mitigate it. It could be something, else, but you have to pinpoint it to figure it out.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Yes, definitely start hanging up and let your boss in on your plan to do so.
        Worst, worst case you hung up on someone who had a right to call but was verbally abusing you or generally acting weird. They are welcome to call back and use polite language to explain your error. The other day I erroneously hung up on the person calling about the life insurance policy I’d applied for because they seemed sketchy. I’m not even sorry about it. They called back and I asked for a way to verify their identity, which they provided (google the number to call back at my convenience).

        1. Cat*

          People used to do that to me when I was in insurance claims. 1st call was a hang up. 2nd call they were like WHAT DO YOU WANT. I’m calling about your auto accident. Oh sorry.

          People who are reasonable don’t do this stuff.

          1. Lee*

            I’m stunned at the number of people that DO pick up the first time and bother to listen to me in this day and age (auto claim adjuster) but yep, I always call twice cause usually it’s just a non pick up but a healthy amount of times it’s a kind of aggressive “who are you?!” which I understand.

          2. caradom*

            I have had cold calls from companies and I press block. They then used a different number, block. They did it a third time block. How the heck is there any chance of a sale when I respond like that? Which sales company is so dumb they think someone who blocked them would get anything from the company?

        2. Littorally*

          Yep. And a lot of people who work in areas like this get it a lot. I do outbound calls about people’s account applications as part of my role; it’s perfectly normal for people not to want to answer questions from someone who’s calling them, so I provide my firm’s name and phone number and let them know they can google us and call either the department number I provide or the general service number listed on our website at any time they want.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            Slightly off topic, but I think it’s worth saying on this thread. I once very narrowly escaped a scam attempt where I got a call from a scammer that had successfully spoofed my bank’s exact phone number and showed up on my called ID as “TD Bank”. I now always hang up and call the googled number back. It’s not enough to just verify the number

            1. RabbitRabbit*

              It’s worth noting that it is brutally easy to spoof a caller ID number to be anything you want it to be.

                1. GreenDoor*

                  I got one with my husband’s number. He was a foot away from me trying not to burn his fingers pulling a still-hot bowl out of a just-finished dishwasher. His phone was on the counter nearby.

                  This is why, even when I save a corporate number, I save it by a name I’d recongize. Instead of Spectrum Cable, I use “Crappy Cable” or “Associated Dental” I use “Tooth Docs Office”. That way I know it’s a number I’ve verified and added to my contacts.

              1. SusanIvanova*

                The common one these days is to have it be the same “exchange” as yours, in the hope of catching people who think it might be one of their neighbors.

                1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

                  I get calls like that all the time! Also, most of the spam calls I get have my area code in the caller i.d. no matter where they’re actually calling from.

                  Caller i.d. is getting to be a joke. It’s so easy to fake that it’s become next to useless.

                2. nonegiven*

                  I get calls from neighboring counties, maybe because I wasn’t answering the local numbers that weren’t in my phone.

              2. Wintermute*

                Yeah there was a fun android app a while back, I’d call one of my friends from a different number each time with a different name. I’d say I was George Washington, various funny-named embarrassing businesses (discount used underwear emporium, etc), Seymour Buttes, the actual IRS number, all kinds of stuff.

            2. Littorally*

              Yep, absolutely correct. If a client says they want to call back so they can be sure they’re calling the real MyFirm, I 100% understand and encourage them to do whatever they need to do to feel safe about their information.

            3. Autistic AF*

              There were scam ways around that in the land line days – the scammer would stay on the line, and if you don’t hang up fully they get someone else on to pretend to be your bank after you dial.

            4. Jack Russell Terrier*

              Yes – always initiate the call, from a number you have confirmed rather than the number given. I was implicated in the Equifax data breach and several times had voicemails from my credit cards fraud department. The number they gave was probably ok but I always phoned the main 800 number and had them put me through to fraud. Explaining the situation and having the person at the main number find out what to do was ridiculously time consuming but worth it to be safe.

        3. DollarStoreParty*

          An IRS agent called to notify me that we were being audited, and to follow up on a letter he’d sent that’d been sitting on my boss’s desk for 3 weeks because she was out of town. He had a very thick foreign accent and an unusual name, and I put him through the wringer because I hadn’t seen the letter and thought he was a scammer who’d soon be telling me to go to Target and buy him gift cards. He tried giving me a badge number, to which I answered that I could rattle numbers off too. After a while, I told him I’d have my accountant call him and they could hash it out. He did and they did and he was very understanding – he apparently has this problem often. Stupid scammers making life difficult for real IRS agents.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            The IRS scam! That has pretty much ended because most people are aware of it.

            I did call back, and the guy told me that the sheriff has a warrant for my arrest. “Really?” “Yes, really”

            I yell out “hey honey, did you get anything from the IRS about me????”

            The guy starts “wait I advised you not to talk to anyone” and I tell Bozo “look, it’s OK. My wife is the sheriff, she’d know if there’s a warrant out on my (rear end).”

            He concluded the call with commentary that my mother committed certain acts with livestock and then he hung up.

            Now I just say “do you have children? How do you explain to them what you’re doing???”

          2. No, This One Isn't a Scam*

            He is definitely used to that, and it isn’t a problem. I work for a certain federal agency (not the IRS) that is impersonated by scammers all the time. This type of skepticism happens a lot when we have to call a member of the public. It is part of our job and we have strategies for convincing people that we are who we say we are, including having them call back our main phone numbers. When that fails, we can just mail a notice.

      2. Joan Rivers*

        Yes — mgrs. seem to know this is spam, so why not just put call on hold ASAP, permanently? Or hang up.
        I’d ask police or your phone carrier for advice too. Can’t you trace calls any more?

        1. Nadi*

          In re: on hold permanently. That was one of the few joys of my last temp job. My boss approved it (we had a similar but less agressive problem caller) and I could just…make them wait. Endlessly. Until they hung up, and called back I’d do it again. It brought me so much peace. Bonus, it kept the line clear for real callers.

        2. tink*

          “Boss is in a meeting, would you like to hold?” and then they can seethe on hold for hours, because you use some other way to alert the office “Don’t answer line 5” or similar.

          1. MJ*

            Don’t even say that much. “Hold please” the moment you know it’s them and put them on hold. Return at random intervals and sweetly say “thank you for holding” and immediately put them back on hold. Don’t let them get a word in.

            1. parsley*

              I love this. Back when I worked reception for a small marketing company, I got this one guy on the phone who really wanted to talk to my boss but wouldn’t tell me what it was about. We went round in circles for a couple of minutes until I eventually said “Look, I can’t put you through unless you tell me why you’re calling” to which he replied, “Well I don’t want to”. I don’t know if he expected me to do anything other than hang up on him, but it felt pretty good in the moment.

              1. Tiny Business Owner Spouse*

                We tend to get a lot of these President or CEO calls in waves.

                I had a particularly agressive one last year. They would call every week for a couple months. I recognized the number and would grab the call. They asked for owner/president. I would ask what it was regarding. They would respond it was for the president. I would respond that until I knew what it was regarding they would not be getting through. Six weeks back and forth. I ALMOST told them I was the spouse of president and also an owner, but something held me back. Almost like a science experiement…how many times will they call back? Every other time I had identified myself as an owner so that I could get rid of them they were all sales calls. It’s always the same.
                I am so sorry to hear the OP had such a continual nasty experience. I do hear air horns are effetive.

                1. Seb*

                  I went to a women’s college and we had… difficulties… with a local guy calling different dorms room by room (the phones were x5551, x5552, etc.). The night after we were issued rape whistles in a self-defense course, he called again, and someone blew theirs into the receiver. Never heard from him since.

        3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          YES! A few years ago, I had too much time at my hands and set up a pretty elaborate maze of a voice prompt system (using Asterisk in case anyone wants to know). It asked lots of questions getting gradually more personal and absurd. Calls from unknown numbers (no caller ID, out of country, and known scammers/telemarketers/pollsters) got routed there, also all calls to numbers I owned but not used.
          Now I just treat those callers to a dedicated answering machine, starting with a nice Japanese not-in-service recording followed by a message that no solicitation is accepted and they may leave a message (the latter only for the unknown callers, known bad callers and any calls to the unused numbers may not leave a message).
          Cuts down on scams quite a lot.
          I may set up a long and increasingly ridiculous hold “tape”, from time to time interrupting the “music” with “are you still holding? Your contact is still on the phone, please continue to hold” etc. – waste their time as much as possible. This, of course, is only for aggressive, impolite or very clearly scam callers. Regular sales calls I tolerate; I’ll ask for their contact details and shoot off a quick email to purchasing. No, I won’t out them through; I’m a consultant, not a phone operator, so anyone calling my direct number to sell something to my company is mildly suspect.

          1. Gary*

            ” It asked lots of questions getting gradually more personal and absurd.”

            OH PLEASE! Can you share some of the questions?

            1. caradom*

              ‘Welcome to escort services’. Our basic rate is £300 an hour but does not include anything special like ‘kink’. Please leave your name, number and address and we will send her to your house (likely where your partner is if you have one)

    2. SallyB*

      Yep. And if it makes you feel better, get with your boss and come up with a set-in-stone plan on how to deal with spam. And that may just be hanging up.

      1. Llama Wrangler*

        The last time this happened, the person said they had a 3:30 meeting with him. When I said he was on another call, he said verbatim, “Listen dumbass, I have a meeting at 3:30, what time is it now? Are you capable of reading a clock, idiot? Put him on the f****ng phone NOW!” I cheerfully said, “Its 3:25 and he is busy, would you like to leave a message?” and he started calling me a laundry list of names.

        I think that’s a case where as soon as the person said “Listen Dumbass”, the LW could say – “I’m going to hang up now, but I’ll note your number so he knows you called.” And then hang up. And ideally screen calls from that number for the future. I hope the spammer is not spoofing numbers!

          1. Julia*

            Sure, at first LW was engaging, but now it seems like she’s really not:

            “I just had to pick up, get screamed at for 10 seconds, put the phone down, block the number, only for them to get a different number two minutes later. It is exhausting.”

            So I’m still feeling like all the people advising hanging up are missing the point. Yes, she could hang up after two seconds rather than ten, but does that really resolve the mental distress?

            1. Chinook*

              Unfortunately, that stress will always exist for gatekeepers like receptionists. You always have to answer the phone or greet the person at the door and you don’t know who they are.

              The only thing a company can do is to have a policy in place that allows the person answering the phone to hang up immediately without repercussions from the optics. And the optics are big – if I hang up on a rude call when a customer is in the lobby, they will think that I was the one being unprofessional. Having been there, done that, being able to smile at the visitor and say “telemarketer” AND know that my boss will back me up if there is a complaint goes a long way in reducing the stress.

              That and the ability to walk away to a quiet place for 15 minutes on a break when the ringing gets to be too much.

              1. Radical Edward*

                Seconding all of this. I have worked customer-facing jobs of wildly different types over the last ten years and having support from one’s management in handling these situations is vital. I too have hung up on callers in front of customers, and the apologetic nose-wrinkle followed by a simple ‘spam call!’ is really all it takes to brush it off, in most cases. I was fortunate to have a supportive boss in my first retail job, who was happy for us to hang up on customers who turned abusive and wouldn’t take any crap if they tried to complain to him directly. It really helped to set that formative precedent in my mind that even as a teenager, I didn’t have to put up with name-calling or profanity even from customers. Now that I’m much older, I have noticed many of my contemporaries still struggle with this so I am even more appreciative of how important that validation is!

                My previous job was in a non-English-speaking country, and in my department I was one of two employees who had outside phone lines that were given out as ‘English language’ numbers for various contractors and clients. One of the numbers assigned to me, which was publicly available on our website, was coincidentally similar to the customer service number of a major bank. That line could be switched off outside of active business hours, which was a blessing as otherwise it would have rung off the hook with callers ranging from confused bank customers to sexual predators (yep that was a thing), all while blocking actual clients from getting through. The bank customers often got combative when I explained (not in English) that they had the wrong number, so I quickly learned to just spit out a rote formal apology and hang up. As that sort of behavior wasn’t normal phone protocol, it got me strange looks from colleagues and other managers until my boss explained the situation to the whole office.

                My coworker (whose line wasn’t publicly available) sometimes got creepy or abusive callers too, but they had years of experience in recruitment and were great at quickly identifying bad actors and hanging up on them. Watching them in action helped me to lose my own indecisiveness, especially after the day another colleague had the misfortune of picking up a call from a scammer who claimed to have a grievance against our company, and kept them on the phone for a whole hour of abuse simply because it wasn’t clear whether they were legitimate and no higher-ups were available at the time. We then sat down with our manager and suggested a blanket policy to him, so that if in future we accidentally did upset someone ‘real’ he would have an explanation ready.

                My policy on my personal phone is to silence all numbers not in my contacts and send them directly to voicemail. My greeting explicitly states that I will not return the call unless they leave a message with their name and other identifying information. (For this reason I do not save bank or other corporate numbers in my phone at all. I keep them written down or look them up on the website if necessary.) I’d be interested to know if this approach ought to be reconsidered!

        1. gbca*

          This, but I wouldn’t even bother with a response – they don’t deserve one, and it won’t matter anyway. The second the word “dumbass” leaves his mouth, she can hang up!

          1. Anne Elliot*

            This, all day long. Your obligations to your employee do not include being verbally harassed or verbally assaulted. As far as I’m concerned, the exchange should have been: “Listen, dumba-” *Click*

        2. Hey Nonnie*

          I would go one step more assertive:

          Caller: Listen Dumba–
          OP: We don’t tolerate abusive language here. Goodbye. *click*

          Do this consistently, every single time, and hopefully this would also ultimately have the effect of teaching the callers that being abusive gets them the opposite of what they want, so they should be nice to the gatekeeper. If it doesn’t, though, at least OP cuts them off at the pass so they don’t have to listen to all the screeching.

          Obviously get buy-in from your boss, but it sounds like they have your back anyway; and it also sounds like legit contacts would have a direct way to contact your president regardless. You could even coordinate with your president to make sure that he tells his contacts the correct way to reach him (whether that’s direct or through the switchboard) and that anyone who doesn’t behave themselves will get hung up on with his full support.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            If they are non-local, one may be able to send the whole area code directly to voicemail for a limited time, if that is an option for the business. Naturally, they need to keep a close watch on that voicebox and return any real call promptly.

          2. Dream Jobbed*

            Just put the phone down and ignore it until you waste enough of their time and they hang up.

        3. Random commenter on Ask a Manager*

          At “listen dumb ass” they should just hang up without saying anything. They don’t need to be polite at that point. If they could do it at dumb that would be even better.

    3. What's in a name?*

      I would pick up and hover my hand over the little button the reciever hits when hanging up. I don’t need to put the phone down to end the call.

    4. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Try to view if as liberating when they get crazy – that makes it more obvious they’re terrible and clearer than ever that hanging up is the right move.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Literally laughing out loud at their antics usually conveys to them that they’re wasting their time, and should move on to a new victim.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I once said this to a cold-calling salesperson – “Do you actually think these insults are going to make me want to use your services?” I waited a few moments listening to him sputter, then hung up.

    5. Shhhh*

      Absolutely. LW, it sounds like you know when it’s legitimate and when it’s spam. Just hang up.

      I know it’s easier said than done. It took me a while to be comfortable ignoring or hanging up on aggressive vendors making unsolicited phone calls. But you just gotta do it and it makes life so much better to not be dealing with these people.

    6. Magenta Sky*

      As a practical matter, this is the answer. It’s hard for most people to do, but it’s the answer. I get all the spam calls here at work because it doesn’t bother me in the least to just hang up in the middle of a word, and they usually get the message pretty quickly.

      For those who don’t, it helps that I also won’t hesitate to explain to them that once they resort to outright harassment, they are now the outlet for all of my life’s frustrations.

      If you figure out how to get them to stop, let us know. It might help to have the boss tell them point blank that they are now on a list of companies she will *never* do business with under *any* circumstances because of the harassing behavior. But odds are, with the morphing caller ID and the aggressive behavior bordering on criminal harassment, it’s not an actual company anyway. It’s likely a criminal scam of some kind. Calling them out on that – “I know you’re a criminal, and I’m onto your scam, so give it up” – might convince them they’re wasting their time.

      In the end, if your boss has your back, people like this are nothing more, or less, than the outlet for all your life’s frustrations. You can say *anything* to them, call them any name, threaten to run over their dog, and there’s nothing they can do about it. If more people were comfortable with that, there’d be a lot less of this kind of nonsense.

    7. Sue*

      It’s not that hard. As soon as you know it is him, hang up. He might not even be in the same country.

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        That is what they are doing. They are stressed because never knowing if you’re going to be abused is stressful. I have no idea why so many people here are missing that point so spectacularly.

        1. caradom*

          No. it seems she is letting him go on a lot instead of hanging up. What we are saying is do it in the first 3 seconds, as soon as you know it is him.

          1. Office Goblin*

            The spammer is getting new numbers as soon as one is blocked, per the letter, unfortunately. <– As someone already pointed out, she IS shutting him down and blocking him, immediately, and he just calls right back.

    8. EC*

      Exactly, just hang the fork up. LW shouldn’t waste a spare second talking to them. As soon as its clear its spam, just hang up.

    9. Momma Bear*

      Agreed. And if you need to, get a protocol in writing from higher ups. When I worked Customer Service, it was not uncommon to be cursed at. Normally we were not given permission to dump an aggravated person’s call, but as soon as they let loose cursing us out or got really nasty, we had blanket permission to drop them.

    10. hillia*

      Yup. Hang up. Don’t give them a chance to talk, and feel free to hang up if they keep talking. Make a note of the number and don’t answer it, or pick up and immediately hang up if you must. Block it if possible.

      I do this with spammers on my personal line. “No thank you, we’re not interested”. And then I add that number to a special Telemarketer contact which is set to ring silently, so I never hear the call. Don’t even let them get started; they have a script to counter any argument you can make, so don’t engage.

      I used to work graveyard tech support, and a night without a death threat/bomb threat/’I’m gonna kick your ass!!!!’ was a dull night. Our business address was on our website, so it was theoretically possible that someone would fulfill their promise to wait for me when I got off work, but it never happened. I was going through a nasty divorce and custody battle, working for minimum wage, and in a city where I knew no one – my son was with his father. Do you honestly think, you stupid person, that you can make my life worse?

    11. EmmaBear*

      Yes!! Hang up! When I was a receptionist I would occasionally get abusive calls (we also had a CS department and calls sometimes got misrouted to me on the business side); once people started becoming abusive i’d do one of the following:

      1) if the person was becoming abusive, I’d say “I need to keep our conversation polite and professional, otherwise I will end this phone call.” If they didn’t stop, I’d continue to the option below –
      2) if a person was abusive/used profanities, I’d say “I will not be spoken to in an abusive manner and will not tolerate that kind of language. I am going to terminate our call now.” and hang up

      GOOD LUCK! These calls suck, suck, suck. But remember that it isn’t about you.

    12. MamaSarah*

      Are you open to the use of mantras? These can be very soothing and can often quell anxiety within minutes. Our friend who ran a 200 mile race used the mantra “I am stronger now than at any other time in this event” to quite doubt. I think it’s helpful to name the emotion. I used a rather silly interpretation of “om gam ganapataye namaha” for awhile. “I choose love”, “I am powerful”, “All my needs are met” are simple messages that have a tremendous impact on our health. If it aligns with your perspective, I absolutely love the prayer of Saint Theresa – very peaceful (“let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you…all things shall pass”).
      Maybe you can dedicate a 15 minute break to yoga or meditation. I know that sounds silly but if you have some privacy and a mat, why not?
      Have lots of fresh, room temperature water. Eat healthy, life giving foods to support the body. It might be nice to have a spray or a diffuser or even crack a window if you can to help clear the space. Go all in with your self-care. ❤️

    13. BethRA*

      This. Or put them on hold and leave them there – I told our receptionist to do that with an aggressive phone spammer (they weren’t THAT level of a abusive, thank goodness), and it seemed to work. They didn’t get to bully him, and they wound up wasting their own time listening to bad hold music.

      But you don’t need to listen to to this abuse, or even repeated lies and pitches you know are bs. Say “sorry, no thank you” and hang up – and skip straight to hanging up for repeat offenders.

    14. Artemesia*

      This. You should not listen long enough to have him resort to insults. You say ‘he is not available but I can take a message’ — Then the moment he insists he has a meeting or whatever, you hang up. Let your boss know that there is a pattern of abusive calls like this and this is what you will be doing on the very off chance that you might hang up on his father some day LOL.

      ‘He is not available, but I can take a message.’ Aggression starts. ‘ Since there is no message, goodbye’ — if that makes you feel more professional. But no more than one ‘dumbass’ should escape any caller’s lips without a hang up.

      The process might be different if it were an abusive client — but with a spam call — don’t hesitate.

    15. BeenThereDoneThat*

      When I opened my small business a few years ago, the phone number my business was assigned by the phone company apparently belonged previously to someone who was dodging creditors. I would get call after call asking for this person. I’d explain repeatedly that this was a business and that I did not know the person, etc. They’d just call back from a different number and try again. It got so bad at one point that they literally called non stop for 4 hours using 20+ different phone numbers, and I couldn’t even use my phone to conduct my own business. I got so fed up, that I got the call logs off my phone and reported every number to the FCC. They have a handy form on their website for this purpose. Within a short time (within a couple of days, I think), the calls all stopped! It was quiet for at least 6 months, and then they started trickling back in, but never ramped up to ridiculous numbers of calls again. I don’t know if it would help in this situation, but it might be worth a try. Best of luck!

      1. Some guy*

        There are laws regulating when and how a collections agent can call a number. What that collector did is black-letter illegal. 20+ calls in a single day is clear harassment. My understanding is that if you get a call looking for someone else, you inform them of that and request that they not call that number again (after you get the business name and location, of course), they are breaking the law if they keep calling you. Your state attorney general can help you file a complaint, most likely.

    16. ThePear8*

      Absolutely. As soon as I realize a caller is not legit, I just hang up. I get really nervous talking to people on the phone and I’m not going to waste my time on these kinds of calls.

    17. Alanna*

      It sounds like even picking up the phone is too much for OP. I wonder – how many legit calls does OP get a day that are from an unknown number? Few enough that all unknown numbers could go to voicemail? I’d ask if it were ok to try – say for a week- just ignoring ALL unknown numbers, and then just check the messages. If this isn’t leaving any essential business hanging (doubtful, she can check the messages right away), then it might be a good way to A) let this spammer know they aren’t getting any more of their time and B) help keep OP from any more attacks. even if they leave a shitty voicemail it won’t have as much of an impact, and she can hit delete the moment she hears his voice.

      1. Them Boots*

        I think this is an excellent modification! Immediately checking VM from any unknown callers would offer prompt callbacks to legitimate calls while avoiding the scams. OP may have to put the time in to keep active legit contacts updated on the phone list so they can recognize & pick up those recognizable clients/suppliers before going to VM. I bet OP’s bosses could work with that modification since it would theoretically have a very small impact on the business and a significant positive impact on OP. Let us know please!

      2. caradom*

        I work at a university and all our phones use phone blocking so it will always show up as an unknown number. Chances are she simply takes too many calls to block unknown numbers.

    18. Tara*

      You also have the power to block the number! Seriously, why are you all still actually letting this person’s calls come through? It’s clearly harrassment.

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        Had anyone here read the letter in full? The OP *is* blocking the number. The caller is calling from a new one immediately.

        1. caradom*

          ‘Had anyone here read the letter in full?’

          Loads won’t. It is very annoying going through comments where a massive chunk make irrelevant comments because they didn’t read the letter.

  1. High Score!*

    Most companies tell their employees to simply hang up on abusive callers. I’ve even been told to hang up on abusive customers. So just hang up.

    1. Rachel in NYC*

      I ditto that this is when just hanging up is the best option.

      OP, maybe discuss it with your manager (or even the VP since they’ve answered one of these calls) and come to an agreement about how to handle it. Maybe something like, if someone starts to get belligerent, you are allowed to tell them that you will be ending the call (then noting the number so future calls from that number call to voicemail.)

    2. PolarVortex*

      This! I’ve told my people that they can either a) tell the person we don’t tolerate that kind of language and they can speak respectfully or we’ll end the call or b) if it’s too much to do even that, just hang up. I do ask them to tell me every time this happens, so I can pull recordings. But that’s because most of these for us are actual customers and I get to have a ‘fear of crowley’ talk with them about how they’re representing a business and that’s not business appropriate to talk to another business like that. And if that doesn’t work, the VP has a convo. We’ve dropped some customers for their behavior after the VP talked to them.

      The Pres and VP here both sound like they have about as little tolerance for this as I do. I’d have a longer conversation with them, document how often you get calls, how often those calls get inappropriate, and see if a better policy can be written for handling these idiots.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        Props for the Crowley reference!

        I work in a different environment with mandated clients, so less of a “customer is always right” ethos than many businesses. That said, our usual practice is to tell them once (even if they are yelling and don’t hear it) that we are always instructed to hang up if someone is being inappropriate or abusive, and you’re doing that now [click] and then the next time we say nothing and just hang up as soon as the abuse starts. I expect your VP would agree to this!

          1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

            Perhaps the LW should send the screaming scammer a potted begonia for him to yell at? (And chuckles for the Good Omens reference! Crowley rules! ;} )

            Suggested canned answer for obnoxious phone scammers: “Find another way to make a living before YOUR next job is making license plates. Goodbye!”

            That’s my favorite rejoinder to calls purporting to be from the IRS (which doesn’t dun taxpayers via phone), “Windows” (which isn’t Microsoft, of course), etc., etc. There’s a scammer born every minute, it seems, but you don’t need to listen to them – especially when they’re verbally abusive. A snappy answer that lets you know that you’re onto them can even be fun!

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      Yep. Truly, there is no reason whatsoever to stay on the call with these people. They rely on people not wanting to hang up, but that is the fastest way to get rid of them. If you want you can just start talking over them and say something like “sorry, I won’t be able to connect you, bye” as you put the phone down if that helps you feel less rude? But there is no need to engage.

    4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Agree. Sexist aggression is sometimes a tactic with scammy salesguys who want to bulldoze their way past the “dumb bimbo at reception” to get to the “real” customer… but this many calls? With language this abusive? Even when they reach the President or the VP? This is a bad guy with time on his hands who likes making women afraid. Anything you give him, beyond the sound of the phone hanging up, is giving him what he’s after. Don’t give him any words. Don’t give him the sound of your voice. Don’t let him hear any emotion. “Click” should be the only sound. Consistently. Every time. Starve him.

      Additionally, I am not sure which branch of law enforcement you would report this too, also, but I think that is worth doing. If he’s calling you daily to threaten you and scream the c word at you, odds are, he’s calling a lot of other people in a day.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        The abusive behavior, combined with the morphing caller ID, suggest to me it’s not even a real sales call. I think it’s far more likely some kind of criminal scam, which are increasingly common and increasingly sophisticated (it’s trivial to find out who has authority to send money or authorize shipping of goods at most companies of any size). If I had to guess, it’s maybe somebody who is going to order a whole lot of expensive product over the phone using a stolen credit card, and have it shipped out of the country as quick as possible (before the credit card gets reported stolen). The abusive tactics have maybe worked before – we all know a lot of companies will take the side of an abusive customer over an employee, especially when they believe they’re getting a big sale.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          That is repellant on so many levels. Ugh.

          But I guess that makes sense. Usually guys who scream the c-word at you are enjoying your fear. Plus I couldn’t figure out what the percentage was in acting this way. But if they are just trying to get a name they can use, that tactic would probably work. When I was much younger and new to working, I could have been scared into putting someone like that through, I think. :(

        2. Rarely do I post*

          I actually heard about a very similar scam this morning that the police were aware of. I would also encourage OP to report it as they may be aware of other instances.

        3. Filosofickle*

          I was looking for this kind of comment to add to. LW said they sent a call through to the Pres, allegedly who the caller is looking for, and the Pres hung up on them in shock. If it was sales, that’s not how it would have gone. I’m not sure what the caller is up to but it’s not sales. Some sort of harassment?

        4. ThePear8*

          Yeah, I was thinking while reading this that it reads a less like salesperson and almost more like a zoom-bomber type of attack – I’m not even sure they’re actually trying to sell something so much as just be rude and abusive to get a reaction/as a prank. Or like you suggest they could have more malicious intent like trying to get some kind of info on the company or run a scam.
          Either way, as has already been suggested a lot, I think your best bet is to hang up as soon as you know it’s this caller. You have absolutely 0 obligation to listen to him or indulge his rants. You know he’s not legit. Just hang up.

      2. GothicBee*

        Yes, I think LW should see if they can report this to the police or whatever law enforcement is appropriate. The volume of calls and the persistence in getting new numbers every time is kind of astounding. I know my local police will sometimes warn about scams and they do encourage people to report scams, so it’s absolutely something they should be able to handle. Also, I work for a university, so I know it’s a bit different, but we absolutely involve campus police when we get harassing phone calls (never had anything on this level though).

        1. Wintermute*

          They’re probably using software that makes getting a new number either automatic or the click of a button. Faking caller ID is so trivial it’s pointless.

      3. Office Chinchilla*

        I was thinking that too – for how to deal with it mentally, think of the caller as a troll. Like an internet troll, trying to get a rise out of you. (If you want to imagine they live under a bridge, I can’t see the harm in that.) They’re not trying to sell anything or scam you, they’re just trying to make you mad. It’s a game you didn’t sign up to play. When they upset you, they win. When you hang up on them, waste their time or otherwise make them mad, you win.

        But I am sorry. It SUCKS to be targeted by the dregs of humanity.

    5. I could never get the hang of Thursdays*

      Hang up immediately. And if you can tell it’s the same person over and over, are you able to let it go to voicemail? Block the number, which you’re doing, and stop engaging completely as soon as your sure it’s this jack-wagon.

    6. CSR by Day*

      If only it were that easy. We can hang up on abusive callers, but we still have to document the call.

      And this is the place where they expect you to be on the phone all the time and track the amount of time you are on the phone. We’re supposed to document everything while the caller is still on the phone and “close” the case before the caller hangs up. My employer then complain about unaccounted time because we aren’t allowed to add case notes to a file when no one is on the phone. OTOH, when caller call in and say they previously spoke with someone, I can usually find where they called, but there’s usually no helpful documentation listed and I know why.

  2. So Silly*

    Does the line to your office go straight through when someone dials? Maybe you can have a couple of prompts beforehand for callers (ie. press 1 to speak with our receptionist). This may deter spammers, it may mess with their automated system if they have one, or it may, at the very least, slow them down a bit.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      That works for robocalls, but lately there’s been a lot of very targeted scam calls, which is what it sounds like the OP is experiencing with the president being specifically named. We’ve had this hit our org a few times – people calling impersonating some important person and demanding we cut a check to a ‘vendor’. Several people have fallen for it because of how angry the scam callers sounds and general fear for their jobs. Its a really crappy thing to do to another human.

    2. starsaphire*

      Yeah, the office needs a robust automated system. You’re not a receptionist and you should not have to be dealing with this. At all.

      I actually read your letter, and I know that you are already hanging up and that you are already blocking the numbers (not sure why others are suggesting things you clearly stated you were doing) but it is high time to advocate for some sort of automated voice mail system.

      This isn’t your job, and it is destroying your mental health and will shortly start to affect your physical health (i.e., the nausea and stress you feel when the phone rings) and this will echo over into how you feel at home. (BT,DT.)

      Put your foot down with the VP and President, and until they can get a good/better system installed, let all the calls go to voicemail.

      And talk to your doctor about the stress and anxiety. I didn’t get help for the phone anxiety when I was being stalked, and I still have issues about it today – don’t be like me. :)

      1. Sara without an H*

        Yes, this. If the calls are coming in frequently enough to be disruptive, and it sounds as though they are, OP’s executives need to invest in a good-quality automated system.

        Voicemail is one of the great inventions of modern times. Your firm needs to start using it.

        1. irritable vowel*

          I agree that the business needs to immediately implement a policy of letting all calls that come in go straight to voicemail. Will this potentially affect their ability to connect quickly with people who have legitimate business needs? Perhaps. But it’s no different than a business that is vulnerable to in-person attacks locking their front door and requiring people to state their business through an intercom.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            There’s a fine line between driving away the scammers and driving away customers, especially when sometimes, they’re the same people.

            But there are occasions when you have to walk that line. For the boss, taking care of employees is *far* more important than taking care of customers or vendors.

            1. Bored Fed*

              I agree that you need to protect employees from abusive vendors — and abusive customers! — but sending ALL customers through voice mail he!! may carry too high a cost for the business.

              1. Magenta Sky*

                For some businesses, it’s too much. For others, it’s routine.

                The devil is always in the details.

                1. caradom*

                  Well it goes like this, when you want to buy something you will get through in a few mins. If you want to cancel then good luck is all I have to say.

        2. Yorick*

          This is totally frequent enough to be disruptive. OP says scam calls in general are happening a hundred times a week. That is frequent enough to be problematic even before you consider that some of them are aggressive.

      2. TootsNYC*

        but the OP is not actually hanging up right away.
        Take this one:
        It’s always someone who says they have a meeting with our president (a lie, he only does Zoom meetings or he gives his cell phone out to the other people involved) and when I say that he isn’t available, they get very aggressive insisting on speaking to him. When I let them know that he is on a call/not in the office/ unavailable, they become even more aggressive.

        OP knows it’s a lie. Hang up on them without comment.
        Discuss with the boss; let them know your plan, so they can alert people they’re arranging contact with, and then just hang up.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          The boss should also be keeping OP current on boss’s schedule, to remove any ambiguity on whether or not a scheduled meeting is real.

        2. Paulina*

          Yes, there’s significant continued interaction long past when the OP knows it’s a scam, and it’s clear this caller is not going to be respectful. Ensure that the VP and president support you just hanging up, get this permission/directive in an email to cover yourself (and to give you something to look at when you get rattled or feel guilty, you’re just doing your job), and then give this AH “He is not available through that means, goodbye,” CLICK.

        3. Slipping The Leash*

          Oh, I disagree. Just super cheerfully put them on hold. And leave them there. Eventually, they’ll hang up. They may call back…even more pissy. And then you be nice and chipper and say, “oh, thanks so much for calling back, please hold.” And leave them again. And if they call a third time, “Oh, I’m sorry about that! Please hold.” YOU CAN DO THIS ALL DAY.

          1. Same as above*

            As mentioned above, I had permission to do this at a temp job once and it was like….a light in my life. It was also a very loose work environment, my coworker once blew a whistle into a phone at a scammer. Glad I don’t still work there, but memorable.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          ” Hang up on them without comment.”

          OP, this is a true jewel piece of advice. Use A LOT less words, OP. The more you talk to them the more they think they gotcha.

          At home here, I noticed that when I stopped answer the numbers I did not recognize the volume of spammer went down. It’s very UNsatisfing to find that no one will talk to them.

          My friend used to get super ticked off at these people. He’d spend 10 minutes cussing them out. I said, “That’s going to lead to health problems if you keep doing that. AND it causes them to call you back!” Since he has stopped answering the phone so much, the calls went down. Not practical advice for work, but the poster who was talking about a VM system to do your answering for you probably has a gold nugget to wisdom right there.

          1. caradom*

            We all receive a lot of spam calls but this poor lady is dealing with 1,000x ours. And our spam calls usually don’t involve extreme verbal abuse on the part of the caller.

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          But if your job is to answer the phone, you can’t do that.

          OP, definitely start hanging up as soon as you know it’s a scam. There is no reason to keep arguing with the scammer about a meeting that doesn’t exist.

      3. Quinalla*

        Agreed that an automated system would help deter some of it, even with targeted calling that aren’t robocalls, if you give them even one hurdle, they might take you off their list since they can’t get to a person immediately. And as others have said, if you aren’t hanging up immediately when you know it is a scam, then make sure to do so – get buy in from your bosses first if necessary.

        Beyond that, I think figuring out how to better handle your anxiety is the next important thing to do. For me I’d think about the worst that could happen (someone calls me rude names and is vicious and angry, but I can hang up whenever I want and that none of this is about me but about them) and figure out a plan to deal with it best I could. Maybe take a break right after one of those calls to regain your composure and get a drink/snack/etc.? Maybe ask if one of the other people in the office can answer the phones for the next 30 minutes or something or let things go to voicemail for a few? Have either a stock phrase (“We will not tolerate abusive language.” the good old “God Bless you!” from the south or “Wow!” or something similar) or just hang up, whichever makes you feel better.

        Good luck, this sounds awful :(

    3. Cosmicgorilla*

      Blocking the number isn’t helping, so I’d be tempted to stop doing that so you recognize the number.

      Maybe set up a dummy voicemail. Send him there, and he hears “hello? Hello? Speak up, I can’t hear you. Hello? Hello?”

      And I love the air horn suggestions for when he starts yelling.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        I like the dummy voicemail option. It could be given out to all spammers and tell them it’s the direct line or a cell phone number, if the spammer already has the direct line. If possible, have the VP or CEO record a message on it so it’s believable, and say they’ll get back to when they can. Of course, they never get back to the spammers. Just delete the messages away when you get time.

      2. JustaTech*

        Years ago my spouse worked at a startup. They moved to a new office and suddenly were inundated with sales calls for them to buy printer paper and whatnot. They didn’t have a receptionist, and no one had the time to deal with these *very* persistent callers.

        So they took a tech startup approach and made a voicemail box that played the sound of a troop of screaming monkeys for 20 minutes, and then hung up. As soon as a sales call started they were transferred to the screaming monkeys (which got the “no we do not want your services” point across far more effectively than a person saying “no, thank you”).

        You shouldn’t have to go to such extremes, but if just hanging up isn’t getting the point across, maybe the screaming monkeys would.

    4. WellRed*

      Yes, with 100 calls a week(!) that are solicitation or spam I’m not clear how OP gets anything else done. Automated call system.

      1. Reba*

        Yes! I was shocked by that number. Op, do the higher ups know how frequently this happens?
        It is extremely reasonable to ask for an automated answering system. You are worth it!

        They should also ask the phone company to do more–telecoms generally don’t help much with this, but there are things they *could* do and I guess I hope that consumer demand could help motivate them.

        1. caradom*

          Unfortunately this is a very disturbed individual. The workplace could be at risk of him doing much worse.

  3. Cordoba*

    I recommend making them waste their time.

    As soon as they say they have a meeting with the president, tell them “No problem, I’ll transfer you” and then put the phone down or put them on hold/mute until they figure it out and hang up.

    If they call again, do it again.

    This denies the caller whatever they think they’re getting from berating LW, and also saves LW from having to engage with a single second of their abuse.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I used to work nights in a banking call center. When I would get a really irate customer treating me like this, I would transfer them to our loss prevention department which had a really long (around 8 minutes IIRC) outgoing message, followed by “Our office are now closed. Please call back tomorrow during regular banking hours.”

      I had another caller start right in by saying “I live in the United States. I shouldn’t have to press 1 for English.” I immediately hung up.

      Both were intensely satisfying.

      1. snarkarina*

        My mom was an executive assistant to the CEO and used to do this a lot too, esp. with the aggressive scam/spam callers. The advantage is that 1) you’re wasting their time not yours due to the multi-line phone systems 2) While they’re tied up, they’re unable to do this to anyone else.

      2. Littorally*

        When I worked at a call center, we had a serial harasser who targeted our Spanish service line (and I was one of the very few folks who staffed that line). That call center, shame on them, had a never-hang-up policy, but for that one harasser we would transfer him to a “supervisor’s” mailbox that would give a nice automated reply and take his message. The voicemails were documented. I don’t know if anything ever came of the documentation, but it was satisfying.

        “Oh yes sir I’ll put you through to our supervisor’s line right away” lol that supervisor left the company eight years ago.

    2. Consultant number 5*

      I like this idea if you can mentally handle his anger when he figures out what you’ve done. It’s easy to say just play dumb (“oh, this phone system is so ill-behaved, let me try again”), but that’s harder in practice since he’ll respond to that with a bunch of insults will that get to you.

      Still, for me personally, nothing would feel better than to figure out all kinds of ways to waste his time.

      1. Alison*

        When he calls back after you have put him on hold: high pitched whistle or other loud annoying noise directly into the phone.

        1. Tuna*

          Years ago, I worked in a small shop that sold electronic gadgets. I had a daily caller who would spew all kinds of sexual nonsense as soon as I said hello. My boss gave me a small air horn and told me to “use it when necessary.” Only had to do it once, and he never called back.

    3. Julia*

      The only problem with this technique is you’re holding up the line while other legitimate callers may want to get through. (Of course, you could keep the phone to your ear to listen for call waiting beeps, but that seems cumbersome and might require you to listen to verbal abuse.)

    4. LKW*

      I love this idea. If you have a department with some cranky people who are up for releasing their own crankiness on these callers – they may be happy to help. Even better, if someone is up for listening to the whole schpiel and the then asking really really stupid questions at the end like “When you say it’s in the cloud – is that cloud over this building? What happens if I stay home, does the cloud come to my street?”

      1. juliebulie*

        I was just thinking the same thing. Create a dummy extension, turn off the ringer, don’t let it go to voicemail.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Or let it go to voicemail and just delete all the messages without listening to them, because you know that the only messages on there are spam/scams.

          Like an email filter that sends things to trash.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      I do this. One call in particular that I have been getting starts out as a robocall claiming that our Google listing needs fixing (it doesn’t) and inviting me to press 1 to talk to a real person. So one day I did. I had a polite chat with a real person who lied through his teeth. I opened it by stating that we weren’t going to buy anything and I only answered to waste his time. To my surprise, he then went on to waste his own time. When I pointed out that if they were legit they wouldn’t be spoofing their number, he claimed that they didn’t. I saw different numbers from different parts of the country multiple times every day. What was the point?

      One lesson I take from this is that many of these people aren’t actually very good at this. Another one I get a lot is with a real person with a south Asian accent wanting to sell us janitorial services. For a long time I polite pointed out that we were in an office building that provided those for us and please take us off their list. The person would apologize and say he would. Then I would get the same damned call again. Now I just hang up. The mystery is why they keep calling. With robocalls it is essentially free, so this makes sense. But this is a live person, costing them money. I have no explanation beyond simple incompetence.

      1. Mae Fuller*

        A lot of the time it’s just a numbers game. A long, long time ago I worked in a call centre for exactly 12 hours. We were all paid (except actually not – long story!) minimum wage to sit and call everyone on a list, and there were potential bonuses for ringing more numbers and/or keeping people on the phone longer. Nobody present cared remotely whether or not there was an actual sale in the end – that was several layers of management and probably more than one contract away.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          So my polite chat actually served his purpose, with a long call. This doesn’t really change my analysis that they aren’t very good at this. It just moves the incompetence to a more abstract, bureaucratic level of poorly designed incentives for the worker bees.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      Except that it wastes the OP’s time too. Plus it holds up the phone for legit calls. For example, with my work phone there are 2 lines. If one line is busy (on hold or on the phone) the other line can be picked up. If both lines are busy then calls will go to VM.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I’m not suggesting it for the OP, and I don’t do it often: just when I am simultaneously bored and annoyed by the calls.

    7. Little Bobby Tables*

      May I suggest setting up a transfer to a line that uses an Animaniacs song on endless loop as hold music? I did that once to a suspected scam call. To my surprise, he was still on the line after 20 minutes.

  4. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    I have had SO MANY calls over the last eight months from scammers who managed to almost copy my mother’s cell phone number, or always call from my home area code.

    OP– Hang up on them as soon as you know they’re spammers, and don’t feel a moment of guilt for it.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I was chatting with clients over a Zoom call yesterday while waiting on a few others to join the call when a spam call started coming through. I hit ignore and then brought it up and asked them if they’ve experienced any uptick in spam calls. Every single one of them said yes…there were like 8 of us on the call at that point!

      It started the week after Christmas and has continued after New Years. So. Many. Calls! I had a lot before, but now it seems like they’ve doubled. Same thing as you, they call from the area code of my home state. So annoying!

      1. TootsNYC*

        my theory about this huge uptick in these calls is that it’s part of or similar to the disinformation/degradation campaign that Russia started with the 2020 election.

        The goal is not to actually spam you. The goal is to remind as many Americans as possible about how untrustworthy the world is, that they have to regard every contact as an enemy, that they aren’t safe. To change the mood and tone of our country.

        1. Kaiko*

          I’m in Canada and our spam calls have been going up as well. My husband both get this robocall that says “THE POLICE ARE COMING TO YOUR HOUSE BECAUSE YOU LIED ON YOUR TAXES” and istg it nearly gave me a panic attack the first time it happened.

          1. Salyan*

            My favorite is ‘your social insurance number is going to be cancelled’. Like, sure, go ahead… if I don’t have a SIN I can’t pay taxes. No problem! (I know it’s not quite as simple as that, but it’s a satisfying comeback to contemplate.)

            1. Cathie from Canada*

              I got a call one morning that said it was Visa Fraud Department and asked if I had just bought a mattress online from Florida.
              When I said of course I hadn’t, they said they would cancel the charge… but first could I just give them my Visa number.
              When I said “but don’t you already have it? You called me” they hung up.
              I called the real Visa fraud department after that to report them.
              We also started to get some Canada Revenue Agency spam calls — “this is Sgt Preston of the RCMP and we’re investigating you for tax fraud….” — I told them to F-off and that was the end of that.

              1. Self Employed*

                Once I didn’t hang up on the “your car’s extended warranty is about to expire” call because I thought it might be entertaining to talk to them about my 21-year-old car. The first thing they did was to ask what make and model of car I had. I told them, “You called ME about my extended warranty, don’t you know what car it is?” and they hung up.

                Once I called the dealership where the original owner bought it (I’m the third owner) to see if maaaybe Audi did have some kind of extended warranty. No, they don’t, though they’d be happy to book me for service at $295/hr or something. They acknowledged that the letter from corporate about an airbag recall was real, but they still don’t have new airbags to do the warranty replacement.

          2. Coffee Bean*

            I am in the U.S., and one morning we got a call around 7 AM from a guy with a Southeast Asian accent saying “This is Dennis Quaid calling. You have seriously violated the law, and you must appear before the magistrate.. Please call us back at. . .with your driver’s license identification”. This was left on our answering machine (yes, we still have one where you can ere someone leaving a message). I said to my husband “Wow. Dennis Quaid must have fallen on hard times. He is now working for an imaginary magistrate.”

            Another time, I got a scam Microsoft call. The guy said “we have detected issues on your computer, and we need to log into fix them. So I said “Microsoft doesn’t reach out to people to report issues. This is a fraudulent call. I hope you sleep well at night knowing you are trying to scam innocent people.”. Then I hung up. And don’t you know that jack*ss called me back, and said “Same to you.” Yeah, well, pal. I don’t defraud people for a living.

            1. Liz*

              I was bored one afternoon and kept one of those guys on the phone for 25 minutes. He was never able to tell me WHICH of the three computers in my house was the one with the fault, so I just gladly talked him round in circles until I got bored. Eventually I told him I use Linux.

              1. EvilQueenRegina*

                My neighbour played along with one of those for a bit, pretended he was turning on his laptop, they asked him to read out the code his computer was supposedly giving him so they could “fix” it, then spelled out P-I-S-S-O-F-F and hung up. My uncle also said his windows are fine and he was looking out of them right at that moment – the scammer swore at him and hung up.

            2. Trillian*

              I am kind of disappointed I’ve never received one of those. My home computer is and always has been a Mac, and for years saying “I have a Mac” was a guaranteed way of bringing any tech support call to a grinnnding halt (I got very good at doing my own troubleshooting). For once, that would be a feature, not a bug.

          3. Chinook*

            The irony is that the cops often get this exact call on their work phones. They do have fun with that if the call comes during a slow period.

          4. Stopgap*

            If anyone has anxiety about these calls being real, here’s an observation I had that might help: if they were real, they would verify your identity before getting into your alleged crimes. Or at least ask about it.

            1. Blj531*

              If they are real you still shouldn’t talk to them, you should call a lawyer (your local public defender’s office will
              Likely help you if you call during business hours). Just get the detectives name and number.

      2. Nita*

        My cell phone provider rolled out a new feature last week. Now the spam calls get flagged with the title “Spam Risk” instead of “Unknown Number.” Glorious. I hope this is becoming a thing everywhere.

        1. Anne Elliot*

          My friends and I joke about Spam Risk like they’re a real person. “Just got another call from Spam Risk!”

        2. The Rural Juror*

          I had that app through AT&T (my provider), but others were still coming through. Eventually I deleted the app and just don’t answer calls from unknown numbers with my area code (since I now live out-of-state).

          1. Artemesia*

            Same here; don’t answer unknown numbers — unless I am awaiting a call like a repair call or something. And of course every time I am in a call answering period, I get the car warranty calls and similar. My favorite is that ‘there is something wrong with your social security number and it will be cancelled unless you press 1 yadda yadda.

            1. UK gal*

              Yeah I am flat hunting right now so have to allow unknown numbers and sound cheerful answering incase it’s an agency and all the unsolicited calls are driving me barmy.

            2. Self Employed*

              Yes! Any time I make a bunch of calls and am expecting responses, I get a ton of spam calls. And with people using their own phones for WFH, I can’t just ignore unknown numbers.

              I wonder if my cell provider sells my call activity to spammers, or there’s a way to find it online? Sorry if I sound paranoid, but there are so many ways to get money by selling customer data these days it shouldn’t be surprising.

            3. RoseDark*

              I have discovered a delightful trick that many of those robocalls only begin when they hear the words “hello” or “hi”

              I started answering my phone in French or Spanish. Robocalls are dead air for 3-5 seconds followed by a click as they hang up. Spam callers launch into their spiel and are often ground to a halt when I pleasantly respond with more French or Spanish to the tune of “sorry I do not understand you” and eventually hang up on me. (If I get transferred to a Spanish line I start in with French. French lines — which are few and far between, honestly — usually get my very very limited Hebrew, which means I start talking about apples and dogs.) Actual humans with whom I’d like to speak usually say “I’m looking for [Rose]?” or the like, and I happily switch into English with “this is they; may I ask who’s calling?”

              It works out quite well for me, and is extremely entertaining to boot.

            4. caradom*

              My university has all phones blocked for outside contacts. When I call a student (part of admissions) I always get a hesitant or cold response until I say ‘You applied for x course and I need to check a few things’. After that they are fine.

        3. Sunny*

          Mine is “Scam Likely”. We joke about getting calls from our good friend Scam Likely. (I don’t answer Scam Likely’s calls. Occasionally they leave voicemail, which has run the gamut from a company I’ve never interacted with complaining that I have product that belongs to them to something about my [nonexistent] Chinese passport.)

        4. miss chevious*

          Mine is Potential Spam, which sounds like a great name for a sandwich! It also shows a little dial that indicates the likelihood of the spam, which is nice especially when I’m waiting on a call from a service or a vendor.

      3. Magenta Sky*

        “they call from the area code of my home state”

        Caller ID is useless if the caller has their own phone system. It is, literally, a setting in their PBX, and can be set to *anything* with no verification. Just a few minutes ago, I got a scam call from not only my own area code, but my own prefix – which is 100% reliable in identifying it as a scam call before I even answer it, since I don’t know *anyone* who has the same prefix.

        1. Elliott*

          Yeah, I get spam calls with the same prefix as my number all the time. It makes it immediately obvious that it’s spam.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          My friend had her own number on the caller ID. She had just lost her husband and she quipped, “I did not know they had phones on the other side!”

      4. JustaTech*

        On day last February (when we were still in the office) I literally *watched* a scam caller run through every single phone number on our floor. It was one of those extra obnoxious “the police are coming for you!” calls, and I happened to be one of the first to get it (so I picked up). I hung up, laughed, and was telling my coworkers when one of their phones started to ring. Same call. We’re laughing about it some more when my *other* coworker’s phone starts ringing. Same call.
        At that point, since it’s an open office, the whole floor knew, so we just watched as the phones rang in sequence, even at the empty desks.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Anybody with a PBX system can set their own caller ID. This is because anybody with a lot of lines – like your own bank, for instance – does not exactly have phone lines, they have a certain capacity for outgoing calls, and if they used the ANI info (which is how the phone company bills services) it would be a circuit ID number that literally can’t even receive incoming calls.

        There have been proposals for legal changes that would put caller ID under the administrative control of the telecom, who would be required to verify its accuracy before making changes, but there’d be a lot of (legitimate and otherwise) resistance to actually implementing such a plan.

        1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Could you explain more about this or point me at a resource? I don’t know a lot about telecom, and, perhaps naively, I keep thinking “well can’t the phone company stop them from spoofing numbers?” I would genuinely like to understand why that can’t happen, or at least, why it isn’t happening now.

          1. Magenta Sky*

            There are legitimate reasons why legitimate companies don’t want to have to beg their phone company to change their caller ID. Many of those companies are scummy, sure, but they’re *legal*, and will remain so.

            And there are a lot of scummy phone companies out there, and if one of them is your only choice (as is often the case, or they wouldn’t be able to be so scummy), you quickly develop a healthy distrust of them.

            A more compelling (at least to me) reason is that there will be someone (or more likely a small staff) of low paid employees at the telecom who are responsible for this, who will get the blame for everything that goes wrong with the system (and some of the proposals have included criminal charges for mistakes), even though it’s all beyond their control.

            How do you verify the person calling to change the caller ID is authorized to do so? What do you do when the person who *was* authorized is no longer with the company and isn’t willing to authorize a change? (I’m reminded of a retailer I worked at that had *very* strict rules about who could change names on the authorized signers list for charge accounts. It was usually the owner’s secretary, who filled out the application, and if that person left, it got . . . complicated.)

            The verification system would have to be complicated enough for there to be significant costs in running it, and it would still be prone to gaming the system.

            (There’s be some technical challenges in implementing it, too, but they would be minor.)

      2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        About a year ago, while we were still in the office, my organisation had a run of people spoofing our number. My line (never used) had a run of furious people demanding that I do something about these people, and I had to explain that our IT people were looking at it, but no, I personally could not stop them, and no, I could not explain why this was happening.

      3. Paulina*

        A month ago I had a few calls on my cell phone from people in my area code and prefix who said they were returning my call. They didn’t want anything and said they’d just hit “return missed call,” so I figure my number had taken its turn as a spoofed number. The prefix is common for the cell provider. Very polite of them to return a random missed call, which I don’t.

        1. Meghan*

          About a year ago I had a voice-mail from an older woman who was super mad and going OFF about how many times I had called her and I had to stop or she was going to call the police. I really wanted to call her back and try to explain what was going on.

          Right before Christmas a group text went out with people who have my same number bit the last 2 digits were like 20-40. That was so annoying, phone blowing up with “stop” texts and I finally just blocked every single number.

    2. Elenna*

      tbh at this point, if it’s an unknown number with my area code I assume it’s more likely to be spam, not less.

      Literally, a conversation with my dad last night:
      “What was that call this morning?”
      “Didn’t check, some number with our area code”
      “Yeah, that’s fine, it’s spam then”

      1. Random commenter on Ask a Manager*

        I usually don’t answer calls I don’t recognize from anywhere. If they don’t leave a message it must not have been important.

      2. Ally McBeal*

        Same here – I never answer any calls from the same area code as my cellphone. It’s worked well because I left that area code in 2004, so no one in the area would have a reason to contact me. Problem is, I’ve recently moved to a new part of the country, so I do have to answer calls from my new area code, and have started getting spammers again as a result. Sigh.

    3. Cedrus Libani*

      Same. I’ve had my phone number since high school, now I live on the other side of the continent. I sincerely wish there was an easy way to put an entire area code on whitelist – the only person who calls me from there is my mom, everything else is spam.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        I’ve had this thought so many times. Telecom companies say “oh we can’t do anything, we need Congress to pass legislation!” as if foreign spammers would care at all that the U.S. govt says not do something. I hear that some of the companies are jointly working on technology that will reduce or stop this, but it’s just rumors at this point AFAIK.

    4. Aldabra*

      For personal calls – on my iPhone there’s a setting where you can turn off the ringer for calls not in your address book. While I have missed a couple calls that I would have preferred to take, it means that mostly I don’t get bothered by spam calls anymore. I still get them, they just don’t bother me. They go to voicemail and then I block them at my leisure. I also forward spam texts to my service provider, and the block them for me, which is great since I think there’s a 999-number limit on blocks.

    5. Them Boots*

      Yeah, I get the “neighborhood clone’ spam calls. It’s awesome!!!….because I moved & now live in a different state than my cell phone number indicates. The only legitimate calls from there are from my aunt. So any ‘local’ calls get ignored. Bliss

  5. grogu*

    i’m sorry this is happening. that would also give me major anxiety and panic. also caveat that the following is only for ‘regular’ spam callers, not the overly aggressive ones that call 14 times in an hour. so i know at some workplaces they don’t allow this, but can you hang up on them? like once you’ve identified that it is spam can you say something like “x is not available. thanks!” and hang up? do the bosses want you to wait for the spammer to hang up? do they want you to take messages from them? if it’s not coming from higher up i highly advocate that you try to engage as little as possible. best of luck.

  6. Yubitronic*

    This is not a scammer or spammer. This is harrassment, and you should report it to the police.

    1. Web Crawler*

      Is this something that the police could deal with, without additional information about this jerk? Actual question because I don’t know how these things work

      1. Dave*

        I think you if you can get the number it was called from maybe? There are some spam calls the police do get involved but I don’t know the level.
        Depending on the state, if you are in a one party consent state recording the call might help.

        1. Ivy*

          It’s important to keep in mine that the incoming number is spoofed. That’s why they can so easily get another number and keep going. If you dial that number back directly, you may get come confused (and even frustrated) person who doesn’t know why you are annoyed at them because they never called you in the first place. In fact, we once received several calls from people going “stop calling me with your spam” and we politely explained that we were both getting scammed. That’s why the police won’t be able to do anything and why the don’t call list has failed.

          1. all the time*

            My phone vendor can look in their system and find out where it is really coming from –

          2. nonegiven*

            The do not call list has not failed. The legitimate companies are not calling you, too, so you can be assured most unknown numbers are scammers.

      2. LKW*

        If they make a threat – absolutely. If they threaten to harm you, “I’ll come over there and shoot you” – that’s absolutely illegal and can be reported.

        The problem is that many of these are spoofed numbers and outside of the jurisdiction of police.

      3. Cat Tree*

        It really depends on the local police and how busy they are. I used to live in a city and my car was vandalized 4 times in 4 years. The PD always gave me a case number for my insurance, but their policy is not to come to the scene unless something is also stolen. I was once getting harassing sexual phone calls on my home phone, and I reported that to the police. I didn’t expect much of them, but I wanted it to be “on the record” in case my corpse turned up somewhere. That time they actually came to my apartment but they were as dismissive and useless as I expected.

        Now I live in a suburb and it’s so different. One morning I found my car scratched and dinged like another car had scraped against it, but it was still drivable. I called the police to get a case number for my insurance, and two officers actually came out to investigate. Another time I found a lost dog, so I called the local PD and they actually sent an officer to pick up the dog and return it to its owner, who had also called to report it missing. If they didn’t know who the owner was they would have taken it to the local SPCA.

      4. Maggie*

        Its highly unlikely that the police would do anything. Maybe fill out a report for “your records” at the absolute most. The police barely investigate things like shoplifting, car break ins, and home burglaries. They aren’t going to do anything about an angry phone call.

      5. Magenta Sky*

        Laws vary considerably, but odds are, this isn’t a real sales call so much as a criminal scam of some sort, and odds are, the caller isn’t even in the same country. The phone company *might* be able to block everything from that call center, and *might* be inclined to do so if asked, but unless you can definitively say “this is who is doing this and this is how I know” to cops that are local to the caller, they will be, at best, apologetic at not being able to do much.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I don’t think this is even a scam. This could be a misguided attempt to get past the front desk. I get those calls all the time. But the one time they got through to the President, it went nowhere. So what is the point? Why are they putting in this much time and effort?

          My guess is that this is simply trolling–a more vulgar and more tiresome version of a Bart Simpson prank call.

      6. GothicBee*

        I’ve definitely seen our local police handle scam calls and stuff. I work for a university and our campus police would want to know about this kind of thing too. If it seems like the cops are of no use, you may choose not to report it more than once, but considering the nature of the calls, I think it’s worth contacting them about it. And I’m not one to normally suggest going to the cops, but in this case, at worst you’ll just find out they can’t do anything about it.

      7. Chinook*

        In Canada, yes. The RCMP track fraudulent phone calls and scams but only knows about them when people tell them. Obviously, this is not an emergency, so don’t call 911, but the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (formerly PhoneBusters) at 1-888-495-8501.

        Short term, they can’t do much, but they need these reports before they can do anything. I know that they closed down an operation in India (with the Indian government’s help, of course). But, they also can send out alerts to the media to let people know that, say, the CRA doesn’t accept tax payments via ITunes or PayPal or that the RCMP doesn’t threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay a fine.

      8. Not So NewReader*

        Some times a good bluff is all you need.

        My father was getting threatening phone calls. Back then it was two weeks for a court ordered tracer. This was not a solution because we needed help NOW, not in two weeks. So my father pretended he was talking to an officer, he whispered into the phone, “Okay Tom, this is guy, is that tracer all set? Ohhh… keep him on the phone for 5 minutes? Okay I can do that.” And the caller hung up, never to call again.

        I had a well-known home security company stoning me for a while. It was always “You have won $1500!”. The idea was $1500 in credit toward a purchase, but that is not what they had actually SAID.
        So one day I said, “Well where I live there are more cattle than people. So I really don’t need [product]. However, I would like the $1500 I won. May i have that sent to me please?’ The caller stumbled and fumbled all over the place and finally landed on, “No one has ever asked me that before. I have to check with my supervisor and call you back.”
        They never called back. Ever.

      9. caradom*

        I think the police can get around blocked numbers. Whether they will is a completely different matter.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      Local police aren’t going to do a thing. The caller could be in another city, province/state, or country.

      1. Anon for this*

        This – spoof numbers, or more appallingly, “local presence,” which is an add-on service paid for by some companies, such as mine, that use major CRM products. The “local presence” adds an area code that makes it seem like the caller is geographically located near the call recipient. Full disclaimer – my company instructs the telemarketers to identify themselves, the company, and provide the approved return phone number, which is toll free. They are also instructed to admit to the local presence “feature,” if questioned, and to put customers on the do not call list, if requested. I still detest the local presence feature.

        I question if the caller who is harassing the OP is doing business on behalf of a legitimate company. It would be one thing to try to sweet talk the receptionist into giving up the name, title or phone extension for the VP of sales, or whoever is the target. It is quite another to scream, berate and belittle in the hope of rattling someone to the point they will just put you through. What kind of scam are they pulling? or are they just being paid on the number of dials, with no regard to the results? It’s sketchy as hell, and it stinks. I’m sorry you’re being subjected to this, OP.

        1. Web Crawler*

          Neat, that’s why all the spammers and scammers call from numbers with my area code! I’ve always wondered that

          Bc I don’t live in the area where I got my phone number, it makes it easy to screen calls.

          1. juliebulie*

            Heh, one time I actually got a call where the caller ID said it was me!

            I answered, hoping that it was me from the future calling with some useful advice. But it wasn’t.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Most of the ones who try to call me have the same area code and the same first three digits as my cell number. Like, do they seriously think I won’t find that suspicious?

        2. Reluctant Manager*

          Apparently the phone companies who connect the calls *could* require verification of who is connected with a number but don’t.

        3. Antilles*

          1.) I didn’t realize people pay for ‘local presence’ to have a nearby area code, but I really appreciate the use of my cell phone’s “area code” to determine things, because fake numbers are instantly recognizable since I live halfway across the country.
          2.) The harassing callers are absolutely not representing a legitimate company. Most execs (even otherwise awful ones) get angry when outsiders scream at their staff. And while the exec might be the one who signs the contract, the administrative assistant is the one who actually does the ordering and paperwork. So while salesmen certainly might try to sweet-talk or bluff their way through the gate-keepers, abusive screaming like this would backfire.

        4. Elenna*

          Ironically, the pattern is so unsubtle that I’m less likely to pick up for unknown numbers with my area code, not more…

        5. Richard Hershberger*

          Gotta ask: How successful is your company at making actual sales from cold calls? I can’t imagine initiating a business relationship as a customer this way, either personally or professionally. I wonder about the profile of the person who becomes a paying customer.

          1. Anon for this*

            I suspect a past marketing manager was in love with the options and add-ons for the CRM, and therefore invested in local presence. Personally, I don’t think it makes any sense in our market. My company makes a niche product, and the users of the product typically know who we are, and what we offer. Cold calling is a pipe dream. I think it would make more sense for the call ID to always show “ABC Corp.’ Our telemarketers are usually calling a pretty established customer base to sell upgrades, training and “did you know the new model was just announced?”

    3. Mockingjay*

      Yes, inform the police. Create a log of calls and frequency. While distressing, can you talk to them long enough to get some details: name, company, reason for call? “Oh, you have a meeting with the president? He’s held up. Can I get your info so he can call you right back? I’ll let him know you called the second he wraps up.” Add to the log for the police.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      I was definitely wondering if this could be a police matter. Is this common?? I’ve never heard of such aggressive spam callers and I can’t imagine what they would even be trying to achieve. All the spam calls I get (if they’re not robots) are usually very polite. If this is the same guy over and over under different numbers so you can’t block him then it seems like the only way to truly make it stop would be to find out who he actually is and that seems like something the police could probably do easily, but I don’t know if they would.

    5. Snuck*

      A few thoughts for my penny:

      – 100 calls a week from spammers/scammers/sales people is too many – that’s 20 times a day you are being dragged from your work. Could you either create an automated system that has a “for procurement and purchasing please press 3” that takes them to a message bank (that you listen to once a day “Hi, Julie from Procurement is working from home, your voice mail will be sent to her and she will contact you within 24hrs if we are interested in your services”) or if no automated system just a similar message service you can dump them on “Transferring you now!” Smile! Collect any of the worst offenders – calling too often etc and contact them directly back to their head office (not the sales person contact) and say “Thanks, but we aren’t interested in this product right now, we have a contract supplier. When we’re ready to renegotiate the contract in 18mths we’ll consider new relationships, but for now we are not available to purchase ear wax removers from you thanks” …

      – The people who are being massively abusive – are they from a few (one?) companies? I’d try to trick them into revealing who they are with and then arrange for a formal complaint to their management (if it’s a legit company) … Something along the line of “Oh, let’s take a look at teh calendar because I’m pretty sure VP was in back to back meetings all afternoon and I hope we aren’t double booked (giggle, act a little… overly helpful and young/naive)… Oh dear, it looks like it’s double booked now let me see what we can do… what was your name again? And you are calling from? Let me give you a call back when I’ve had a chance to get her ear and we’ll set up a new time….” It might fool them into thinking you are going to help, when in reality you are going to go back to their managers (in writing) and say “Due to the abusive and aggressive calls, including cursing and lying blatantly to not just our telephone answering staff but the VP themselves we will not be working with you and please remove us from your call lists or we will have to take legal action” will usually get you removed from their call lists very fast. (You can use the “double booked” script also if you just want to get rid of them… but they will ring back and ask you for that new time, at which point you’ll have to pony up and say “I’m sorry, I spoke to VP and they indicated they did not have time to meet with you. If you’d like to email your information through I can place it on the file for when we are next considering toenail clippers, but right now we are not looking for your products.” (A file called the trash can)

      – If the scammers are those really annoying overseas calls that use every trick under the sun to ring a million times a day with impunity because they can’t be prosecuted in your country…. just hang up on them. They will ring back usually on a pattern (they use automated diallers), consider setting up a call diversion for their call in number to a random another line that doesn’t have anyone answering it – divert any and all ‘nuisance calls’ directly to this never answered ring out line. Talk to your Telco about ‘call diversion by calling number’, also discuss with your Telco how to handle this sort of call generally – they will have some other tricks too.

      – Work out WHY you are getting so many abusive calls. Was the previous receptionist just ‘taking it’, why has your number wound up on so many unethical and unreasonable sales lists? Do you have a dedicated person for purchasing and contract management? And do you have a script to manage cold callers that you (and all your phone answering staff in future) need to know? “Thanks for your interest, we are currently contracted….” or “Thank you, we are not currently working with parties on nose picking supplies but I can add you to our list of people for when we do start looking” or “The VP does not meet with people to discuss purchasing arrangements, but Julie is your contact, can I take your details and pass them along?” … Julie / Procurement person needs to have their own spine and also their own scripts. (I spent time as a procurement and contract manager in a large national bank… it takes a certain amount of forbearance to work in these positions, but it’s part of the job.)

      Finally. Hang up ANY TIME YOU LIKE on sales people. Repeatedly. Threaten legal action for harassment if they get rude and it happens repeatedly.

      1. Snuck*

        Oh… and I’m in Australia, but I assume the American telcos have the same capability…. to track all INCOMING calls. So if you are getting threatening calls you can log a report with the police and have the Telco record all incoming calls. That will give you a list of numbers and you can keep a diary of calls (start that now for the police report) and then you will be able to match diary to rude calls, and know who is ringing you from where and either divert them forever away from you, approach their parent company with firmly worded legal letters or take out restraining orders against not so legit companies etc. A lot of work, but if the above tactics don’t work you might want to consider this option to make this stop. Some people are just… plain awful.

  7. MH*

    Yes. Talk with your VP about this. Usually, if someone gets combative, it’s because they are trying to get your emotions riled up, thinking you will cave in to their demands. Maybe create some kind of script or format, where if they harass you, you can hang up on them without worry.

  8. IdahoSmith82*

    Should this caller call again- call back, pretend to be interested- and report them to their immediate supervisor. I don’t typically advocate for someone to lose their job, but that’s what needs to happen to this person.

    1. starsaphire*

      Somehow I don’t think this is the case. I suspect they are scammers, and therefore being abusive isn’t exactly a deterrent to getting the job done.

        1. caradom*

          This is not a scammer, it is an extremely abusive stalker. Normally scammers try to make you feel like a king or queen! Which scammer is going to do what he did? Just read the description of what he does.

      1. IdahoSmith82*

        Because she indicated that this same person has called more than once- i think this is a more regular spammer/sales person than just the one and done. That’s what I took away from it, anyway.

        1. Caradom*

          This is a stalker, unfortunately answering phones is part of her job whereas the rest of s simply press block.

    2. Empress Matilda*

      Too much work for the OP. That requires her to stay on the line long enough to get the person’s name, their supervisor’s name, and a way to report them – and continuing to listen to their abuse the whole time. I highly doubt anyone who is willing to call someone the c-word for refusing to transfer a call, is going to be so forthcoming about how to report them for it.

      And that’s all assuming that the caller is acting in good faith – that this is just a regular person doing a regular job, and they happen to be having a hard day. Which they absolutely are not. And for OP to even consider the possibility that they *might* be, is still more than they deserve, and more work than she should have to do for them. She owes them nothing – no amount of mental energy, at all.

      I agree with the others. Talk to your VP, and let her know that from now on you’re just going to hang up on these assholes. Then as soon as you recognize that the call is heading in that direction (which it sounds like you have some experience, unfortunately!), just hang up. You don’t even need to say you’re ending the call – just put the phone down. Then take some deep breaths, walk away from your desk for a few minutes if you can, and get back to your day. Good luck, this sounds awful.

    3. char*

      These scammers seem to be spoofing numbers (since they manage to call from different numbers every time), so “calling back” probably wouldn’t be successful. If you tried, you’d probably just reach some completely unrelated person whose number was spoofed and has no more idea of what’s going on than you do.

  9. Web Crawler*

    What could this person be getting out of this? Anyone have any ideas? That’s an awful lot of effort for what sounds like little reward.

    1. Stephanie*

      With the aggressive ones, I’m guessing they’re hoping to bully the receptionist into making a sale or connecting them to a decision maker. Also guessing it’s a power play because they feel the receptionist in unimportant.

      1. Ashley*

        If this is the case at any point is it worth getting someone to pretend to be the President on the phone and see if they can get through long enough to get some of it to stop? If the owner is a guy (or has a name sounding like a man) just having a guy on the phone try and get them to spill the beans on what they want? I know this doesn’t always work for even the polite spammers but grasping at straws because this seems terrible.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        That’s usually the case but I’m not sure that’s what’s going on here – OP says they did connect them to the president once and whatever they said was so bad that the president hung up on them immediately. Usually these people will take a different tack once they actually reach the decision-maker.

        This person does not sound like a spam/sales caller at all to me (I deal with many, many of these every day). This sounds like targeted, personal harassment by someone who knows the president, which should be reported to the police.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This. It is either targeted harassment or simply trolling, which amounts to the same thing. My guess is that it is someone with too much spare time who has decided that this is the lulz.

        2. Paulina*

          Maybe. But the president’s approach to taking calls is a very careful one, trying to avoid getting random calls, so he might very well hang up on someone giving him a sales spiel even if they weren’t otherwise rude to him. What you raise is a possibility to consider, and the OP should document the times of these calls in case there’s a future need for it.

          1. Paulina*

            Having read more of the discussion below, I recant my comment above. This is targeted harassment, and is beyond the OP to deal with or solve. Log the call times and escalate the problem to someone senior. Your employers should not expect you to handle this on your own.

        3. Aquawoman*

          That doesn’t mean they were abusive toward the president, only that the president recognized it as spam immediately. “I have an important message about your car’s warranty,” isn’t rude but I hang up when I hear it.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Sure, same here, but I don’t “slam the phone down a few minutes later in shock” which is how OP describes it. I mean, she’s here in the comments and can correct me if I’m wrong but that sounds to me like whatever this person said was actively shocking as opposed to ‘ugh, spam’.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Slamming the phone down takes way more energy than the scammer are worth.
              I am not sure when I started doing it, but I sometimes push the button down in the cradle right in the middle of my own sentence. It makes it look like we got cut off. If they call right back I let it go to VM.

    2. The New Normal*

      My first thought is that if this is the exact same person calling over and over, they have had some sort of relationship with the company or president that is making them hostile. They are currently choosing to make harassing phone calls, knowing how easy it is to spoof numbers. I would highly suggest you have your IT get involved. Depending on the type of system you have, they may be able to get more information on the caller. They may also be able to set up a temporary recording system that allows them to record the harassment. If they can demonstrate that the calls are coming from the same person, the police can get involved.

      But for now, when this creep calls, try to get a callback number or name. If he refuses, put him on hold. Let him sit there. When he calls back, don’t even greet him, just put him straight to hold. Keep doing it, or hang up.

      1. juliebulie*

        It really does sound as though it’s someone with a personal problem with the company, doesn’t it? Because I think a seller would figure by now that they have zero chance of making a sale at this point.

        1. Cat Tree*

          I’m thinking disgruntled former employee, or maybe even a job candidate that didn’t get an offer.

          1. JustaTech*

            At my company we once had a very disgruntled investor get into the phone tree and he left harassing voicemails on several people’s phones, starting at people with last names starting with A. What he thought he was going to accomplish by yelling at an assortment of mid-to-low-level employees I don’t know, but eventually he stopped.

            One guy kept a recording of the voicemail because it was just so bizarre, and would play it for new folks occasionally.

      2. Daffy Duck*

        Yes, if it is the same person all the time I suspect it is some sort of harassment aimed at the business/owner. I suggest letting the boss know how often he is calling and how extremely horrible they are. There is absolutely no reason you need to let someone swear at you and be disrespectful. Hang up as soon as you know who they are, you don’t need to say anything or tell them why, that just gives them a chance to argue. Bonus points if you can hang up before they are finished with the first word.

    3. Beatrice*

      I don’t have this exact situation, but I manage people who deal with the public and I am a decision maker (not sales/buying, more problem solving/policy exceptions), and there are times when we get two faced callers who will be abusive or rude or uncooperative to my staff and then fake nice when they get me on the phone, and often give me better information on problems or tell me a different story. I trust my staff implicitly, and we compare notes on difficult calls, so none of that slides. I enjoy using my power to shut down jerks, so if you’re rude to my staff there’s a very good chance you’ll get my attention but you’re not going to like it.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I don’t get the abusive callers. Being male might help. What gets me are the blatant liars. I work in a personal injury firm. So once I got a call from the other side of the country. The guy said he was calling from a law firm, and they had a case in our jurisdiction and were looking for local counsel. This is entirely plausible, and a call my boss would certainly want to take. So I tell him about it and he takes the call. It turns out it was a referral service, which is an entirely different thing. It can be a legit thing which a firm like ours might actually use, except that the guy started out the relationship by lying. Does he think I didn’t talk to my boss? I think some salespeople believe they are so darned persuasive that it doesn’t matter what they do to get to the decision maker.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Lots of options. One is that they demand payment for a fraudulent invoice. They tell the exec that they’ve been trying to get paid and Accounting is ignoring them.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        And, of course, if payment isn’t made *immediately*, before they hang up, horrible things will happen, since any reasonable decision make would just check with accounting, who would respond with “Who? Never heard of ’em.”

    5. Sunny*

      Some people just really like being able to yell extremely impolite things at someone who can’t fight back. It’s a sad, pathetic thing to do, but there’s people who enjoy it.

  10. Stephanie*

    I get a fair amount of spam calls on my work phone (but usually the automated ones). I work with suppliers, so it’s common that I would get a lot of calls from unfamiliar numbers. So unfortunately, I can’t realistically let every call go to voicemail. And of course this starts a cycle that once the spammers know it’s a working number, they keep calling. I usually find saying “This is a business line” stops most solicitations quickly. Otherwise, you may just need to say “No thank you, I am not continuing this conversation” and hang up.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this though. I’ve never had anyone get aggressive with the spam calls.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      Ugh, same. I have started picking up and not saying anything, which can sometimes be awkward if its an actual business call (rare) but doesn’t seem to get me put on ‘the list’ as easily.

      My husband has a legitimate emergency phone for his work (facilities POC) and he hits them with, “You have contacted an emergency line. I am going to need your contact information and your supervisor’s contact information so the authorities can ensure this line is removed from your list and verify no actual emergency is taking place.”
      There is no authority, the authority is him. But it works fairly well, and I can understand why he resorts to it because constant spam calls at 3am almost every night he HAS to answer are a giant PITA.

      1. TootsNYC*

        decades and decades and decades ago, when he got his first individual phone number, my husband used to answer by saying, “White House.”
        Once, it was someone trying to sell a subscription to the newspaper. My husband curtly said, “The president reads the paper–please get off the line” and the guy apologized and hung up lickety-split.
        He found it so amusing that we kept that answering phrase for decades.

        1. knitcrazybooknut*

          My dad’s favorite was, “Joe’s Morgue, you stab ’em, we slab ’em.” My mom *loved* that. /s

          1. Quill*

            Circa 2002: “You’ve reached the pentagon. How did you get this number?”

            – Not my dad but I doubt the classmate who reported that their dad said it needed an extended vehicle warranty either.

            1. Infiniteschrutebucks*

              I work for a nuclear technology company that also has some nuclear facilities and I get the usual amount of spam calls on my work cell. For live spam callers I’ve used some version of “This is a private number serving nuclear facilities, what exactly can I do for you?” in a really stern/outraged voice. It has flustered so many spammers and actually gotten me apologies. What I said is technically true, they just don’t know that I’m serving those facilities from the marketing department

        2. Yorick*

          One time, somebody put my number on a BackPage ad, so I was getting a ton of calls from guys wanting to hire a sex worker. (I don’t think it was on purpose, I guess she just made a typo.)

          Later I went to brunch and a male customer sitting next to me answered my phone with “[City] Police Department.”

      2. Stephanie*

        A former boss did something similar — answered and said he was with the local county fraud task force (there is no such task force in our county). He said it authoritatively enough that it got the guy off the phone.

    2. JustaTech*

      I used to get sales calls to my laboratory phone from some vendor or other (their sales staff were the *worst* mumblers). At some time in the past the number had been assigned to someone in purchasing (or something) and no matter how many times we said “Lab 123!” when we picked up they never took our number off the list.
      The last time I got a sales call there I said “Sorry, I’m up to my elbows in blood, this is a lab, take our number off the list because no one here is allowed to buy anything”. And that was the last time they called.

      (It wasn’t completely true that I was up to my elbows in blood, because then I would not have touched the phone, but I was in the middle of working with a lot of blood and was really, really tired of the calls.)

    3. Coffee Bean*

      Years ago, when my husband used to get sales calls asking “Is this John Landing?” (not my husband’s real name), he would say, “No, this is his brother, John”. It would really trip the caller up.

  11. Ann Perkins*

    Unless your office places an extremely high value on making sure every phone call is answered, stop answering unknown numbers. If it’s truly a customer they can leave a voicemail and you call back promptly. If one mistakenly gets through hang up the moment they get aggressive. If it’s the same people calling repeatedly, hopefully a few months of this would deter them from continuing. I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this.

    1. Mellow Yellow*

      Sometimes these people are *really* undeterred. I never had callers as unhinged as this one, but I had one that kept calling me multiple times a week for three years trying to sell me their services. I worked at a school. I told them the first time that if they wanted to pitch their services to the school district then they’d have to take it up with the county because those decisions were not made on a school-by-school basis. And I told them that hundreds of times, but they still kept calling.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I agree–if it’s really bad, let every call go to voicemail. Then listen later.
      It might be interesting to track it–draw 2 columns on a post-it note (spam and legit), and put a tick mark in the appropriate column. Then you’d know the percentage.

    3. Magenta Sky*

      If an otherwise legitimate customer gets hung up on the moment they get aggressive, it’s not a mistake. Ever.

  12. SwitchingGenres*

    This sounds like someone harrassing you all, not spam. I’d get the police involved at this point.

    1. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Seconded! And it sounds more like some stalker than a telemarketer with this verbally abusive streak

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I dought this is a stalker. It’s either a salesperson or someone who gets kicks out of harassing people over the phone. You would be surprised how many people use this exact strategy to get what they want. When I worked in call centers we had training at least once a year and it would cover these scenarios.

        1. caradom*

          Phone stalking is what it is. You can’t say they’re not a stalker just because it is the phone. And the scary thing is this poor woman has no idea if he will show up at their workplace. My friend is a receptionist for a law firm and a client through a brick through their window. That’s what is so scary, it is an unknown. You just need to read the toxic bile he writes to realise he is an abusive person.

  13. OP*

    OP here

    I already see a few answers telling me to just hang up. Please read the whole question, as long as it may be. I do hang up but the calls keep coming. There have been time where this person will call 14-15 times an hour. I, of course hang up, but i am looking for a permenant solution that anyone may have or a coping mechanism since i cant block every unknown number in the world. The problem is 2 fold” the abusive calls that wont stop, and the anxiety it causes during an episode.

    1. JokeyJules*

      “hi, our phone system auto-censors calls. I cannot hear you once you say certain words and hit a certain volume, and the calls cut off once you hit a number of violations.”
      Swear, it worked for me with an angry client. they really believe it.

      can your company block this number? or perhaps raise it as a harassments issue with authorities? because it is most certainly harassment.

      1. JokeyJules*

        apologies, i see that you said you already tried blocking. definitely pursue authorities, or put the phone down when they start and let them rant into nothingness until they’re tired.

        1. Frustrated Fitness Professional*

          Yeah, back in the day when I had a pushy jerk (it was before number spoofers got so common but it was also harder to block a number, so we were also stuck with him) I would put him on hold, coming back every few minutes to ask him to tell him it would only be a few more minutes and then push the hold button again.

          He eventually gave up but sometimes I had him on hold for HOURS.

      2. OP*

        Thats so good. Definetly gonna try it. Thanks!

        We will probably end up reporting it, thats the general consensus here. But yes we aways block the number, he just gets a new one

        1. LKW*

          Aside from reporting – you have to make the cost/benefit too high for this jerk. I highly recommend finding a way to “transfer” him and waste his time. Over and over and over. The person on the other end doesn’t need to listen to anything. As soon as the sales person understands you’ve stopped ignoring him and started actively preventing him from doing business – they will likely stop. Heck even just making it an internal game to see how many times you can transfer him within a single call “You got shipping oh, let me transfer you over to procurement” “Kitchen services – oh let me transfer you over to procurement” etc.

          1. Insert Clever Name Here*

            I wonder if you could set up a specific, very long automated loop where you can transfer this guy *as soon as you recognize his voice.* Check with your VP, but obviously after his actions there’s no way your company is ever going to do business with him right? So your job isn’t to take down his (unlimited numbers) and try to get him to be nice — it’s to release yourself from the idea of being polite to him and get off the phone with him as soon as possible.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              And to get him to stop calling in the future….

              I think OP’s got the ‘release from being polite’ part ok.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                I don’t know that OP has any control over him continuing to call, short of some sort of legal/law enforcement option. My read of the letter was that OP was trying to be polite every time he calls, but perhaps I misinterpreted.

          2. 00ff00Claire*

            Yes to this, or something similar. Unfortunately, this is a thing and has been for years (or at least it was a thing when I worked at an office front desk years ago). We would have people calling our US office saying they had to speak to Sponge-Bob, the company president, and they had all manner of stories. We knew they were all lying because Sponge-Bob was based in Europe, not the US. He wasn’t actually at our office, so no one who had legitimate business with him would be calling us. Some time before I worked there, someone had set up a phone extension that went straight to a generic voicemail. We were allowed to transfer all of the spam, salesmen, and wackos straight to that line. I think someone checked it every now and then on the off chance that someone legit got transferred there, but it sure saved us a lot of headache. We didn’t have any way to stop them from calling and we had to answer all of the calls that came in, so I can’t offer you any advice on how to decrease the call volume. But maybe if your company could set up a dead-end voicemail, you could just say, “Let me transfer you” and then send them on their way. I’m so sorry this is happening to you. I had to deal with some pushy people and some rude ones while manning the phone, but nothing like this!

        2. Nesprin*

          I’m so sorry that this is happening to you!

          On the self protection front, I think that you should be the judge of how many hostile phonecalls per day you handle. If you’re getting 15 calls an hour where you’re being sworn at, you deserve hazard pay. Is it usually a burst of calls from this character? Can you let calls go to voicemail after his first call? Your comfort and safety in this job are something to protect. It is worth bringing a tally of hours on the phone with this awful human being to your bosses’ attention- they may have more advice about what options are feasible (i.e. 1 hr straight to voicemail breaks after every horrible call, shutting down the line entirely)

          On the tech side, I might suggest a whitelist instead of a blacklist- have IT set it up so that known phone numbers go to you and unknowns go to voicemail. I do agree with the other responders that having recordings of his calls would be useful if you choose to pursue law enforcement. Given that it seems to be one guy calling over and over, it sounds like a personal grudge type thing- the Gift of Fear is the standard recommendation for harassment/stalking (but not domestic violence- skip that chapter).

          1. Littorally*

            This is a good plan.

            Bring the frequency to your bosses. This is not only the human factor (you’re being harassed and verbally abused at your job), but there is also an objective business impact (this guy is taking up a shitload of time in which you’re not able to do other work). Even if you hang up the moment you recognize his voice, that’s still time you’re unavailable for legitimate calls and 14 times in an hour is a lot!

          2. Nesprin*

            One more note- you’re having anxiety dealing with this awful human being because what he is doing is scary and unhinged. You are not the problem- anyone I know who was getting 15 obscene, threatening calls an hour would have anxiety and possibly develop some PTSD. Please do what you have to to take care of your self!

        3. RabidChild*

          I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this OP–it’s bad enough to have to at all, but add it to an anxiety problem and UGH-you have my sympathy.

          What I think a lot of folks here don’t seem to realize is that this is just a tactic he’s using–one he’s either had success using in the past or he’s being mandated to do it by his shady employer. He (if it really is just one person) is likely calling dozens or hundreds of businesses per day and will continue doing it until there are negative repercussions for him–either it stops being effective or his business is investigated. If it were me I’d do the following:

          1)Take the advice above to report it to the police or your state’s AG–you may be saving another person in your position who may not have management as understanding as yours if you do.
          2) Have IT or whoever is responsible for it contact your phone service provider and see if there is some sort of add-on service to prevent these calls–they have the ability to spot spoofed or otherwise illegitimate numbers and prevent them coming through or labeling them as spam (I have this on my personal phones).
          3. Work out an SOP with your management about what you may do when this happens–there’s some excellent suggestions above–and document it if you are of a mind to, because your VP or CEO need to realize just how frequent it is if they don’t already (and they sound very understanding so it will be a good data point for them).

          Best of luck to you and I hope this stops soon.

          1. caradom*

            Sales people try to flatter you, not get sent to jail for abuse. It’s been months and at least hundreds of phone calls. I’ve never seen it or heard of it. Yes they can be aggressive but they don’t spew the bile printed.

      3. Just to clarify*

        They said they block the number and then the caller finds a new number and calls from that. This is why OP asked us to read the whole question.

    2. Emi*

      You said in the letter they get a new number when you block them, but when they call 15x/h is that already all from different numbers or can you not the current number and not pick it up for the rest of the day?

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        OP says different numbers, sometimes. “I … put the phone down, block the number, only for them to get a different number two minutes later”

    3. Aitch Arr*

      Hi OP,

      Have you been able to record / write down the numbers these harassers are calling from and/or the companies?

      If so, I’d see if your IT department (or whomever handles the phone systems) can block those numbers.

      If the companies these folks are calling from are any way legitimate – I’m thinking a situation where a staffing agency is legit but a particular recruiter is a jackass – a call or email to someone there reporting the behavior might be effective.

      I’m sorry you are dealing with this.

    4. Stephanie*

      If you have a good working relationship with your boss, I would advocate for an automated answering service that provides an extra step before someone can talk to a human. It won’t screen everyone out, but might reduce the number of illegitimate calls and stop some of the behavior (because it sounds like these people just want a response and aren’t actually trying to sell you anything).

      1. knitcrazybooknut*

        Even an old fashioned cassette answering machine would work! Yelling = delete. There’s distance created from evil when it’s in the past.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          OP could use that answering machine as a dumping ground for these types of calls. It will eventually fill up, but even that’s fine! They will eventually get tired of it (eventually). If nothing but spam and harassments go into that voicemail, just leave it. Maybe empty it once a month? You don’t even have to listen to them, since you know what kind of messages go there to die.

    5. lurker :)*

      Hi OP!

      Is there call display? Can you tell who it is by the number calling in, or is it blocked/unknown? And are you able to collect any identifying information about the caller? I think trying to figure out who this jerk is and possibly contacting his own company/having your higher ups explicitly tell him to stop calling (and eventually sending a cease and desist if he doesn’t) is in order here given the abuse he is spewing. So sorry you are going through this!

      1. Alexander Graham Yell*

        I think from what I’m seeing, even if there is a call display, he changes his number every time OP blocks him. And if they’re answering the phone, they’d have to answer each new number because it could be a legitimate call.

        OP, I wish I had a suggestion beyond, “Pretend to be a machine, tell him to press 7 to speak to the CEO, and then say, ‘I’m sorry, that option is no longer available, goodbye.'” It’s so easy to spoof numbers, there is no real way to stop him.

        Has he said who he works for? Is this an independent contractor? I’m just trying to figure out if there is a way to figure out who he is accountable to, and let them know that even if your company had EVER been willing to consider working with their company, this person’s tactics have permanently blacklisted their business.

    6. Colette*

      Once you hit that cycle (where you hang up and they call back), can you let calls go to voicemail for an hour or so? Would that make you more or less anxious? (Also, maybe you don’t have to be the one to check the voicemail?)

      Are your management clear about how often this happens? They may have suggestions on how to deal with it (or be able to make changes so you don’t have to deal with it.)

    7. Ashley*

      If they are calling that frequently I would definitely call the non emergency police line to my local police station and ask for their advice. (Granted I am not in a major area so they do take calls.)

      Are you able to easily block phone numbers through your phone service? I know they create new ones but they may slow them down some or at least force them to spoof. For that matter can you get calls forwarded to a cell phone because honestly cells are getting way better at detecting spam.

      I don’t have much for you for coping other then have confidence that your company supports you just hanging up constantly on the harasser.

    8. Kippy*

      Is there a reason all calls, even ones from unknown or unlisted numbers, must be answered? Our receptionist will periodically get the aggressive spam calls, and SOP is to just start letting those calls (and any other unknown callers that happen to be calling during the same time period) go to voice mail. After three or four days of not getting any answer at all the calls will stop. They may start up again in six months but then its another round of not answering for a few days.

      1. Freya*

        My workplace has a Thing that, once a week, everyone in the office has lunch together. Anyone who calls – legitimate or spam – goes to voicemail during that half hour (or more, if it ends up being an impromptu work meeting).

    9. Tbubui*

      Hi OP,

      Sorry that so many people are ignoring what you wrote. Someone smarter than me can address the technical aspects of getting the calls to stop but I think I might be able to help with the anxiety.

      I have anxiety as well and have worked some pretty stressful jobs that dealt with the public (retail, restaurant industry, and as an administrative assistant). I know it’s really difficult but the most important thing to do is to separate yourself from the situation as much as possible in your mind. It can be really scary to have someone cussing and swearing at you! I totally get that! But if you can form some sort of detachment in your mind like Alison has previously suggested for other crazy workplace scenarios (ex. pretending you’re an anthropologist observing bizarre alien behaviour, that sort of thing) it really does help.

      It can also help to remind yourself that this person isn’t being aggressive at you specifically, if that makes sense. They’re being aggressive so they can scam people and companies out of their money. You just happen to be in their way; it’s not targeted at you as an individual, but targeted at your role. Taking out the personal element has helped me in the past when dealing with customer frustrations at a company that they take out on me as the customer service rep/employee.

      Does that help at all? These are just strategies that have worked for me, but there are so many more strategies out there. Grounding, deep breathing, even cognitive-behavioural therapy techniques could all be helpful.

      1. GS*

        An anxiety strategy that works for me with this kind of thing: every time he calls, I write down the date and time. When I get to a certain pre-set number of tallied calls, I give myself a reward: a cup of tea, a new book, ten minutes on askamanager. The reward helps in two ways: it gives me something to focus on in the moment instead of what the caller said (“oh hey, I’m closer to that new novel, I wonder how the heroine will do in this next one”/”Should I have mint tea or rose tea this time?”) and it associates a positive thing with the calls. Also I really like getting “high scores” and this kind of makes it into a game with a score so it’s not about the a**ole calling.

      2. Snow globe*

        One thing that might help you disassociate from the calls is to remember that this guy isn’t really angry; he is using his fake anger as a tool to get what he wants. Maybe imagine him as an actor-Alec Baldwin performing in Glengarry Glen Ross. He has his lines he’s going to say and he’s going to yell—doesn’t really matter how you respond. Maybe imagine yourself as a critic-how good is his performance today?

    10. Clorinda*

      You did say that you block the new number, but then they get a new number and call back multiple times. Can you move to the step of blocking the new number immediately, so they only get one call per number? Make it a little harder for them to harrass you and maybe they’ll move on to a different target.

    11. Casual Librarian*

      I see people telling you to contact your police department, but I’d contact your state’s Attorney General’s office instead. In my state, they handle rogue callers like this and do formal bans and fines after an investigation.

      1. Global Cat Herder*

        I came here to say this! OP, Google your state’s name and “attorney general telemarketing fraud”, because that’s what this is. My state AG has a handy website including a way to report individual calls online. Follow any tips on your AG’s site, including adding your phone numbers to the national (and state if yours has a separate) Do Not Call List.

        My approach is highly dependent on my state’s laws so YMMV. As soon as I identify it’s spam/scam, say “put me on the Do Not Call List” and hang up. Second time if I know it’s the same person, “I’ve told you before to put me on the do not call list which means this is a violation of state law and I’ll be reporting you to the state attorney general immediately. The fine for this crime is $5000, payable to the victim, not the state. When can I expect my check?” I never get a third call.

      2. MsMaryMary*

        This was going to be my suggestion as well. You could also try the Federal Communications Commission, Better Business Bureau and any relevant professional associations. If this is a sleazy lawyer, report him to the state bar association. If he’s trying sell life insurance, report him to the state department of insurance.

    12. BRR*

      1) If your office doesn’t get a lot of calls, after his first call can you not answer the subsequent calls from unknown numbers? Or can you ask to not answer any calls and monitor the voicemails vigilantly? I imagine one reason the one guy keeps calling is because you answer. Maybe he’ll stop if you don’t pick up for awhile?

      2) I’m confused if this one guy is a legit sales person or a scammer. If he’s selling an actual product, I’d ask your VP or president to reach out to his company and let them know one of their sales people is harassing you.

      3) If it’s an issue of you not being sure if it’s a legitimate call or not, can you ask the VP and president to give you some guidance on what IS a legitimate call? Eg “only put through calls on my calendar and if it’s not on my calendar don’t worry about transferring it” or “I only give out my cell number for meetings so always put through people who claim to have a meeting to voicemail.”

      4) Can you reach out to whoever managers your phone system, maybe it’s your IT department or a vendor, and present the issue of burner numbers being used for harassing calls? I don’t know what solutions exist but you can’t be the only person with this issue.

      5) Can you reach out to whoever answered the phones in non-pandemic times to see if this was happening and if they have any advice?

      6) I’m really sorry that I don’t have any advice for the anxiety. The most realistic solution to the calls is the ability to hang up. Can someone else cover phones for a bit if he keeps calling to give you a breather?

    13. Aepyornis*

      If it’s the same person, can you get their name, company, address etc. (possibly by saying something along the lines “before I transfer your to our president who’s expecting your call” to mollify them)? And then go to the police. This goes beyond aggressive sales technique and is right into harassment/threat territory. Your company can definitely file a complaint and/or threaten him directly with legal action. It is actually so unhinged and aggressive that I have trouble thinking they are really acting that way solely to sell some stuff (not that I don’t believe you! But it might be someone purely in it for the harassment and the distress he causes).

    14. Mhoops*

      As someone who answered phones and has huge anxiety issues I second the need for a script and an exact decided time you will always hang up at bc a lot of anxiety comes from the fluster. Saying the exact same words every time puts it more on autopilot. “Sorry I can’t help you. Have a great day!” Hang up. I’d also try to change the mindset about the calls. Make a bingo board of curse words/insults or something to make a joke out of this person. Within professional limits but something that makes light of it so when you get a call it’s oh this idiot again lol rather than stress you.

      1. Properlike*

        Recognizing what your anxiety is linked to (mine is frequently “Properlike isn’t a nice person!”) helps. Recognizing that all of this has absolutely nothing to do with you, and reframing your role as, “I get to keep a spammer from getting to my bosses” — assuming that’s what your bosses have agreed to — makes this a game. Who cares if he’s cursing and being abusive? You’re immune to his tricks! You are actively and successfully wasting his time! What a loser! He can’t trick you. Make up a fictional VP and then transfer him there and pretend to be that VP. Have some fun with it. He literally can’t do anything to you.

    15. kt*

      Honestly, this does not sound like normal spamming/scamming. This sounds much worse and more targeted.

      Logging the calls and reporting to law enforcement is a decent idea. Auto-screening calls is another.

      I have filed FCC complaints that have stopped some types of automated calls — search “unwanted calls FCC” and make sure you are at the page.

      This sounds different, and I have a lot of empathy for your anxiety — it sounds very scary.

    16. Atlantian*

      Clear it with your boss first, but when he starts on what looks like it’s going to become a tirade of repeat calls, just start picking up the phone and immediately hanging back up again. Super easy if you have a speakerphone button on the actual phone, just hit it twice. This way, you are not tying up the line for legitimate calls in between his attempts, and you don’t have to hear his BS. Block whatever number it was that day at the end of the day, so he doesn’t have reason to switch it mid-tirade.

      Better yet, get permission to send any unknown numbers to voicemail first and make a policy to listen to them and return calls promptly. You, or the intended recipient of the calls, can always make apologies for having been in the restroom, being short staffed b/c COVID, etc. for not answering when they called the first time. Even better if your phone system has voicemail transcription, which, while not perfect, will even make it so you don’t have to listen to his VMs.

    17. Former Receptionist*

      Hi OP
      Short answer: get a whistle, blow it in this persons ear when you realize it is them.

      Long answer: a family member was receiving harrassing phone calls, long before caller ID. The police in town suggested we blow the whistle at the harrassing caller. The family member only had to do it once.
      I do suggest discussing this with your superiors first. Good luck and please keep us posted.

      1. Elly*

        That’s a really good idea, because the VP will hear the whistle each time it blows. If the whistle annoys the VP too, then they might push to get a better overall resolution.

      2. Ash*

        My parents had to do this once when I was a child. They spammer/harasser never called back.

        Important: it MUST be a surprise to the spammer. You can’t warn him ahead of time.

      3. Red5*

        I came here to say this, but knew in my heart it had already been said.

        An air horn would also work well.

    18. TootsNYC*

      for the anxiety–that might be a thing you tackle on your own, with a therapist.
      There are techniques you can use to help control your own emotions and how you deal with them when they arise.

      But in the short run, I might suggest you consider getting fucking pissed off at this asshole instead of getting anxiety. Or, think about maybe you ARE angry, but you can only identify or process that as anxiety.

    19. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      If it were me, I would have busted out laughing by the 2nd call. The angrier and more abusive he became, the louder I would laugh. I’d ask him if that’s all he’s got, surely he can come up with a better insult than the c-word, etc. I would put him on speakerphone call over other people to come listen. We could collectively rate his performance and offer him suggestions.

      OP, treat it as the performance it is.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Yeah, that’s my reaction, too. Threaten to complain to my boss? The first (and last) thing he’ll do is ask me what the hell is wrong with this idiot. His boss? Been known to get restraining orders against people who harass his employees.

        But you and I aren’t prone to anxiety, which makes it very difficult to grasp how hard this kind of reaction is for someone who is.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        I can see doing that. Give a critique, like reviewing a theatrical performance (which, after all, it is). Or fake sympathy: “Oh, dear. You don’t sound as angry as the last time. Are you feeling well?”

      3. Infiniteschrutebucks*

        My only concern with this approach is, this guy sounds more like an unstable person who is calling to frighten or upset people whether he has any, legitimate or not, business interest. Engaging with him at all, even to laugh, is giving him the attention and interaction he wants. I’d be inclined to deal with this guy the way Gavin DeBecker outlines in The Gift of Fear- with as close to complete silence as possible. Have IT set up a dummy voice-mail where the message is a loud, unpleasant beep, and silently send his calls there the second you realize it’s him. Do this consistently. If, even one time, you engage, laugh, explain, argue, whatever, all you’re doing is teaching him that he has to call 50 times to get the response he wants and he’ll start calling more. So stick to silent transfers to the special mailbox. Make his calls boring, tedious, and unsatisfying. The only words he should ever hear are “you’ve reached X Incorporated”. You may have to do this 200 times in a day, as he engages in an extinction burst trying to get the response he’s used to, but silence is a proven method to deter this sort of behavior.

        Reading the book The Gift of Fear may help with some of your anxiety around this. DeBecker explains some of the psychology and tactics of people who enjoy making others feel afraid, which business reason or not, this guy enjoys doing, and how to deal with them. Information is power, and knowing you have a plan in place to prevent you from hearing anything beyond “listen you stupid c-” before you can pass him right off to the silent void, and being armed with some tactics from the book, may help ease your anxiety while you take the legal route to hopefully identify and stop this guy.

        The fact that he immediately calls back with a different number makes me think he has some sort of identity blocking mechanism. Can your IT dept put something in place that sends all location obscured calls to a specific voice-mail that you can check once a day?

    20. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Any chance of just setting the phone down and leaving it off the hook? Then genuine customers can leave messages and you can call them back (my voicemails would pop up on my screen), and just make a generic message “due to a new policy/tech change, please leave a message and we will call you back within 5 minutes. Please note that we are unable to connect you to Big Boss, etc.” And then my voicemails would pop up instantly and I could call back who I wanted.

    21. Maggie*

      I think people meant hang up sooner. You said you were yelled at for ten minute. So hang up after 3 seconds and avoid the 9 minutes and 57 seconds of yelling. Or maybe just play at recorded “Your call cannot be completed as dialed. This number appears to be out of service” every time they call

      1. iiii*

        Exactly. ‘Just hang up’ means do not listen, do not try to convince him to give you permission to end the call, do not reason or redirect or misdirect and eventually hang up after however many minutes of him spewing abuse. Skip all of that and JUST hang up.

        If that’s not something you can do – it took me decades to retrain myself out of ‘polite’ mode so I could hang up on intrusive strangers, so I get it – try interrupting him with, “Please hold,” put him on hold, and go on with your day.

    22. Not A Girl Boss*

      I think the reason so many people are suggesting hanging up is because you talked about a few times that you did answer and engage in debate with him (although maybe that was just the first time and I’m misunderstanding?).

      I think it’s really important to never, ever do anything other than hang up the second you realize it’s him. If you ignore him 199 times and do something different on the 200th, he is learning that it “only” takes him 200 calls to make some kind of “progress” with you. If his end goal is just to abuse people, it’s gotta eventually get really boring to get hung up on 20000 times in a row.

    23. HannahS*

      I’ve had success with repeated spam callers (duct cleaning, usually) by telling them that I didn’t give permission for my phone number to be shared, and that I’ll be reporting them to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. It doesn’t stop it completely, but in times where I was getting multiple calls a day from different numbers, but the same scam, it helped. I use my personal cell phone for work (boundaries? what boundaries?) and I need to keep the ringer on and pick up unknown numbers both in the middle of my workday and in the evenings.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        A google voice number might help you with this. I have to answer all calls for work, but actually get way less spam calls to the Google number I use for work. If it’s an unknown number to my personal phone I know it’s spam and am free to ignore it.

        1. TootsNYC*

          That used to be true for me, but about 6 months ago, my Google Voice number started getting the basic spam calls too, and my direct line stopped getting them.

        2. Nanani*

          Google voice is US only and HannahS is specifically in Canada.
          People love to recommend it here but it is surprisingly country specific.

    24. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I did reception for years and still answer calls every day as part of my work and I know how awful this sort of thing can be, although I’ve never had anything quite like this.

      The reason I have said ‘hang up’ above is that based on what you said, it does sound like at least some of the time there is a conversation happening, eg “I can take a message” etcetera. What I mean is that there should be zero engagement, zero conversation; the SECOND that you recognise this guy’s voice the phone goes down. Brick wall. You KNOW that this person is not a legitimate caller.

      In terms of a permanent solution, the only one that springs to mind is for your company to change the way they handle phone calls entirely, eg sending everything to voicemail and returning calls as necessary. (I like the menu suggestion but I’m not sure that would put off someone this dedicated for long.) However, I think that you/your company need to stop thinking of this person as a spam caller and instead look at this as targeted harassment, and act accordingly. (Side note, is your president fully aware of just how many calls you are getting/the content/the info this person knows about him? Because frankly at this stage I would be extremely concerned if I was him.) Seconding all the calls above to get the police involved.

      1. TootsNYC*

        What I mean is that there should be zero engagement, zero conversation; the SECOND that you recognise this guy’s voice the phone goes down. Brick wall. You KNOW that this person is not a legitimate caller.

        yes, not even “I’m sorry he’s unavailable” or “I’ll be ending this calls now.”

        Just >click<

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Exactly. I also personally think that it’s not going to be helpful to try playing games like endlessly keeping him on hold, laughing, blasting air horns, critiquing him etc etc – they’re satisfying to imagine someone else theoretically doing but I think it will just heighten OP’s anxiety to know that he’s sitting there on hold, and will give him more opportunities to engage. Hanging up might sound boring but the point is to be boring. Try to get to a point of detachment where this guy’s voice is no different to one of those recorded “you have been in an accident, press 1 to claim your insurance” robocalls: just a sign to immediately put down the phone.

      2. Boof*

        Yes especially since this is a business and probably has some clout/resources it’s worth seeing if there’s anything the service provider or even police/ FTC will do
        Assuming nothing will come of that (this sounds severe enough that they might take notice, but who knows) the immediate solution is zero engagement – as soon as you realize it’s one of these people say “do not call this number” and hang up (without waiting for a response, just immediately hang up) or put them on hold forever (I favor the latter if they just call back immediately). Don’t wait for them to respond, don’t ask to take a message, nothing.
        And then try to change the policy to take unknown numbers to a text voicemail or something.
        Or hire someone to mess with them. (please google “messing with scammers” for many satisfying videos)

    25. Jen Gregory*

      I wonder if announcing that the call is being recorded when you answer (even if it’s not) would help stop the calls, or at least stop the abusive language. I think people tend to be better behaved if they know their behavior is being memorialized.

    26. Cat Tree*

      Can you try pretending to believe him and very politely saying something like, “please give me your name and number and I’ll give it to the VP so he can call you back as soon as he’s available”, and then just don’t even write it down. I suspect this guy will call your bluff but it might be worth a try.

      There is a method for people dealing with abuse called the gray rock method, where basically you react as boring as a gray rock until they get bored. Every time he demands a transfer or the boss’s direct number, keep repeating, “I can’t do that but if you leave your name and number I will pass it along” and continue to hang up when he lashes out like you are already doing. He’s really an extreme case, basically an internet troll in real life, but there is a chance this could work.

      1. Boof*

        No, do not talk to these abusive people at all. At best say “hold please” then put them into an indefinite muzak holding chamber. Or better still, come up with some other filtering system (comments below, consider working with your phone provider or else a private service if possible)

      2. People be Wacko, yo!*

        Part of gray rock (as I understand it from Chumplady) is to not engage unless necessary. No conversation. No reply. It would be different if there was an actual relationship that for some reason had to be maintained. However, no response is the best method. As someone mentioned related to the Gift of Fear, this person is only interested in reaction. The less reaction, the less likely they will continue. Beyond the extinction burst where they will call even more (hard to imagine), hopefully they will refocus their target.

        There is a wacko that corresponds with our virtual reference desk (and many others) about choking people that has led us to blocking entire ISP ranges and one entire university for a while.

    27. Quill*

      You’re going to need to be removed from having to answer the phone, or hearing the ring that triggers your anxiety, for some undetermined period of time, starting as son as possible.

      In the meantime, it’s likely that this person switching numbers uses a spoofing service that IT may be able to figure out how to block as a whole.

    28. Kevin Sours*

      The letter gives the impression that you are still engaging with them at some level “The last time this happened … I said he was on another call” or “get screamed at for 10 seconds”. These people deliberately weaponize your politeness and use it against you. And it’s tough because we are conditioned in so many ways to not just hang up on people and feel bad even when it’s justified. Can you have a quicker trigger finger? Recognize the voice… click. The first second of abuse… click.

      And if the dude is really changing his number 14 times and hour you absolutely need to follow up with either your legal or IT people to see what can be done to block this. It’s harassment. Whoever is providing those numbers probably has an abuse department (you might grab a number and stick it into Google and see if it comes up with the provider).

      Lastly, can you let calls go to voicemail when the periods of harassment happen? It’s probably easier to deal with an angry message than an angry phone call and it might not be terrible to call legitimate callers back after a minute or two (or it might be, I don’t know your role).

    29. TheSnarkyB*

      Hi OP, I think folks are telling you to hang up because in your question, you stated that you’re staying on the phone for 10 seconds. People are expressing concern that you’re spending that much time and energy staying on. But I understand that you’re wanting this to stop altogether, and that makes sense.

      There are some good recommendations in here for how to manage the anxiety, but I’ll also put in a plug for therapy. Even a short stint of therapy could help you identify some coping skills that fit with your personal style, to help these calls not bother you while you and your company deal with the larger issue.

      Another thing I’ve seen – I know you’re blocking the numbers and a lot of people are echoing that you should be. But why are you blocking them? It’s not stopping or even slowing down the calls, so what is the point of making that effort? If this person is using phone number spoofing, you’re also running the risk that you’re blocking numbers that will need to reach you in the future (eg, customer Jane’s number is 212-555-0000, and this guy spoofs his number to show up as that. Customer Jane won’t ever be able to get through. Once you’re blocking hundreds of numbers, there’s a decent chance that you all are hurting your customer base or your other business interests, not to mention wasting time and energy.

      It seems like it would be better for you to let him keep calling from the same number, so that you can recognize it.

      The other piece of advice I just want to echo (from this person’s comment: ) is making the distinction between spammer vs scammer. If this person is legitimately trying to make a sale, I think it’s good to try to go to his higher ups, or whatever governing body can control what his company is doing. If it’s a scam, it’s criminal, and I would take it to the FTC, your state attorney general, or some other similar body.

    30. Block that fool*

      Your phone system should allow you to block his number. When he calls you, he will get an automated message saying the number is not available. Work with your IT Team to figure out how to get this done. If he changes his number to continue the harassment, you can figure out how to escalate it with his company, your company or a government agency. But blocking the number will stop the issue instantly.

    31. Student*

      This is extensive and focused harassment, not a spam caller or scammer. This is like a crazy person wandering into your lobby and yelling, over and over. Not somebody trying to get you to buy some ink cartridges you don’t need. There’s a big difference.

      Your most effective solution would be to transition the company to a new phone number. Obviously, that has knock-on effects, but you can have two lines in parallel for a while while the transition happens to prevent the business from losing legitimate callers. This phone line has been nearly rendered inoperable, if you’re getting 14-15 calls an hour.

      Your other option is to get the police involved. Again, frame it as someone who is harassing the business continuously and repeatedly, not as a spam caller or scammer. You will probably get a better response from the police if one of the higher-ups you support is willing to fully support (and engage in) the police report. Unfortunately, the police will take your higher-ups more seriously than they will take your direct complaints, even if you supply most of the facts in either situation.

      Third option. If he’s called 2-3 times in a short period, it’s time to just not answer the phone for the next 20 minutes to 1 hour. You will need your boss’s buy-in on this strategy, but it’s a waste of your time and the company’s money to just keep responding to the harasser, so hopefully you can make a decent business case. Then, review voicemails, respond to legitimate calls within 30 minutes or so of the original call, but delete voicemails from the harasser.

    32. Coder von Frankenstein*

      One suggestion: As soon as you realize one of these episodes is starting, try to disconnect yourself emotionally from it. Instead of being cheerful and engaged when you answer the phone, be neutral and guarded: “Hello, this is [company]. How can I help you?” Wait to engage on a personal level until you hear a name you recognize. Until then, think of the person on the other end as a noise machine. It makes loud angry noises because that’s what it was built to do, but it has nothing to do with you personally.

      For making the calls stop… you said if you block the number, they get a new one and do it a month later. So blocking isn’t a permanent solution, but is it a temporary one? When one of these berserk salespeople starts calling and calling, can you cut the episode short by blocking them?

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Ah – never mind on the second question, I see you already answered that one. In that case, I like the idea of having some form of putting the caller on “forever hold.”

    33. Boof*

      Ah. I am afraid there is no one conventional solution to this level of harassment. Much depends on the resources, power, and investment the company may have in stopping this.
      1) try to call your own service provider and see if they have any tools for doing a larger spam block, filters, or reporting the source of the calls
      2) consider only letting known numbers through and having everything else go to a voicemail (or better yet, a voice to text system)
      3) nuclear approach – company hires someone private to @#$@# with these spammers. Someone who will waste their time, maybe even track them down and THEN they can be reported and shut down.

    34. Atalanta0jess*

      I’ve had a lot of anxiety lately, and have found that some intense physical exercise helps. 60 seconds of jumping jacks, 60 seconds of squatting and punching, and 60 seconds of something else really active is SUPER helpful.

  14. Jen*

    Your company needs to find a better way to address this. What happens if the phone isn’t answered? Are there automated prompts that direct callers to appropriate departments? If you’re being verbally harassed by callers to the extent it’s causing you severe anxiety then perhaps the company needs to find an accommodation to deal with inbound calls.

  15. Helen*

    If they are calling from the same number, it might be worth seeing if you or IT can block calls from that number?

    1. Claire*

      Unfortunately it looks like that’s not possible—the letter says, “I just had to pick up, get screamed at for 10 seconds, put the phone down, block the number, only for them to get a different number two minutes later”

    2. OP*

      They use a different number, we have over 200 numbers blocked from him. We think he is using a radom number generator

      1. Ginger*

        If it is the same person, I think your VP or President need to hire an investigator or start a police paper trail. A single crazed individual is very concerning.

        1. kt*

          Yes, agree. This could be a spillover from harassment or stalking — it does not sound like “we want your money”, honestly, with over 200 attempts.

        2. Properlike*

          We know this guy doesn’t have 200 different phone numbers or phones he’s calling from. Seems like your phone company/business account provider should have some solutions – I see software available that claims to block, and a paid service from AT&T that you can trigger after every harrassing call by dialing *57.

          1. Phony Genius*

            Yes. The *57 will trace the number for the phone company, through any masking that they are doing with call ID. It uses a different technology. It will only provide this information to the phone company – they can’t give it to you. You have to dial it immediately after you hang up. Then immediately call the phone company. It will cost a few dollars, but it will be worth it.

        3. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this is bonkers. 10-15 calls AN HOUR is way, way, off the charts and needs to be handled in a much more intensive manner.

        4. TootsNYC*

          yes, I think this is beyond “you dealing with it”–this is a company / president problem, and THEY need to be spending significant energy on coming up with this solution.
          I don’t know how you make them do that, though. Maybe pointing that out, and “delegating up” to them would be enough?

        5. Just Another Zebra*

          We had someone do this at Old Job. What ended up working was the next time he called, I kept him rambling for 30 seconds, then pretended to whisper over my shoulder (but loud enough that he definitely heard) “Is that long enough to get the trace locked, officer?”

          He never called back.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            I love that.

            I do think at this point it is worth *actually* involving the police, but who knows how long it would take for anything to come of that so you might as well give this a try too.

        6. GothicBee*

          Yes. This is not just a scam caller or an aggressive sales guy and this problem isn’t going to be solved by doing the normal stuff that works on those guys. I’ve worked in multiple call centers and have never encountered someone this bad. Someone else needs to get involved here and make sure this stops being the LW’s responsibility. LW, definitely make sure the VP/President/whoever is aware of how much it’s affecting you, and put it on them to find a solution here. Because the solution can’t reasonably be that you keep answering his calls forever if he just never decides to give up.

          1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

            This. OP, this whole thing is a bigger problem than you ought to be expected to solve.

      2. The Rural Juror*

        Ugh! This is so frustrating. I’m so very sorry to read that it’s happening to you.

        To commiserate, I missed a call from vendor the other day. I called them back, only to find out they hadn’t called me at all. A few minutes later the voicemail came through (we have bad cell service, sometimes they don’t come through right away) and it was like 4 minutes of a cold call trying to sell auto warranties.

        So…somehow they’re able to call from a number that’s in use by another business. It was coincidental that that number happened to be someone I do business with. They’re getting crafty…and apparently abusive…

      3. Quill*

        TWO HUNDRED???

        Honey you need a police report. It probably won’t shut him down but you need to document this in case of escalation.

      4. Kevin Sours*

        Either he is spoofing the numbers or somebody is providing those numbers. Do you have an IT department that runs your phone system? They might be able to do a more broad based block that isn’t *everything* (and, maybe, push to voicemail instead of a straight up block if people are concerned about legit callers).

  16. Corporate Drone #2356921*

    “No” is a complete sentence. It sounds like you have the full support of your management team to not deal nicely with the people who call. Don’t be afraid to hang up on people like that. I also like statements like “If we want your services, we will call you” and hang up.

  17. A Simple Narwhal*

    Omg OP I am so sorry. Is there something the police might be able to do? You’re clearly getting harassed, it feels like you should be able to give them the list of blocked numbers and have them do something about it. Trace the call next time it happens?

    Barring that/in the meantime I feel like you have no reason to listen to them spew hatred for ten seconds, the moment you realize it’s them you should just immediately hang up.

    I also think the higher ups need to find an alternative solution to having just you answer the phones. It doesn’t sound like you were the receptionist before, it is unacceptable to just have you carry on in this role while continuing to be harassed. You might even ask for some time off to recoup if you can.

    Again, I’m so sorry about this, I hope things improve.

      1. ArchivalLlama*

        Having gone through something similar, the police will not do anything. It is incredibly easy to spoof numbers and there’s no way to trace it.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          This is, unfortunately typically true. But I wonder if in this case there might be a way to find out who it is. After all, he’s calling to sell something. Feigning interest long enough to get his company and name is more information than most people get from scammers.

          1. all the time*

            Not true where I live and I do realize that depending on where you live and your police / Sherriff departments it wouldn’t be for you, but my police department would be ALL over this as would my phone provider (they are local, not a national carrier).

          2. Trillian*

            He’s not calling to sell something. He’s calling to abuse. It’s not economic to call the same number over and over for hours.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          Well, there *are* ways to trace it, but if it (as seems likely) crosses jurisdictional lines it involves multiple police agencies (and if it crosses international borders, there’s little incentive for the foreign cops to cooperate), it gets very expensive and time consuming. While this may well rise to the level of criminal harassment, it isn’t going to get that kind of attention.

        3. Quill*

          They’ll use it as evidence if he does something easier to prosecute or not crossing jurisdictions though.

        4. Boof*

          I think it’s worth trying because this is pretty severe, but I agree as best I can tell police / FTC rarely act unless everything is handed in their lap (ie, may have to figure out who it is, their legal name and address, then put in for a cease and desist restraining order before they might actually do something )

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          I’ve used a laughing stuffed cat to blast at spammers on my personal number before now – that always worked although sadly his battery ran out in the end.

          One guy at work, Wakeen, was getting fed up with a recruitment agency who were constantly cold calling him about candidates and asked us not to pass on anything from them any more, and then they’d try saying things like “But we’re already in negotiations with him about placing our client, Cecil Mongoose!” (Knowing Wakeen’s opinion of the agency I didn’t believe them and was not surprised when he later confirmed this wasn’t true.) I did joke with him about putting the cat on to them but never acted on it – while Wakeen thought that was funny and said he was okay with it, my then-manager Umbridge would not have been!)

          1. Magenta Sky*

            What you really want is a tone generator at 2,700 Herz. That is the resonant frequency of the human ear canal, so any sound at that frequency sound louder than a sound at any other frequency. It is a *penetrating* sound, at the maximum volume his phone system will produce.

            With a little tech magic, it shouldn’t be hard to attach the tone generator directly to the phone so that the person using it doesn’t have to listen to it. I wonder if Apple has an app for that.

      2. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

        I personally favor the approach where you blast a blowhorn into the phone when you realize it is him, and then hang up! Make it painful to him to call.

  18. Rachael*

    Wow. Can you play along enough to work out where they’re calling from, then submit a complaint to as high a person as you can find in that company?

        1. juliebulie*

          And if not, could someone else (anyone else) pretend to be the president?

          Personally I am starting to wonder if this isn’t someone who wants to blackmail your president but doesn’t want to do it in person.

        2. Not A Girl Boss*

          Or could the president pick up once? I mean at some point, this is his problem. As much as I loathe to give this guy what he wants, maybe he’ll give up once the president let’s him do his sales pitch (and hopefully then tells him exactly where he can stick it, and records the info for the police should the problem not resolve).

          1. Myrin*

            The president already did that once and “slam(med) the phone down a few minutes later in shock”.

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              Well, sure, that doesn’t mean he can never answer it again with a specific agenda in mind.

              1. Hangry*

                Exactly. It’s time for the president to step up and stop their employee from being harassed repeatedly and often. A phone call or two isn’t too much to ask of the big boss in this situation.

              2. Myrin*

                Aaah, okay, I totally misunderstood what you meant with your comment, sorry! In this case, YES, I totally agree with you!

      1. Foila*

        Given that you suspect that this is someone who knows the president, is there a way that the president could safely accept a call from this whackadoo? I’m thinking it could be a way to gather information about them, as in the president might recognize their voice.
        I’m conflicted about this approach, though, since this person is starting to sound dangerous, and that’s not someone you want to “reward” with the contact they’re seeking.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        Can you talk to the president and have them agree to take the call next time, and have the president string the person along (pretend to be interested) and get their contact information, name, phone number, email, company etc and then have the president call the company and file a complaint about them and instruct the employee to never call again or use that info to file a harassment complaint with the police against them?

      3. Pomegranate*

        Can you put them on hold, then pick up the phone again “Hello, President Snow here”?
        If you can turn this into a game somehow, it might ease your anxiety. Place bets on how many calls you’ll get in a day; put them on hold for long periods of time; transfer them to random numbers with automated responses (is there still a phone line that tells you the time and the weather?); play weird music into the phone. Then every time the phone rings and it’s this douche-canoe, you can look forward to implementing another annoying tactic, so you are in control instead of the dingle-berry caller.

        1. Washi*

          Yes! I said this below but I think the OP is (very understandably) caught in a vicious circle of dread of the call/relief at hanging up. If the OP can reframe this in anyway to a game/challenge it will go a long way to breaking the cycle.

          There’s a book called Stopping the Noise in Your Head by Reid Wilson that talks a lot about cultivating the attitude of leaning into our anxiety as a way to overcome them.

          Personally, I would go with seeing how long you can leave this guy with no audible response before he hangs up because I think that will also be the most discouraging for him. But whatever works for you!

        2. Threeve*

          I don’t think he would do this with someone truly abusive, but my dad is a master of keeping scam calls on the phone as long as possible. “I’m trying to remember which social security number I get airline miles on, because my wife told me not to use the other one. I know it starts with a K…”

      4. Llellayena*

        If they’ll only speak to the president and he’s on board with this, can you actually send the next call through and have him ferret out the contact info for this guy? Then you can take that info directly to the police. At this point the caller is involving your whole office anyway so maybe you can all contribute to the solution.

      5. Joanna*

        Would it be possible for the president to actually take one of the calls just once and find out what they want, and then tell them not to call anymore? If the spammer’s goal is to speak with the president, what is the harm in giving them what they want just that once? If it doesn’t work, you’ll just continue getting the same behavior from the caller and things will be the same as before. But, the company may learn something by putting him through just once.

        Whatever it is, the company needs to find a way to handle the phones without you being the person who is taking 99% of the abuse. This is a terrible thing to subject one of your employees to long term.

      6. AnyaT*

        I think she said she did send the call through to the president one time, only to have him hang up on the caller, presumably because he was abusive. So it doesn’t sound as if he is actually truly trying to sell anything? It really sounds like this is someone getting off on harassing and abusing people and has zeroed in on OP’s company as the preferred target. You should definitely see if police can do anything.

        I’d echo the various suggestions about getting an automated answering service. A 1 or 2 step barrier to speaking with someone might be a deterrent, and would allow you to have more calls just go to voicemail.

  19. Jeanette*

    As managers/employers, we have a responsibility to protect our employees from “hostile” work environments. I have always let my employees know that under no circumstances should a vendor/client/customer speak to them in that manner. They should simply say “When you want to be civil and treat me with respect, please call back” and then hang up.

    1. Duckles*

      “Hostile work environment” is a legal term of art and not relevant to this discussion. (Not to say the employer shouldn’t be handling it, just clarifying.)

      1. Magenta Sky*

        I believe the correct term of art for circumstances that do not meet the legal definition of “hostile work environment” is “toxic.”

  20. ProgrammerDude*

    Ask your boss(es) if it is alright to waste the time of these people. There is a slew of things you can do to mess back, which could help you feel more in control of the situation.

    I suggests looking up James Veitch videos and trying to brainstorm some ideas. He’s a comedian who mainly tells stories of how he trolls people (scammers, his roommates…)

  21. Popcorn Burner*

    Rational me says: Block (or have IT block) this number. If the caller is spoofing a bunch of numbers, just hang up on him each time (rather than wasting energy on blocking.)

    Petty me says: Answer the phone; when you realize it’s this caller, leave the phone off the hook until he hangs up. Rinse and repeat.

    1. OP*

      The first part of your answer is already being tried, and failing lol But your second part is kinda good, might give it a try!

      1. HB*

        My mother was getting repeat calls from the same spammer. She bought an air horn. Never heard from the guy again.

        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          Referee’s Whistle. I recommend “The Thunderer” handheld if you can get ahold of one.

      2. Popcorn Burner*

        Full disclosure: I used the petty tactic once on a volunteer who liked to verbally abuse CSRs. (I checked their case history to confirm.)

        Physically setting down my headset (and muting myself) helped decrease my stress level during the call. It did make me giggle a bit to know the person was ranting to no one.

      3. JustaTech*

        My spouse’s old company had a voicemail that was just screaming monkeys that went on for 20 minutes (to *really* waste the time of spammers who aren’t allowed to hang up). “Let me transfer you” – [screaming monkeys].
        If IT can’t set that up for you, then whistle/air horn is your best bet. This harasser is so far past professional norms that pretty much anything you do would be fine.

  22. Elizabeth West*

    We were getting spam calls for someone at OldExjob (it had to do with identity theft). It was horribly annoying. It finally stopped after I lied and told them the employee no longer worked there, whereupon the caller cursed at me and hung up, never to return. Of course, that would be a bit harder to pull off if it’s the CEO, since your company’s website probably has an executive list.

    It’s totally okay to hang up on them. You don’t have to say a word. If they can’t get to anyone, they may eventually give up. You can also report them to your phone company and the FTC, although if they’re spoofing numbers it might be harder to shut them down.

  23. OP*

    I do have a bit more information though.

    This letter was sent I believe 5 or 6 weeks ago. In that time we realize it is the same person and probably someone we know, because the person seems to try and capitalize on things they know about the President. We are contemplating reporting the calls to the police, but when we saw Alison would post the letter we decided to wait for her answer first to see if there are any other options.

    1. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Report them. This isn’t spam – this is abuse and harassment. If you can figure out who it is, or more likely, if the President can figure out who it is, then they REALLY need to report them.

      1. anonymous 5*

        Seconding this. 100% report. There might be additional actions that you/your company should take (and heaven knows that making sure the company helps you find some support for dealing with the anxiety is a *huge* one of those, because this sucks and you don’t deserve to have to absorb it) but report no matter what.

      2. Lexi*

        Agreed. I’ve lived in several cities where honestly the police wouldn’t act on this, but you have a valid complaint and (at least in the US) you can’t be punished for reporting it.

    2. Mimi*

      This is awful, and it’s well past the point where you can do yoga or deep breathing exercises to deal with it. I would definitely report it to the police, and in the meantime talk with your management about strategies to mitigate its impact on you, as suggested above.

      Also, if you have control over your phone system, I would strongly recommend setting up an auto-voicemail line that is just vuvuzuelas or something. (Although you would want to be careful to not accidentally send customers there.) It’s unlikely to make the issue stop, but it might make you feel marginally better.

    3. ArchivalLlama*

      oh if that case if they know certain details then yes by all means report the calls to the police.
      It’s a longer shot but if you’re in the US, you could potentially try the local field office of the FBI because it handles crimes and communications.

    4. Tech and Roses*

      Just from reading your letter, I totally agree. I’ve never heard of a spammer being that horribly abusive and aggressive!

    5. HB*

      I think the key thing is to find out who the person is. That would probably require contacting the police (who would be able to trace the calls/subpoena the person’s information.

      Best of luck to you guys and I hope you update us. This is patently absurd and I would also recommend talking to your bosses about potentially getting off phone duty (maybe have someone who is currently WFH come in) for a couple of weeks to rest and reset.

      Also, because of sexism, I would recommend that whoever comes in be male unless you’ve gotten the person to back off. My guess is the scammer is going to be less verbally abusive to a man than another woman.

    6. Three Flowers*

      This is what I was going to ask about. I was struggling to see what was in it for even a very aggressive cold-calling sales guy if he had to use a random number generator hundreds of times. This sounds like targeted harassment of either you or the president.

      Have you recorded any of the calls? If you live in a one-party state, you can do that legally, and the tapes might be useful later.

    7. HR*

      Yes, this sounds more then a spam caller since they are calling a business. Has your company reached out to your phone company to see if there is any digging they can do on their end? Can you have all calls from unknown numbers go to voicemail? Alert your customers that due to phone issues calls will be going to voicemail and then returned. I’d reach out to the police. Probably not much they can do, but this is harassment. Maybe he will call while the police officer is there taking the report and can tell them not to call. Having the police talk to a person has actually worked twice for me in harassing phone call issues. We knew who the person was which helped. But I was surprised it worked.

    8. Venus*

      I was thinking that this isn’t normal for a workplace, and I wondered if it was the same person and bordered on harassment. I’m not surprised that you suspect this is someone you know. I’m not sure if the police can help, but they might be able to provide suggestions on how to address this. If the person is generating fake numbers, can they still be blocked by the company that provides the service to them? A bit like how phone companies can be asked to block numbers, and internet service providers can block ranges of IPs. If the police can’t help, then maybe you can get better technical solutions.

      I do like the idea of sending them off to a special line where they have to listen to a long message, but maybe there is another option where you let them leave a message for the President in a ‘special mailbox’, where you create a mailbox that they can vent to and then you ignore everything. Or if they actually leave a message then you have documentation!

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        It should be fairly simple to create a special Scammer’s mailbox for forwarding.

        And the best fun would be to set up the VM greeting. Varying it between long “hold” music (I recommend about 20 seconds of the same music on an awkward loop, over and over), one of those “hello? hello? I can’t hear you?” , and an elaborate fake list of options menus.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Or even better since repeated “I can’t hear you” may make them just hang up and redial, make it like a conversation with a bunch of: “I understand,” “I hear you,” “mmhmm,” “the President is unavailable right now,” “if you give me your contact information, President will return your call.”

      2. nonegiven*

        A fast food company sued a collector that they had told not to call there because it was interfering with taking customer calls. The employee they were harassing wasn’t able to take calls at work and the collector had been told that.

    9. Can't Sit Still*

      It’s time to talk to the phone company. They can work in concert with law enforcement to take care of this.

    10. Ashley*

      Check state laws to see if you calls can be recorded with one party consent because if it is really the same person who knows someone that is scary.

    11. feathersflight*

      What did the person say to the President the one time you sent it through? You said they looked shocked and slammed the phone down.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yeah, my follow up question is what the president thinks about all this. If this is someone who knows things about the president and is targeting him or her, then the president is the one who should be reporting to the police, I’d think. Does the president have any clue at all as to who this person is or why he might be targeting harassment in this way?

        And also, this is beyond what a front-line employee should have to deal with and it’s on the president as a manager to step up and take the lead in handling it.

      2. LCH*

        i have this question too! what was shocking? did they find out who this caller is?? is there any way to use that information to get them to stop?

    12. Clorinda*

      If you think you know who it is, that’s a rather different law enforcement situation than dealing with a random spammer in Belgium or wherever. Record the calls and report!

    13. fposte*

      Yes, this isn’t the usual aggressive sales calls–this is a person with individual animus. In addition to reporting to the police, you might see if the phone company has any suggestions. (I don’t suppose you could convince him to give you his address so that you could send him something?)

      In the meantime, it’s at least clear you don’t need to be nice to him. But I was also thinking about finding ways to make this into something less sinister in your head. It’s unfortunate you don’t have a full office, because it’s easier to do this with a bunch of people on your side, but doing some kind of mental bingo/betting pool might take some of the stress out. Track via hashmarks and yell “Bingo!” whenever he gets to the fifth call, even if just to yourself. Bet with yourself if he’ll call before noon; if he does, you get some treat or reward. Interpret his speech as dogs barking, or the voice of Charlie Brown’s teacher. Use him as your reminder to fill your water bottle. Put a face to him–the doofiest jerk you’ve ever seen get into a fight with an inanimate object and lose.

      Right now he’s kind of a formless threatening void in your head. If you can’t stop him from being randomly hostile, you can at least reduce that formless threatening thing and diminish his impact down by contextualizing just how dumb this behavior is.

    14. Damn it, Hardison!*

      Is there any possibility that the president (or someone designated to “be the president” for this purpose) could take the call, get the person’s contact information, and then rain hell down on the caller and their employer? Perhaps speaking to “the president” (real or delegate) and having his or her ass handed back might get the message across.

      1. Damn it, Hardison!*

        Rethinking this, as I hadn’t considered that the individual could be something other than an outrageously aggressive sales person (or perhaps someone with way too much gumption). Carry on with better advice!

    15. tinybutfierce*

      Your company absolutely needs to report this to law enforcement. Hundreds of calls a week involving verbal abuse isn’t spam, this is deliberate harassment. Even if nothing is done, maybe just the threat of having law enforcement involved will make him chill a little.

      I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this. Several years ago, I actually went through a similar thing with my personal number. Some out-of-country loan scam company somehow got my cell number, and I got over 60 calls in less than two days, all from different numbers; some of them were an automated message, rarely a person, and sometimes just dead air. I had to change my number to get it to stop. :/

    16. LJay*

      Report this to the police, and if your building has unlocked doors see if you can get some sort of physical security on-site in case this person escalates to showing up in person. This isn’t solicitation this is targeted harassment.

    17. Carrotstick21*

      In addition to the police, I would contact the phone provider the company uses, which can sometimes gather better info than the police can.

    18. M*

      100% agree that you need to report this. It’s not robo calls or scammers, it’s a person harassing you and your company. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. It must be very scary.

    19. Malarkey01*

      This is a little lower tech, but when I was a teen we were getting repeated very very very disturbing and graphic phone calls from the same person over the period of months. My great grandma picked up one, heard it, and took the whistle she kept on her keychain and blew it right into the phone…never ever happened again.
      This was a time when numbers could be traced, police were involved, etc. and nothing worked like grandma’s emergency rape whistle.

    20. A Poster Has No Name*

      Oh, yeah, if you suspect you know who it is, then that definitely gives you an avenue to report it. So often harassing calls are generated by people not in the US so it’s much harder to hold them accountable. Good luck!

    21. tiny cactus*

      If this is the same person, I agree with others to treat these calls not as spam but as harassment. He is going to a lot of trouble to make these calls, so he must be getting something out of it (perhaps a feeling of power over you and your boss). Is there anything you can do to make the calls as un-rewarding and boring as possible? If you can recognize him quickly enough, perhaps you could just silently put him on hold every time he calls, or something like that.

      However, although I say “you” above, I would also consider talking to your boss about how you’re (very reasonably) finding this situation very stressful, to see if they can help take the pressure off you to deal with this guy yourself. That is asking a lot of an employee.

    22. OrigCassandra*

      OP, does your organization have a CISO, or information-security/cybersecurity office? Or contract with an infosec firm?

      One thing this could have been (at least to start) is attempted social engineering, possibly as part of a more comprehensive attack on your president and/or your organization. (I really want to hope this doesn’t escalate to SWATting, but wow, this caller sounds seriously unhinged.) The infosec folks will absolutely want this caller shut down, and they have more tracing tools than you do.

    23. Greens of June*

      I’ve had to deal with incessant callers before and my advice is to have every call go directly to voicemail. Preferably in a way where you’re not even hearing the phone ring or seeing the call come in, because just having the phone go off multiple times an hour is stressful and an interruption to any other work you’re trying to get done.

      Most likely, as soon as this person realizes they’ve gotten voicemail, they’ll hang up and call again. If they do leave a message, now you have additional evidence for the authorities, and you can save or delete the message as soon as you realize who it is.

      Check the mailbox every hour or so in case there are legit callers who need a response.

    24. beanie gee*

      I really hope your company is supporting you so you don’t have to solve this on your own. You said “we” so I hope that’s true, but please talk to people who can help make it stop since this shouldn’t be all on you to solve!

    25. migrating coconuts*

      What I don’t understand, is that if this person is calling 12-15 times an hour, that’s every 4 or so minutes. How do you get any work done? And why does your VP or P not realize this and do something about it? If they now know its the same person, why does the VP or P just not speak to them, find out who it is/what they want and if a legit business, speak to their boss/owner, etc. Or if it’s just someone who wants to harass the VP/P, then they go to the police. If it’s something other than this, then they need to let all calls go to voicemail so you don’t have to interact directly with this person. Delete is a beautiful button. This is not your job, and shouldn’t be your problem in any way. Good luck to you OP.

    26. Infiniteschrutebucks*

      This makes a lot of sense. This definitely sounds like a stalking situation vs what even the most ardent spammer would engage in. I mentioned this up-comments, but LW it may be helpful to pick up a copy of the Gift of Fear by Gavin DeBecker. He’s a safety expert who has lots of really good information on why people do this sort of thing and how to deal with them (aside from his stance on domestic violence which is….problematic). I believe one of the actual examples in the book is an executive who was getting harassing calls from a stalker. Information is power, and reading it may help with your anxiety.

      Definitely get the police involved. And in the meantime the key is to make engagement as unsatisfying as possible. He wants the response, even if it’s just the satisfaction that he gets to talk to a live person over and over when he calls. Can you allow all calls to go to VM for 30 minutes after his first call, even temporarily? Or authorize you to send calls you suspect to VM for now? Even if it causes some temporary issues, once he stops getting the interaction he craves he will likely stop after an extinction burst of increased calls. Or at least set up a dummy voicemail with a long beep as a message that you can immediately, and silently, send him to every time.

    27. Qwerty*

      This is a late reply, but I have one other anxiety/reframing tactic that I hope is helpful. In a self-defense class I took, the instructor gave us a reframing line to think, “How dare you make me feel this way.” A simple line like that helps remember in the moment that this caller is way out of line, it’s their fault, and you shouldn’t have to shoulder any of this anxiety on their behalf.

      I guess I’m also curious what this person’s end game is… like, if someone pretended to be the president and you transferred to that person, would you get any more information on who this person is and their motive? If that conversation shut down any opportunity would he finally think he had a dead end? On principle you’re doing the right thing but I can see how just continuing to hang up doesn’t feel like it’s actually working to end the cycle.

  24. I'm A Little Teapot*

    I don’t think this is a spammer. This is someone who, for whatever reason, has latched onto you or your company as a target for their abuse and harassment. I would contact the police and see if they have any suggestions. If you happen to know who this individual is, then it absolutely needs to be documented and reported as harassment.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was gonna say that this doesn’t sound like a new tactic employed by spam callers but rather like a targeted campaign.

    2. LadyByTheLake*

      Yeah, there’s no way that this person thinks they are going to make a sale. This is not spam, this is targeted harassment.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      And the next time they call, tell the caller that they have been reported to the police and a report has been opened. You can repeat how many times they have called so they know you have been documenting. If it is legal in your area, I would inform him that the calls have been recorded.
      If this is just some looser that found a random target to harass, then this may deter them and they will find another number to call and harass.
      It’s all so gross. But I agree with the other commenters that this sounds somewhat targeted. It may be a past employee, and old boyfriend of someone who works there, or just some rando that does this all day. If that’s the case, pushing back could stop it.

      1. Em*

        I agree to report but I have to disagree about telling the person that it has been reported. The abusive caller sounds obsessed and is targeting this company for harassment. I think that telling them that you’re involving law enforcement would escalate an already dangerous situation.

        1. Antilles*

          Agreed 100%.
          Telling him you called the police is more likely to inflame the situation than fix it.

    4. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Yeah this isn’t spam, the thing that makes it seem like spam is the person is apparently spoofing their number, but it’s targeted harassment. Clearly this has been going on for long enough to get the police involved.

  25. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    You poor thing. This is NOT part of the job. This is harassment and I think you and your employer should start considering filing complaints with either the police, your state representative, an association, the BBB or something, if you’re lucky to have the name of the business they supposedly represent.

    Two jobs ago I regularly fielded and fended off calls requesting to chat with the President, CEO, person in charge, all of them cold calls from people who had no clue what we did, where we were and how we were organized (Pres is in another province and there was no way I was sending him cold calls). Honestly, no one wanted to talk to cold callers when your time is billable by the hour and a call with sales guy is not billable. My people knew who to contact when they needed something.

    Only once did a caller start to talk to me like I was an idiot because he was, for once, calling about something quite specific and possibly relevant to our industry and I didn’t know where to send the call. “Even my wife knows what a llama groomer booster button is!” and similar stuff was said to me before I was able to finally get rid of him.

    I sat in a stupor for a while annoyed that I now felt badly about myself because of this jerk.

    Never had one like you just had. That’s abusive and uncalled for. I would stop taking calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Let them call 14 times in an hour, you’re not replying. Let them go to voicemail because if it’s truly important, they will leave a message and if the message is abusive, you now have evidence of their harassment.

  26. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

    If you can’t immediately hang on abusive calls, is there any way you can pry any information about their business from them? If you can find out who they represent, you may be able to either figure out who’s higher up in their own chain or lodge some sort of complaint against the company/service itself?

    For instance, telling the caller that the president has just stepped out but if they give their company name and a call-back number that you will have your president call as soon as he returns. You could even play dumb and say “I’m so sorry, he must have forgotten” and give the impression that you’ll put the caller right through but that you have to announce them.

  27. Monica*

    what % of calls are legitimate/important?

    Can you put an outgoing voicemail greeting telling people to email, and send them to an email account? Like, don’t even let people leave voicemails, only email.

  28. Phoney Bologna*

    That is so awful! The only thing I can think of is to maybe record your typical greeting and if you start getting the harassing calls play the recording when you get rung from numbers you don’t recognize. Then you can kind of prepare yourself… perhaps holding the phone away from your ear so you don’t get the full volume of yelling and hovering your finger over the button to end the call so you can make the interaction as brief as possible, while still being available in case it’s a garden variety call. It might also feel like you’re outsmarting these foul and relentless jerks, which I know would make me feel a tad better about the whole thing. Other than that, maybe just pop a Bach’s Rescue Remedy pastille? I don’t know how much it actually does but the ritual and having something to suck on when you’re feeling anxious might help.

  29. AdAgencyChick*

    Does this…actually…WORK for spammers? How can this possibly be an effective cold-calling tactic and if not, why do people do it?

    You don’t need to be particularly polite to cold callers. “We’re not interested, thank you, goodbye” and hanging up even if they try to talk over you is FINE.

    1. RagingADHD*

      There was an update in the comments. Turns out this is a person with a connection to the company or the president, who is deliberately targeting them for harassment.

    2. Alice*

      Honestly it doesn’t sound like spam/scam — it sounds like there is one guy using some spam techniques (spoofing phone numbers) to harass either the CEO or the company.
      Right now, no one cares about this problem more than OP, so it’s not getting solved. OP, can you get your leadership’s buy-in to send everything to voicemail, on the understanding that you’ll listen to the voicemails immediately and respond to any real calls? Sure, it’s not ideal for real customers calling the main line. But the company shouldn’t be exposing you to this harasser. I imagine your anxiety might play up less when it’s a recording instead of an interaction.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I don’t think it is a cold-calling tactic, no. In my experience of sales/spam calls you get two main groups:

      1) the ones who can keep their cool, who will just be like “oh President isn’t available? When will he be available? Could you check his calendar? How about I call back in half an hour? How about vice-president? How about vice-vice-President? How about random person in IT whose name I got from LinkedIn? How about person who left five years ago? No? Crazy! Chat soon!”, rinse and repeat, for months. I think they’re banking on if they just call enough times and try enough numbers/names, SOMEONE will eventually put them through. Honestly those ones are kind of fun for me, because I’d be like “no not available… not available… not available… yeah so crazy… chat soon!” and both of us know perfectly well that the other person is lying.

      2) the ones who don’t keep their cool, who call a bunch of times in quick succession and get performatively mad (“this is RIDICULOUS, John is EXPECTING MY CALL, what do you MEAN unavailable” etc etc) and then give up. I figure they’re going down a list and think that bulldozing is the quickest way to get put through, and if it doesn’t work they just give up and move on to the next poor receptionist.

      This person is doing the latter, but keeping it up for months like the former. Most spammers who lose their shit like this recognise that they’ve burned the bridge after a few calls and give up – even the stupidest spammer isn’t going to call 15 times in an hour and expect to actually get anything out of it. It strikes me as someone with a personal fixation, but whatever it is, it’s not how any cold-caller I’ve ever come across operates.

  30. Retired Prof*

    This actually happened to me at home – someone aggressively trying to sell me real estate, but incredibly abusive. I called the real estate development in question and they said the caller had nothing to do with them and were appalled. It turned out to be a mentally ill man who went on to do more strange and aggressive things in the community. I called the DA and the calls stopped. I don’t know if there’s anything useful here for the OP – maybe checking to see if the caller actually represents whatever business he claims to represent?

    1. Temperance*

      That’s terrifying. Did he know who you were?

      I regularly get calls from mentally ill people just due to the nature of my job (pro bono legal services), and the ones where someone was having delusions or were acting strange and aggressive scared me the most, tbh.

  31. Soprani*

    OP, can you check with your service provider to see if they offer an additional level of spam call protection/identification. My caller id service was recently updated to more aggressively identify more calls as “Potential Spam”. I see fewer calls now from “Unidentified number”.

  32. Little Fox*

    100% simply hang up

    When I was a switchboard operator that was the policy. As soon as you know it’s spam = hang up. As soon as someone starts yelling/calling you names/in any way being disrespectful or aggressive = hang up. I understand it really wears you down when they repeatedly call back. As the company phased out the ‘live person’ switchboard to an automated one, I was the last ‘live person’ answering the calls for a few months. I completely understand sitting at your desk shaking every time you hear the phone ring.

    Knowing I had an end date in sight helped, but I guess you don’t really have that right now. Is there any way to split up the phone duty with someone else, even if they are WFH? Just to take some of the stress off of you? Like they could come in and rotate that duty with you for a while?

  33. ENFP in Texas*

    Talk to your management about this and suggest a new protocol. With your Management’s buy-in:

    Set a protocol that if you have any calls that you’re not comfortable putting through, say “He’s/she’s not available, please leave me your name and a good contact number and he/she will call you back.”

    If they refuse, say “I’m sorry, I’m not able to put you through. Are you sure you don’t want to leave your information?” If they refuse again, then say, “All right. Have a good afternoon” and HANG UP. (This is why it’s important to have management buy-in, empowering you to take this step.)

    If they get abusive at ANY point, hang up. Don’t even say good-bye – just hang up.

  34. Zephy*

    +1 suggestion to just hang up – it sounds like everyone above you is aware that this is a problem, and you don’t have to put up with being spoken to like that. Anyone who’s that damned important, like you said, has the president’s direct number already and doesn’t need to go through you, so whoever this asshat is on the other end of the phone doesn’t deserve your courtesy.

  35. Lyds*

    I’ve done many years on reception and my general approach now is to hang up immediately if they are abusive, if they’re aggressive or pushy I’ll probably warn them with a “please don’t speak to me like that” and if they continue I hang up. I also take note of the number, then I block it and if they are especially venomous then I will find out the company and call/ email their customer services to complain giving as much info as possible. As the others have said, you are not obligated to take abusive calls so you by no means ever have to take abusive behavior, just hang up.

    I’ve only reported a call to the police on a couple of occasions, once for sexual harassment and once for a threatening call, the UK at least has a non emergency line where you can give a report and get a reference number so if they persist or escalate then you can add to that report by quoting the reference,

    and good luck! Don’t let these ghouls get you down!

  36. Laura*

    Unfortunately it’s gone past the point of simply” hanging up” this is harassment and from the tone of the email has caused extreme anxiety and mental health issues. In the UK we would report these calls to the police they can then ask for the telephony provider for the origin of these calls. This is a slow process but what I’d advise is a welcome message on the phone line warning that the call may be recorded, this will usually make people like this think twice. If that doesn’t work get your company to invest in call recording software and have it ready for the police. Lastly if possible get some councilling in order to help you reclaim yourself after these awful incidents.

  37. Lucy*

    I used to volunteer at a crisis hotline and would get a lot of aggressive callers like that. I agree with everyone saying that you have every right to hang up the second that they get abusive, and I also recommend that you remember that this is 100% not on you. Some people who are angry like to take it out on others who they can’t see face-to-face because it’s easier to dehumanize them that way. You did nothing wrong.

  38. Awesome Sauce*

    2 possible things spring to mind: anti-spam laws and workplace violence laws. I don’t know if the LW lives in a jurisdiction where either or both of these things exist (and the anti-spam law might not even help since the caller keeps generating new phone #s) but I’m hoping that there is at least some kind of workplace violence and harassment law in place. If so, LW’s employer may have a duty to protect LW from this kind of abuse – that could be something like not answering unidentified numbers and just letting them go to voicemail (to be checked within, say, an hour – to make sure actual client calls are not being missed), putting in some kind of automated answering system, forwarding the calls to another staff member for a while, ???

    Even if, in LW’s jurisdiction, the employer does not have a clear duty to protect employees from violence in the workplace, this has gotten to the point where it’s affecting LW’s ability to do their job effectively because they are so stressed out. So hopefully their manager will work with them to come up with a solution that’s going to keep LW away from this constant abuse.

  39. Em*

    On a personal level, can you work to find methods that remove you emotionally from these callers? Your workplace should absolutely be working towards removing your availability for these calls – an automated system before they get to speak to you, etc. But in the hang time before that’s solved, disengage as much as possible. The person on the other end doesn’t know who you are personally and their anger is not real; it’s a manipulative show meant to fluster you into forwarding the call. I’m sorry this is happening and I’d be upset as well.

    I’ve worked retail in the past and I’ve had customers stand 18 inches from me and scream abuse because they couldn’t get their way. I would take breaks after particularly bad run-ins, but it helped a lot to think that they weren’t angry with me specifically, they were upset that they weren’t getting their way. If it’s helpful, imagine the person on the other end is a large muppet throwing a comical tantrum.

    And don’t feel bad if the ultimate answer is “VP, boss, I can’t handle the phones until you create a safer working environment for me”. And start job searching in that case just in case.

    1. Em*

      Edit to add: with the additional details that this is a person known to the president and likely specifically targeting them: I stand by my advice to emotionally distance yourself by imagining an angry muppet, but this person sounds like a legitimate security concern. It’s beyond time to contact law enforcement.

  40. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

    Can you block this number? Block this number. The social contract is broken. You have zero responsibility to communicate with this person.
    What you do is realize that you can take yourself out of this situation.
    Hanging up is not rude, it is safe and correct.

    1. Bertha*

      OP mentioned that the caller must have an automated program of some sort because he has called from 200 numbers, all of which they have blocked.

  41. Filtrum*

    OP, are these different people who are calling and behaving this way? It sounds as if it could be the same person. In which case, it’s not obnoxious solicitors, it’s targeted harassment and I’d think you’d have every right to ask your bosses to have this investigated further.

  42. Jennifer*

    My God. Do they really think that the guy who called the receptionist the C-word is going to make a great sale with the President? I’m guessing it’s some kind of scam. Salespeople can get aggressive but no one from a legit business behaves this way.

    I got calls similar to this a few years ago with people lying saying I owed money and there was a warrant out for my arrest. They could get pretty nasty. The FBI has opened an investigation and I added my information to the complaint. Telling them that got them to hang up and gradually the calls dropped off. Do they call from the same number each time? Can you make note of it and just not answer when it comes up in caller ID? Also google the phone number(s) and see if there are other complaints.

    I’m sorry you have to deal with this, my dear.

  43. CamJansen*

    Ugh, I am so sorry. I have experienced this before and it’s so upsetting! I worked at a call center/switchboard for many years and we had a few established abusive callers. We didn’t always recognize the number but it was clear who was calling in the first few seconds of the call. We informed them if they called again they would be transferred directly to our security team. There was a voicemail box specifically for this and we dumped the call straight in there without even acknowledging the caller as soon as we recognized the voice. I think someone then screened the voicemail to make sure there weren’t any true threats. They weren’t spam calls or sales, they were individuals calling to harrass for whatever reason.

    Honestly I dont know if this helped resolve the situation but it is one option that helped us prevent having to sit through the verbal abuse on repeat.

  44. JT180*

    This is a form of social engineering. Your callers are con men/ fraudsters. They use urgency and tantrums to bully gatekeepers into making bad decisions. No one who acts this way makes sales or is interested in building a working relationship.
    You should reach out to your security team about handling these, it is concerning that you have these frequently.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Great (or at least suspicious) minds think alike.

      OP, this may or may not be social engineering; straight-up abuse sounds a bit more likely based on your updates. But either way… the infosec office won’t want this to go on, it’s a danger not just to you, not just to the president, but to the whole entire organization.

  45. Aurora Leigh*

    Haven’t seen this suggested yet, but can get an automated message about calls being monitored/recorded for quality control? Might deter some people from spewing garbage like that if they think they’re being recorded.

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you! And how scary that it might be someone who knows you guys. I would at least file a police report, even if there’s not much they can do yet.

  46. SJJ*

    Have you tried telling him you will be reporting this harassment/abuse to the police?

    Also – any chance you can look up the number to find the carrier and report them as spam/abusive? This one’s a long crazy shot. But who knows with recent news about phone companies needing to do more about blocking spam.

    1. Astrid*

      It’s almost a guarantee the person is in another country. The police won’t be able to do anything.

      1. Jennifer*

        Not necessarily in another country, but you are correct the local police will not be able to do anything. If they are in the country, they may be able to report it to a federal agency

    2. M*

      At an old workplace, we got about 80 calls a day from Dakota Dental (we were in Illinois, so there’s no real way that a place in North Dakota was offering free teeth cleanings for our employees). Every number in our phone tree got calls, and it was always a real person on the line, not a robot. We ALL explained it was a business line, that we weren’t interested, take us off the list, etc. When one of the legal secretaries finally yelled at one of the callers that they were harassing a law firm, and that we would absolutely file charges with the police and the BBB, the calls magically stopped. Adamant refusal and a threat of reporting can go a long way.

  47. Andrea*

    It can be difficult to be the gatekeeper. What I do for a normal insistent obviously spam call is say, “I’m sorry so and so is not available right now. Let me get your name and number and they can call you back.” At this point they usually offer to call back.

    However, the obnoxious bullying calls I say, “I’m sorry, I have already let you know they are unavailable and offered to take a message. I think it is time to end this call.” And then I hang up with no guilt.

    The best advice I’ve ever received regarding this type of call is to don’t take it personally, because it’s not. They are not angry at you. Anger is a not so subtle tool in their “get past the gatekeeper” tool box.

    1. Ama*

      By accident, I learned a great trick when I was doing a job with receptionist duties. It was a grad school, and the postdocs and grad students didn’t have individual lines in their carrels and cell reception in the building was terrible (you literally had to stand within two feet of a window to get enough bars — the carrels were in the interior of the building), so the only system available to us if people tried to reach one of the postdocs or grad students by phone was to call the main line, and then I would take the person’s info and email it to them — if it was a true emergency I’d put the caller on hold and try to go find the person but that only happened a couple times.

      After I’d been working there for a few months I started to see how many unsolicited calls the grad students got (their subject area was one that attracts some really odd requests and questions) and realized that the “oh they don’t have a direct line, but I can take your information and pass this message on to them” spiel was perfect for getting rid of the sale calls and weirdos. I even started using it for our faculty that had phone lines if I suspected it might be a little hinky (if I could tell it was legitimate business or a fellow academic I’d put them through) “oh, they don’t use their voicemail, leave your number with me and I’ll send it to them — they’ll call you back if they can answer that question.” I actually did always send the person an email to let them know just in case I might have misinterpreted something, but I can only think of one time when an unsolicited call actually was something someone wanted to follow up on.

      The only person who ever called back after not getting a response was this movie producer (I looked him up, he did have real movies I had heard of on IMDB although they were pretty much in the trashy low-budget thriller genre). He was the biggest asshole I’ve ever dealt with directly at work. He insisted on speaking with our Dean (the Dean made it very clear after the first time he called that he had no interest in this guy) and I think he could tell I was gatekeeping him, but he acted as if the reason the Dean had never called him back must be because I was too incompetent to give him the message. He called roughly once every three months (I learned quickly that if he actually talked to me he’d wait a few more months, if I sent him to voicemail, he’d call back in a couple hours) and I just kept stalling — “I gave him your last message, he’ll call you back if he’s interested.” He was so bad that I left a note about him when I left that job so whoever took over for me would know how to deal with him.

      OP, remember you have all the power here. You do not have to listen to them, you do not have to pass them through to anyone. If they can’t behave they don’t deserve more than the barest minimum of your time.

      1. Salyan*

        While we’er on the topic of gatekeeping, I have to mention that one great bonus I have found of working from home during Covid is that I can no longer forward calls on the office phone – our main line is forwarded to my cell phone and I simply cannot forward it back. It is the single best (true!) excuse for getting rid of spam callers EVER. They all have to email, and my colleagues can ignore them at their leisure.

  48. Sarah*

    If they’re always calling from the same number you can just let it go to voicemail, or tell IT or your service provider and have them block the number. I also find reporting them to the FCC is useful.

  49. Llellayena*

    If these were calls made to a person, rather than a business, this sounds like it would rise to the level of stalking or harassment and you could get the police involved. I’m not sure if the same laws apply to a business but you can try. Have each of you document your interactions with this person (take his name and any other identifying info if he gave it) and call the police. If you have the first number he called from document that, it’s the most likely to be real. If you can figure out who he is, a cease and desist letter from a lawyer might help (or could make things worse, so follow the advisement of law enforcement on that).

  50. Oof*

    Voicemail was invented for a reason. I would recommend letting calls from unknown numbers, or numbers that make you anxious, just go to voicemail. You can then check the messages, and go from there. I’m so sorry this is happening to you.

  51. A Poster Has No Name*

    OK, so I oversee a call tracking product for our company, and spam is a constant battle (as it is with everyone who has a phone number, but in my case I oversee about 20K of them) so I have some experience here.

    First, does he always call from the same number (or a couple numbers)? If so, contact your phone carrier to block his phone number from being able to call you. If he uses different numbers every time, that’s spoofing and is harder to block but still contact your carrier and see if there’s anything they can do.

    If they can’t help, then really you need to hang up immediately when he calls. Stop giving him the satisfaction of engagement and he’ll likely find a different target.

    As for why? He probably gets his jollies by being an a**hole to you and the VP and the CEO. That’s it. Not trying to sell anything, just thrilled that he can take up your time and your headspace and that of someone “as powerful as a CEO” with no other real purpose than because he can and he’s a jerk.

    Though often trying to understand they why and wherefore of spammers is futile. I think in some cases spammer spam because they can, not because they’re trying to get anything out of it, even if all you’re hearing is a recording of random sounds or a language you don’t speak or whatever.

  52. TypityTypeType*

    It seems clear that LW DOES hang up: “get screamed at for 10 seconds, put the phone down, block the number.”

    The problem is having to answer every call that comes in — to greet a caller politely and have them instantly start berating you has to be extremely stressful and upsetting.

    LW, is there any way you can screen instead of picking up the phone every time? Unless your business relies on a human answering the phone (as I imagine some do), an answering machine might make a real difference.

    I’ve dealt with businesses that do this; I call, leave a message, then hear back within just a few minutes. You can even pick up mid-message if it’s someone you/your bosses really want or need to talk to. Someone who calls 14 times an hour would ideally get a machine 13 of those times, and it’s less upsetting to delete an abusive message than to be screamed at.

    If the creeps learn to leave civilized messages and then berate you when you call back, then you can maybe feel better prepared emotionally: you call someone back with the clear intention of hanging up the instant you hear something inappropriate, then don’t pick up when they inevitably call back.

    I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this.

      1. WhyArePhones*

        Ugh, this sucks. I’ve done a ton of reception work, and it sounds like you’re doing everything you can. Some days it was easy to hang up if a creep or rude person called in, and some days I went and cried in my car. (It’s not for me!)

        Since it sounds like you’re stuck doing this for now, some people suggested just putting him on hold indefinitely, but some phone systems will send the call back through to ring the main line after a caller has been on hold a certain amount of time, meaning you have to pick up and answer again or immediately put it back on hold every five minutes or whatever. If he’s persistent, that’s a lot of time wasted. At least one other person above has suggested asking about getting an automated system to handle incoming calls. One where people can directly enter the extension they’re trying to reach so you don’t have to screen/transfer all calls would be ideal. Presumably some calls would still come through to you if they don’t know who they need to speak to or have more general inquiries, but some spammers will be deterred by multiple steps and this particular jerk can spread his abuse around to whatever voicemails he wants without you having to take the brunt of it. Is that a solution? Kind of?

  53. Washi*

    No advice on how to make it stop, but I wonder if exposure therapy techniques would be helpful to cope.

    From a behavioral point of view, what’s happening is a cycle where you pick up this phone, it’s Caller from Hell, your are verbally abused and getting more and more anxious, then you hang up, which relieves a bit of the anxiety (because you are no longer listening to the abuse.) Then every time you are dreading the phone call, dreading that voice, and waiting for the moment when you can hang up.

    What if the next time the call comes in, you maybe put the phone on the desk without hanging up, and listen to the caller without actually responding (I assume you could still sort of hear this person shouting even if the phone is not right next to your ear.) Take some deep breaths. See if you can go 30 seconds before hanging up. Then maybe a minute. This technique is supposed to train your body that you can tolerate the stress and anxiety of the situation, that you can handle whatever is going on. This might help break the cycle of your panic every time the phone rings.

    I’m so sorry you are dealing with this!!

    1. (A different) Susan*

      Exposure therapy is meant to desensitize people to something that is not actually harmful to them. Abuse *is*. This is not something that LW should desensitize herself to.

      When this creep is gone for good, if phone calls are still a problem, then yes, some kind of desensitization might make sense. But not essentially spending time with this a$$hole now, even if not listening directly to him. Plus, the goal of exposure therapy is to be able to be directly with the thing in a comfortable way eventually. The goal here is not to spend quality time with the Caller from Hell.

  54. Astrid*

    This is almost certainly a scam caller and not a remotely legitimate business, there is no need to sympathize that the person may be frustrated by their job. As OP alluded, they scream and use profanity as a means to intimidate people into compliance. This is something scammers do regularly.

    Obviously hanging up is a solution, but it sounds like that isn’t quite enough. Afterall, in my state, calling 14 times in an hour could easily meet one of the definitions of harassment, so a little phone-PTSD is not unusual, nor is there an easy solution when legitimate calls need to be answered. Hell, saying this happens 100x a week (i.e. 20x a day) is actually a bit excessive, even if some are legit solicitations.

    I wonder if it’s possible, especially since the VP has experienced this first hand for your company to pay a service to answer phone calls? even if just for a short while. They can forward legit ones to you, and screen out the scammers. I know it’s an expense not every business can take on, but I know there are a lot of different answering service options, and spending money for peace of mind is totally a thing.

    Best of Luck

  55. GovCon CPA*

    This happened at my company once. It was insane. I’m not sure what our IT group did, but they blocked the number somehow. Since I work in Federal Contracting, we reported it to Security & FBI.

  56. KayZee*

    I’ve done my time answering phones and this kind of BS is not fun. I kind of think this guy has an axe to grind rather than really expecting to sell something at this point.

    Wasting his time, as someone said, is good. Just place the phone down and go about your business.

    Acting a little crazy right back might work. I liked talking in gibberish to the person – making up sounds that maybe sound like words. One time my husband responded to a sales call by telling them a long story about how his friend walked all the way from Manhattan to Long Island after a drug deal gone bad.

    I also liked to yell “What company are you calling from?” over and over again. One guy told me he was calling from “The Guy With The Big Dick Company”. I kind of doubt that was true.

    But threatening to call the police might be a good idea too.

    Obviously threatening to get the police involved is not a bad idea either.

    1. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

      I just had an image pop into my mind of her opening her mouth and only the fax noises coming out.

  57. MMMMmmmmmmmMMM*

    I think its time for the police. They have the resources to actually track this person down and do something about it. You’ve done all you can– and your employer also agrees. You do not need to put up with this anymore. While I understand you still have to answer the phones, knowing that the police are working towards a result may help lessen your anxiety.

    I’m sorry you have to go through this.

  58. Ostolady*

    It sounds like hanging up isn’t working to deter this guy- he literally won’t take no for an answer. Maybe I missed something here… but maybe try asking your boss if she’d be willing to take the call for real? Pretend she’s interested, “wow you wore me down”, take down his name and information, and then report him to either his company or the authorities? I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

  59. Zona the Great*

    I remember when there were a ton of spam calls from overseas threatening that you have committed a crime and must pay up. They were super angry and intimidating but once you get over that, it is quite a bit of fun to mess with them. Ask them what the C-word means as you have never heard it before. Ask him to repeat himself several times when he says basic things. Tell him you don’t speak English while you use a Cockney accent (just chose that accent randomly). Get a fart machine.

  60. Maxie's Mommy*

    You have a stalker. Ask your manager if the company can hire someone who can figure out who this guy is, and who can scare the life out of him. I worked for a divorce lawyer and we had to do this because the staff was terrified. He even knew stuff about us as well as our lawyers.

  61. Phoebe*

    It helps to remember that you have all the power in this situation and that’s why he’s being so aggressive.

  62. Amber Rose*

    I wonder if you could reframe it in your head at all as something funny. I honestly get a lot of this stuff, but mocking them and laughing at them kills off most of my anxiety about it. Because as hard as it can be to deal with that kind of aggressive BS, it’s kinda funny when you picture them as extremely yappy little dogs who have no teeth. They can’t do anything except bark. The angrier they get the sillier it is.

    We have long passed down the tale of Mamood, the dude who insisted that he would not stop calling us because “it is not my mood.”

    And if you can’t do that, I think it’s reasonable accommodations to request that you not be the one to answer the phones until they can do something to mitigate the unending harassment you’re going through. Get a doctor’s note if you need to, but like. No job should require you to be abused on a regular basis.

  63. Leeloo*

    At this point, especially with the additional info you’ve provided, would tell the caller that you are now considering this harassment. I would tell them that you have logs and recordings of the calls and if the harassment continues you will report it to law enforcement. This person sounds unhinged and not like a normal spam callers.

    However, similar tactics work for spam callers. I kept taking myself off a spam call list but they’d keep calling with new numbers. I waited to talk to a person and told them to permanently remove me from their list and they played dumb. I told them if they call again, I’ll report all the numbers they’ve called from to the FCC. They never called again. This has worked with multiple spam/scam call centers.

  64. Bad Bad Leroy Brown*

    I don’t field general calls, but the nature of my job is such that I occasionally have to deal with upset/angry people who call to talk about how awful my company is. Generally, they don’t have a question. They just want to rant – so I let them do that, tell them I understand and will share their message with whomever they’re trying to reach.

    I’m not sure this is a scammer or solicitor. It sounds like someone who has a grudge against the president of your company. And clearly they do not have direct access to the president or they would have called them directly. The first thing to bear in mind is that whatever the issue is, it has nothing to do with you. The second thing to bear in mind is that because your boss is aware of the situation, you don’t really have a responsibility to engage with this person. If it’s possible, ask your boss if you can let calls go to voicemail for a little while until the intensity of this person’s rage dies down. If not, answer the phone and if the expletives start flying, hang up. If for some reason you’re stuck on the phone with them… you still don’t have to engage. Tell them you understand they’re upset and that you’ll share the message with the person they’re trying to reach. Repeat that as often as needed. If they resort to name calling or cursing, hang up. Once they realize that the only two responses they’re going to get are a deadline or a calm, measured non-response – they may give up.

  65. AndersonDarling*

    I know many companies that set up fake voicemail accounts for the “Director of Procurement” and gave them a manly name like “George Powers” or “Roger Bruno.” The account is created just for spam callers and no one ever checks it.

  66. What's in a name?*

    I have had success with talking to spammers and just asking “Do your parents know what you do? Do they approve of your work?”

  67. I should really pick a name*

    It seems really weird to me the way this person won’t give it up. It makes me wonder if it’s personal harassment and not a sales attempt.

    Does your boss know how often this happens? It sounds like enough of a problem that someone higher up should be trying to sort it out.

  68. Maia*

    Direct the calls to the VP. This is not your problem to solve. Once they get the person theyre asking for on the phone THAT person can say we do not want your services do not call again. If your VP wont take the calls then set up a voice mail for these calls and just say One Moment & transfer each time. Every time.

  69. Deflect and rebuff*

    It’s your employer’s responsibility to protect you from this abuse and harassment. But of course it’s tough when this person is so persistent, creative about changing phone numbers, and just plain unhinged. Their only goal seems to be to create chaos and disrupt things; they don’t really want to talk to the president. If they did, this would stop as soon as you put them through to the president.

    So, it seems that someone higher up in the company needs to get involved; it’s not your responsibility to solve this. They should report the ongoing business harassment to…someone; I’m not sure who. They should answer the phones themselves as part of their responsibility to you as a reasonable employer. Or just decide calls from unknown numbers don’t need to be answered live and can all be screened through voice mail.

    As for you, you can only control your own reaction to the call. I would also have a surge of anxiety from these calls. We’re primed to react viscerally to abuse as a survival instinct. But can you reframe it? I’d try thinking of it as a game…can I make the person waste their time by just…putting the phone down and letting them rant to the void? Counting if the current call used more or new swear words than last time? Wonder where they get all this spare time from? Imagine them as an over-the-top literal cartoon figure? If there is no physical danger to avoid, then find ways to stop letting it trigger reactions. After all it’s not really directed at YOU as an individual, just at anyone in earshot. They must be a very unhappy person.

  70. Lorena*

    You have all the power – not only do you get to hang up, you can also put them on hold for as long as you like! I know they are upsetting you, but they are only wasting their own time calling back over and over again. I used to answer the phones and i found great joy in thwarting them from speaking to the “owner”.

  71. a thought*

    I have two strategies for dealing with things like this! Maybe this will work for you?

    1) I picture myself in a rain coat. The person’s words are rain drops and they are rolling right off of me. This image helps me detach myself a little bit.

    2) I think of it as a game. The other person is trying to “win” by making me upset and flustered. I “win” by staying calm. Meticulously polite. This helps draw me out of the anxiety emotions of it into a different headspace – and not hear/internalize the message so much.

    I’m also wondering – in instances where they are calling back repeatedly from different numbers in a short time span, would it be an option to send all calls (or all unknown number calls) to voicemail for 30 minutes or something? Not sure if this is practical with your workplace but could be something to discuss with your VP if it might work. If they stop getting a person I wonder if they would stop (at least stop for the moment), plus it would give you a break.

  72. StressedButOkay*

    I agree with ALL of this. As someone who used to man the main phone line for one of my former companies, we’d get these occasionally (but never this bad, oh my goodness!). Try hanging up immediately. If that doesn’t work, put them in the land of hold music until they get so fed up they stop calling you.

    And see if you can set up a special hold line just for them/calls like this, too, that won’t tie up your phone lines! With terrible, annoying music. :)

    1. Ewesername*

      100% this. A company I worked for set up an unused extension for this. A call would go on hold for 5 min, then kick to generic voice mail. “Very sorry, it appears the person you were trying to reach is on another call or cannot be disturbed at the moment. Please leave your contact info, who you were trying to reach and a detailed message and we’ll be sure to forward the information”

  73. Ginger Baker*

    If it’s the same person for these particular calls (which it sounds like, versus the “regular” spam calls): You recognize his voice by now. I would meet with the President and VP and confirm that one or both of these things happen:
    1) Let all calls from unknown numbers for now go to voicemail (which ideally someone else can review). If that means something urgent gets caught in vm briefly, that sucks but it is better than subjecting your employee to abusive tirades.
    2) If/when things seem to have stopped (or, if for whatever reason option 1 is TRULY unfeasible), make sure you are clear that the *moment* you hear this person’s voice, you disconnect the call. Not “you reply with “thank you, no one can take your call”, not that you ask “who is calling”, literally none of that: You recognize the voice saying “hell—” CLICK. Immediately and with no words. (And I would not bother taking time to block the numbers for this person since it doesn’t have any effect so it just wastes your time.)

  74. Moocowcat*

    This has happened to me in the past. Management first started with setting up a Black Hole voicemail where reception could transfer the call. This person was obnoxiously stubborn though and things had to escalate. The IT department blocked the phone number of the person who was harassing us. Whenever he called from a different number, that line was blocked too.

  75. Veryanon*

    Ugh, these spam calls. I was getting calls from people claiming to be from the IRS and/or the SS office. I’ve told them to stop calling me and that I’m reporting them to the FTC. It helped somewhat.
    I’ve stopped answering any calls that come from phone numbers I don’t recognize; they go straight to voice mail. If the call is legitimate, they’ll leave me a message and I’ll return the call. OP, if it’s an option for you to get an automated call answering system and/or voice mail, I hope you’ll look into it.

  76. I'm just here for the cats*

    Are you sure that this person is actually working as a telemarketer for a company or is he just some jerk who gets off by calling companies and harassing women? It happened to me all the time as a customer service rep.

    Does your phone system have caller ID and can you see if he is calling from the same number each time? If so maybe look into how you can block the number. If nothing else there should be a way to contact the company (if he is legit) and have them stop. Your VP should contact them and they should mention harassment.

    Also, I’ve been told that technically it is illegal to swear over the phone. It is apparently a federal offense or something. or at least it was several years ago, according to someone I know.

    1. Temperance*

      It’s definitely not illegal to curse over the phone, lol. If you’re harassing people, that might be criminal, depending on the nature of the harassment, threats, etc., but swearing is totally legal.

  77. Temperance*

    Does his name/number show up on the caller ID? If so, I would just seriously hang up when you see that it’s him. I would also talk to your IT about blocking calls from that person. If you have to answer due to policy, as soon as he insults you, say something like “Do not speak to me that way. I am hanging up. Goodbye.”

    You also have no obligation to talk to crazy, abusive jerks. Just hang up when you hear his voice because he doesn’t have legit business with your org. You’re not putting off a client or customer, you’re freeing up the line for a client or customer.

  78. Poopsie*

    As someone who answers the incoming calls for my employer and as I have been doing this for 20 years I have had this many times. We have the same companies that call back repeatedly for years even though they don’t get passed up because we know they are spamming and when we tell them we have told them not to call they deny having phoned before. We also get the type of call you are experiencing because the rely on pretending to be important and intimidating you into putting the call through. We even get calls from people pretending to be the CEO’s of our clients saying they have lost all their numbers and getting really angry when we won’t put them through to our CEO.

    Remember that you have the power. If your bosses have assured you that they do not know who this is and that they do not have an appointment with him, be polite but tell them you won’t be spoken to like that. You can even say ‘if you persist I will hang up’ and then do it. He will call back. But you just do it again. And then after that, once you recognise the voice just hang up straight away. If your bosses have your back on it and if you are polite, there shouldn’t be any come back

    I get the anxiety part, believe me, we have some people we can’t hang up on and the stress it causes when they call…..

    Ultimately you can’t stop them if they are going to call from different numbers but you can control how you react and knowing they will call again is part of that. Try and look at it as an amusing challenge – you know you will get him again so challenge yourself to be as calm and polite as you can be whilst he rants. Let him rant all he wants, say nothing until he has finished and then give your spiel and hang up on him.

    1. Poopsie*

      I should add as well if you make it this far, that the suggestions to stop blocking the calls have value – it makes no difference to the outcome and there is benefit to recognising the number. The caller will still use other numbers once he know you recognise it, but it’s going to happen anyway.

  79. Works in IT*

    Our VP’s assistant kicks her voice up an octave and tells them she doesn’t know how to work the switchboard. You can tell someone is cursing at her because the intelligence level she displays drops with every expletive. She’s always polite, and cheerful, but she gradually “stops” knowing how to do things until she “accidentally” hangs up on them.

    The trick is, you don’t actually want to give them the sort of information that telling them a firm no, he’s busy, would give them. You don’t want them to learn his schedule, or acquire the sort of information they could use to try a more elaborate scam. Making them think you’re the densest, most technically illiterate person in the world, is a very, very effective method of getting them to hang up themselves. And it has the bonus of not accidentally antagonizing a legitimate contact if it turns out it’s someone who really does need to talk to the CEO and just isn’t going through proper channels.

  80. Mel_05*

    I agree with putting this person on hold. It sounds like they’re too awful to just personally be wasting their time.

    That’s what we did at my first job. They were spammers claiming they just needed to verify information for the phone book, but if you gave it to them they’d use it to charge you for bogus “advertising”. And if we had the time whoever answered would just act like they couldn’t comprehend what it was they were asking. It was a good laugh for everyone listening in as well. If we didn’t have the time, we just hung up. But this guy sounds way too nasty for that.

  81. Sasha "Potato Girl" Blause*

    Don’t bother with the cops; they can only help when the caller is harassing you in particular. I had a similar situation a few years back and the cops said they couldn’t help because the caller was harassing whoever happened to pick up (which just happened to be me).

    Here’s a script: “I can’t help you unless you calm down.” When the caller continues frothing at the mouth, hang up without further comment.

    As for dispelling the shakes afterward, are you able to jog up and down a stairwell once or twice? I find that a short burst of intense exercise can shake off an anxiety attack. Once the physical symptoms are tied to exercising instead of fear, my body can return to baseline just like it does after a regular workout.

    1. JSPA*

      A. that’s got to be specific to state-specific rules, no? Thus worth investigating.

      B. we don’t actually know that the goal isn’t to harass OP (or get OP fired). When the person cusses out someone else thinking it’s OP, or gets aggressive with the boss in a way that foreseeably could, in a less-understanding workplace, rebound on OP, that may in fact all be directed “at” OP.

      C. Even if OP can’t file a report on OP’s behalf, the business might have standing to go to the cops on their behalf, on the theory that they’re an entity / legal “individual” being harassed.

      D. If the boss is the target, not for sales but for attacks, and harassing OP is merely a step in the attack on the boss, the boss might well have standing.

      “I can’t help you unless you calm down” is for people who are legitimate customers who are having a bad moment. I’ts not for stalkers, for serial harassers, and for scam artists.

  82. AnOh*

    I saw the update from OP in the comments that makes this seem like getting police involved might be the best option at this point since it seems to be one caller harassing them.
    But if you still get a lot of spam/solicitation calls, is it possible for the VP/President to have a dedicated office voicemail? We get a LOT of solicitation calls and even without asking for more details it’s easy to identify them (same opening script line every time, asking for people in certain job title or asking by name for people who typically only use their cell phone for work calls). In these instances and for our higher level positions (President & Directors), we also forward directly to their office voicemail which more often than not is not monitored by the person or reviewed often. So unless we’re told ahead of time to expect a call or after asking for more details from the caller to determine it’s a legit call and not spam, all calls are forwarded to voicemail. Eventually after doing this a few times to the same people, they stop calling or remove us from their list.

  83. Fellow worrywart*

    Two Ideas:

    1. I’m always a fan of the “pretending to be an anthropologist studying a foreign culture” tactic for dealing with stressful and abusive people. As in , how odd, this person thinks that if he is verbally abusive enough we will decide hire him/patronize his business/use him as a vendor. What an odd thing to think! I wonder what other bizarre beliefs this person has!

    2. In the moment, could you use a squeezable fidget toy or similar to give you an outlet for your stress? There are squishy fidgets that are silent. Like the sand or dough-filled balloon. I find that having a physical outlet during stressful phone calls helps me keep it together.

    1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

      You beat me to it! I was also about to bring up your second point. It’s not just dealing with the harassment, but the mental de-escalation that OP needs as well. It’s one thing to have blanket permission to hang up immediately, but there’s the additional stress of the situation and the fact that the OP has to (briefly) opt into the trauma of dealing with that caller. In addition to a stress toy or fidget, do you have the latitude to do other things? Take a walk, draw a picture, listen to 5 minutes on a book tape? I am a remote worker and in stressful situations, I will knit vanilla socks (my superpower is no-look knitting; it’s great when I am in a tense meeting because I can engage and make eye contact but also do something that lowers my blood pressure).

      1. Anti anti-tattoo Carol*

        Also want to add that I have dealt with an aggressive caller who WAS actually legitimate, and it was miserable. They called, emailed, then called again. Daily. About something that was outside of my control. Our website indicates we don’t handle these requests by phone because we need the paper trail, the issue had to do with a third party who is notoriously hard to reach, and I had zero control over this person’s response. The caller eventually went over my head and directly to that third party (not sure how; third party is famous and their contact information is private). Solidarity, OP. It is hard and I am sorry you have to put up with that.

  84. blink14*

    Clear this with your boss first, but this is what I would do.

    As soon as you recognize it’s a spam call, hang up. Keep tracking the numbers and blocking. Report all of the numbers to the FTC (easy Google search to find the site to report). Track how many times a day they call and the types of language they use. Contact the local police department to report. This sounds less like a traditional spam call and more like just straight up harassment.

    Most importantly, you and your company don’t owe this person ANYTHING. You are in control. Use that control to keep hanging up and stay firm. Don’t entertain conversations, don’t pass it over to someone else, just keep hanging up.

  85. Library IT*

    I have no advice for making the calls stop, but for the anxiety/stress, I wonder if turning it into a bit of a game would help. Every time Spammy McYeller calls, you get to go buy your favorite candy bar. Or a dollar goes into the fancy coffee fund. Anything that turns it into a small reward/positive to offset the negative experience of getting yelled at over the phone.
    The other idea, if he continues to call back multiple times – after one call, can you hang up and then physically leave your desk and go take a bathroom break/coffee break for 5 minutes so the next call he makes just goes to voicemail?

  86. Scarlet Debtor*

    OP, I am so sorry. I imagine that you now dread phone calls—any phone calls—and dread every day of work. Even when the stalker doesn’t call, your day is ruined. Hanging up is a solution to a problem you don’t even have anymore, if you ever did. Your problem isn’t that you feel you have to talk to the stalker; your problem is that he calls that number.

    I haven’t seen anyone else hear use the “S” word here. But by every psychological, criminological and legal definition, this guy is exactly that. Most people hear “stalker” and they think romantic/sexual attachment, but there are other, more common types (Paul Mullen and Michelle Pathé are two researchers whose work you may find helpful). The guy could be a business associate, employee, investor, customer who feels rejected. If your executive, company or industry is high-status or has achieved local prominence, the stalker could be a stranger with a big chip on his shoulder about what he “should have had instead of those f***ers.”

    The latter type is increasingly common, thanks to the Web and social media. I learned that the hardest way possible. And I learned that people’s preconceptions about what a stalker “looks” like worked in his favor.

    If you feel that he has no personal interest in you—that he’s just after your boss, or the company—you might be better off quietly seeking out a new job. If you’re just a thing, a barricade he has to beat down on the way to the real target, that’s actually a good thing for you. (I know. I’m sorry.) If he doesn’t remember your name and wouldn’t care if you were replaced by another person, he’ll let you be once you’re out of that job.

    Your problem might be that you’re between a stalker and his prey. If you’re not the main prey yourself, the solution is to run.

  87. theletter*

    with this level of aggression, I doubt the product or service being sold is legitimate.

    In your shoes, I would put the caller on hold, then pick up, drop my voice, and say “this is the president.” I’d get every bit of information I can get out of the guy, and then send it to the FBI.

  88. Choggy*

    I think it would be interesting if someone engaged this vendor to get more details, who they are, what company they represent, as much information as possible to then document as needed to report to the agencies who handle this type of issue.

    I also like the idea of having an air horn handy, let his ears ring for once!

    Oh, and OP, please do not let this affect your mental health, this person is trying to get a rise out of you, so cutting it off as soon as it starts is your best bet. I’m sorry you are dealing with this.

  89. Res Admin*

    Given that it seems to be one person going on for this long–police. This isn’t just spam any more, it is harassment.

    Otherwise, when I get such I calls I kindly point out that they are calling a number for X entity and it is a crime to solicit such entities–which usually scares them enough to apologize and go away.

    My husband gets a lot more such calls than I do and his response is to be super helpful–to the point that they are begging to end the call… (by super helpful, I mean slowly and in minute detail explaining every single step needed for them to do whatever it is they are calling about–and given this is a government sponsored entity, there are a ton of very boring details!).

    But what you have is not someone trying to sell something. They are trying to cause distress and harm. That is a whole different kettle of fish and needs to be reported.

    Of course, you could always cheerfully transfer the calls to an endless hold loop as soon as you realize who it is…

  90. DuskPunkZebra*

    OP, does this scammer know for sure the company you work for? Because if not, a clever lie might help: it’s a federal crime to make solicitation calls to government-owned phone lines, and responding with something like “How did you get this number? This is a government line and solicitation calls are illegal. Stop calling this line or I will have to report this harassment.”

    No, it may not be honest, but it might be enough to scare him off.

    1. Maxie's Mommy*

      Too funny! My number is pretty close to a University of California number, so I just tell them they’ve reached the chem lab or something, I’m not procurement. Once they realize it’s not a good number they remove me. I have far fewer calls. My friend claims to be a hospital—same thing.

  91. Choggy*

    I just thought of another alternative, just laugh at them when they are ranting, and keep laughing while you hang up on them…lather, rinse, repeat!

  92. boop the first*

    Hmm Everyone is giving advice about how to deal with the call physically, but I am skeptical that that’s the issue here. Hearing violent screaming is very jarring psychologically, even if it’s directed at someone else, even if it’s not in the same room. Hanging up cannot prevent this.

    The caller believes that fear is an effective manipulator. Any way to use that? Would they continue calling if they suspected they were being investigated and identified (even if they weren’t)?

  93. iglwif*

    OMG, what an awful experience!!! That would give me anxiety attacks, too.

    Since buddy is clearly knowledgeable about circumventing attempts to block or screen specific phone numbers, can you set up a voicemail box on an unused extension that pretends to be the big boss’s voicemail and/or has a SUPER LONG outgoing message, and then transfer him to that every time he calls? Or can you put him on indefinite hold (ideally with the same 16 bars of annoying music repeated endlessly, like at my bank lol) every time he calls?

    I mean the problem with these types of solutions is that before they convince him to give up and go away, they probably make him even angrier :/

    What you might also do, though, is “meet” with the more senior people in the office and formally (i.e., documented in writing) figure out what your strategy for this guy (and others like him) will be, and then do that with their blessing, which hopefully will make you feel like hanging up on him is *you doing your job* rather than *you failing at part of your job*.

  94. Pretzelgirl*

    Have you gotten to the point where you can recognize his voice? If I were you I would immediately hang up as soon as you hear it. Don’t let him rant, don’t let him ask for the CEO, don’t transfer. Just hang up. Don’t let the call go any longer than “hello XYZ company!” “Can I speak to….. ::END CALL::.

  95. Gossip Whisperer*

    I’ve had this play out over a number of years, thankfully now I’m in a job where voicemail is ok, of course we’d prefer the phone gets picked up but if you’re away, on another line you won’t get taken to the woodshed over it. It’s tough at places and with bosses who INSIST that the phone be answered on the first ring. Been there too.

    If it is the same person that is calling 14-15 times in an hour, this person has a specific beef with your company and does not sound like they are trying to sell or talk to anyone for any sort of business purpose. They are trying to waste time or know they’re getting people angry or know that they are disrupting the CEO’s assistant/team/associates time which causes him or her disruption and that’s all they are after.

    Your best bet is to hang up. Really. Over and over again. If the company won’t let you say, “Sure let me put you through,” and get your IT department to make you a dummy voicemail box – we have one too. If the fact that actually speaking to your executives and THEM telling the caller to go away is not enough to get this dumb ass to stop calling, this person wants to disrupt all of your time. Maybe even get you to quit to get at your executives and disrupt them even further. This has evidently become a game to them now.

    If it is worth the effort, document the day time and number they call from – of course it will change these idiots know how to do it, but if the language escalates you’ll need this. At least your executives are sympathetic and sorry. Mine in a previous job once said to me, “Yeah I know he cussed at you and all but was he interested in coming in to make an appointment?” (High pressure real estate sales firm). At my job now my boss took one from me and asked the dude why he (CEO) would be interested in doing business with someone who talked to his assistant like that. He denied doing so and said, “She had you on speaker.” The last we heard was a click, and that was about 5 years ago…

  96. QueenV*

    Volunteer with the Suicide Lifeline here who has regularly had to deal with awful prank calls and calls from sexual predators – hanging up is a gift to yourself and everyone else who these terrible spammers are calling! As Allison says, it can feel awkward/horrible to be short with someone, but with abusive people it is truly the only way to protect yourself. You sound like a lovely person and you don’t deserve this.

    Some of my favorite scripts:
    *for repeat abusive callers if you recognize their # or voice: “Hello, we’ve spoken before, do not call this number again.” *hang up* If they keep calling the same day, just pick-up/hang-up, no introduction needed.
    *if a spammer becomes abusive mid-way through the call: “I am unable to work with you while you are speaking to me in this way.” *hang up* If you want, you can add “You may call again when you are able to address me respectfully.” But with spammers I don’t think that would be necessary, it just softens the message a bit.
    *if your boss takes over the call: “Hello, the way you were speaking to my employee is unacceptable. Do not call this number again [or call back when you are able to speak to us respectfully]” *hang up*

  97. Heidi*

    In reading the OP’s additional comments, it seems like this is not a regular spammer/robocaller. This sounds more like a disturbed individual who is targeting the president of this company. Like “Gift of Fear” territory.


    I don’t know if this will help or not because incoming calls to call centers are different than getting calls like this as a front end office worker, but when I worked at a call center, we could hang up on belligerent callers. The script went something like this, “Sir, I will not tolerate swearing and name calling. I am going to hang up.” Then immediately hang up. You don’t have to give him/her a chance to respond, just terminate the call.

  99. Cubular Belles*

    An elaborate automated phone tree would remedy this situation, they do have their utility apparently. Or some type of old school answering machine you can screen callers to let legitimate ones through. But you don’t have to put up with verbal abuse, hang up and let it ring when they call right back. Or answer in a monotone so they can’t tell if you are a machine (I used to do this when I was a receptionist, one has to stay amused sometimes to get through the day.)

  100. Campfire Raccoon*

    This happens to me all day. Once I figure out it is a spammer I get really quiet and act like I can’t hear them. Then they turn up their head sets all the way. Then whip out the rape whistle.

    Works wonders.

  101. Laney Boggs*

    If you would feel more comfortable, go back to the President/VP and ask for explicit guidelines on spam calls, but I’d agree with everyone else that you’re well within your rights to just hang up once you know it’s spam, and especially as the caller gets abusive.

    As for what you do to shake it off… theres no advice for that. I’ve worked phone banks and sometimes there are calls that leave me shaken all day, and sometimes I forget it in 2 or 3 minutes. Try to work on letting go of “why do they act like this?” because it isnt your responsibility.

  102. Tired of Covid-and People*

    Caller ID? Let unidentified calls go to voicemail. Record a message saying that for security purposes, unidentified calls are not immediately answered. Google also has a screening feature, I use it on my cell all the time.

    At no time are you required to take abuse from anyone. Hang up at the first sign that the call is bogus. Good luck to you!

  103. Lana Kane*

    As a former receptionist and calendar keeper to firm partners: hang up. You do not have to be polite. There was no reason to ask if they wanted to leave a message after what they said to you. If you recognize the # in caller ID, pick up and hang right back up (so they don’t go to your company voice mail).

    In that job, there was a client who fell out of favor. He was still a client, but I was told explicitly to not let any of his calls through. The first time I told him so-and-so wasn’t available, he started in on me. I was flustered and got caught unprepared with what to say next – I hadn’t expected that kind of reaction – and he called me stupid. I told him I wouldn’t be spoken to that way and ended the call. Then I ran to my manager to tell her before he could get to her lol Unfortunately for him, he got ahold of another employee and called me an a-hole, so that didn’t help him gain any brownie points.

    Just like your VP, they supported me and gave him a talking-to. He gave me huge stinkeye the next time he was in the office, but *shrug*

  104. Tired of Covid-and People*

    Also, make sure the creep making these calls cannot enter your facility, as they sound unhinged.

  105. staceyizme*

    There used to be an annoyance call bureau, back in land line days. See w hat your telephony vendor recommends. Also, hang up! Every time someone calls who abuses you, disconnect. You can do so without saying anything once you’ve identified a repeat offenders.

  106. Miss Muffet*

    if it’s the same person or whatever, i think at this point you need to actually call the police.

  107. MissDisplaced*

    I had a spam caller like this a few years ago trying to sell ad space on some in-flight network thing.
    They kept doing the same thing, and treating me like the secretary (I was the communications manager) and demanding to be put through to our CEO. Not bloody likely! I took a message, but they kept calling back every week and getting more aggressive. Eventually, I said “Sorry but no one is interested in your proposal so quit calling here” and then blocked him.

    1. Quill*

      My brother used to practice his trumpet for telemarketers. No chance of hearing damage but it’s never pleasant to sit through a fifth grader learning taps.

  108. Mr Jingles*

    Just block. Best thing is to laugh if you can make yourself to do so. The more hearty and unhinged your laughter sounds the better.
    Those people bank on your terror. So the only thing working is showing them you see their bluff. Nothing shuts them up faster than laughter.
    It calls their bluff and they know it.
    If you treat them like reasonable people they’ll assume they’ll get through. They’ll think maybe your boss is so toxic he’d deal with people who berate their staff. But if you’ll laugh, they know that your boss doesn’t expect you to let yourself be abused by morons. And honestly? A healthy laughter is all those silly people deserve. They are scum. Nothing, absolutely nothing ever gives them the right to abuse somebody like this. So they don’t deserve your professional self. They deserve to be laughed at. They hate that. It will make them stop and you feel better.

  109. Emilia Bedelia*

    No advice on the
    Regarding coping mechanisms for getting over the anxiety- for me, my anxiety stems from the fear that I have done something wrong or made a mistake. Someone yelling me about doing my job poorly or getting me fired would absolutely make me extremely upset.
    My tactic for dealing with unreasonable people is to make a list of the “lies” and then respond to them with facts (this is a CBT technique that is really helpful for me). Eg, if the person says that I’m stupid and don’t know how to do my job – I am not stupid, my job is to hang up when people yell at me. They are the ones who are wrong, I am doing the right thing. It is also not your job to control or change what is happening – it’s not your fault that this is going on.
    Feeling like someone is angry at me or disapproves of me is also a big anxiety factor, but in this case, your boss and the higher ups are the important people here – you know that they are not angry at you, they support you, and you are doing the right thing. Your boss doesn’t want you to worry about the spammer, so focus on the fact that they are supportive of you.

    I know that anxiety triggers are different for everyone so maybe these aren’t exactly what you need, but I definitely encourage the “replace lies with facts” technique no matter what your “lies” are!

  110. traintracks*

    OP Can you pretend to be the answering machine? Answer the phone is your best operator voice, “Hello, thank you for calling llama groomers, inc.” with a small pause to allow a response. If it’s a real person, you can continue. If it’s the spammer (I’m assuming he’ll jump in immediately), just start talking over him as if you are the rest of a recorded message “Please enter the six-digit extension of the person you are trying to reach.” When he’s done pressing buttons just hang up the phone. Every single time. That way he thinks an automated system is dropping him. He might keep calling back trying for a while to guess the extension but at least he won’t be attacking you personally and hopefully he’ll eventually give up.

    1. farm girl*

      This suggestion made me laugh out loud — and might even work. At the very least, it would amuse you.

  111. Ray Gillette*

    The next time this asshole says “Listen dumbass, I have a meeting” you would be completely justified to respond with “No you don’t, you fucking liar” and blow an air horn into the phone. Whether that’s an option you feel comfortable with is something that only you (and perhaps your VP) can say, but you would not be out of line in the slightest if you chose this option.

  112. Dust Bunny*

    I can’t tell from your letter: Do your bosses know just how much and how intense this is? I know he chewed the VP out once or twice and that you accidentally put him through to the president once, but have you documented and told them just how bad this is? Because it’s a) abusive and b) from a purely business standpoint, wasting and incredible amount of your time. I hope they would want to address it on the first grounds but if not maybe they’ll address it on the second.

  113. SJPxo*

    There are specific Youtubers/hackers that fight back and ‘own’ people like this, maybe have a search on there and see if you can get one to help you. They absolutely are brilliant at shutting down these callers so see what you can do in that respect? Plus it’s very satisfying to hear these scammers floundering

  114. Goldenrod*

    I have received some calls like this. One tactic I have learned is – as soon as you suspect it’s a vendor, just ask them: “Are you a vendor?” There’s usually an awkward pause where they try to figure out how to answer. Sometimes they admit it, sometimes they don’t. But I have found that just straightforwardly asking that question really helps.

    1. On the phone all day*

      Also, ask “Are you vendor? If so, I need your vendor ID# before I can forward your call.”
      Even if you don’t have vendor ID#s, it flusters them.

  115. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    This is a thing. It’s sadly always been a thing.

    Hang up. Hang up. Hang up! They suck. I’m sorry.

  116. Goldenrod*

    Another tactic I’ve used very effectively with robo callers – as soon as I realize it’s them, I say, “Yes, please hold.” Then I either put them on hold indefinitely or hang up. It’s pretty fun! :D

  117. Juno*

    When someone’s rude to you in general, you have the power to say “I can’t work with you if you continue to talk like that.” But especially spam- railroad them into you thanking them for calling and have a good day. They don’t deserve your time.

  118. Seashells*

    I worked guest services for 7 years and I’ve been the AA to the Executive Director for 11 years now. Since you have the support of your VP & president I would clear with it with them and when the unknown numbers call, let them go/send them to voicemail. Check it and if it’s legit, send it to whoever, otherwise delete. As long as scammers can get new phone numbers easily, this will continue.

    I get these calls as the time, everyday and I hang up the first time, then start sending them to voicemail. This is a perfect use for voicemail. If it is truly the same guy every time, then I would definitely ask the police what the best next step is.

    It’s hard to shake them off sometimes, but I just run a few things through my mind: I didn’t do anything to cause it, this is what he wants (me to be upset) so why let him win, and think about how miserable & ignorant he must be to think I would put him through just because he called me names. Sometimes it gets me to chuckling thinking about how p*ssed off he is that a “receptionist” had the nerve to hang up on him and then ignore him.

    Also, if there is any chance this guy is local, make sure to keep your office doors locked and walk to your cars as a group or have someone, maybe security if you have it, escort you to your car. We have several large, former police officers on our staff and they are glad to escort anyone to their car.

  119. Lady Heather*

    In such a situation, my anxiety would be caused by 3 factors:
    – Person being rude, disingenous or abusive to me
    – Fearing backlash from manager if I handle this wrong
    – Feeling trapped to sit there and take it

    The last two are mitigatable! Ask your manager (or the VP, whoever is applicable) for explicit instructions on what to do when such a call comes. If you’re not allowed to hang up immediately, ask for scripts on what to say. Then stick to them. But I think they’ll let you hang up.

    A good script, I think, would be something like “Can I have your name, number and company name – then I’ll check with the President and he’ll call you back if need be.” That will result in either 1) person complies, in which case you(r manager) can take action against the company, 2) person refuses to comply, in which case your script hopefully says that you can say “Then I can’t help you, bye”, 3) person starts being rude, in which case your script hopefully allows you to hang up immediately or to say “We don’t serve those who use abusive language, bye”.

    Option four is, of course, that it is something your President did want to speak to, in which case you’ve been polite to them!

    Scripts can help take some of the “What if I make the wrong decision” anxiety away.

    Also know this person isn’t an overzealous sales person or scammer; he’s a misogynist and/or misanthropist who thinks he’s got the right to shout at you and you have an obligation to let him, or who thinks he’s entitled to shout at you because you deserve it (by existing, by being a convenient target, by not having a different job, not having a different gender, whatever). Spoiler: it’s not true.

    He’s not trying to make sales, he’s trying to be mean.

    Maybe reminding yourself of that – that, by picking up the phone, you consented to assisting with a business inquiry, and that by getting paid to answer phones, you consent to assisting with business inquiries, but that you have no obligation to sit there and be a target for someone to rage at – will help it feel less personal.

    You can also try creating “physical distance” – handheld versus headset, speaker phone versus handheld.

    And depending on what’s possible where you live, the phone company and/or the police may be able to help out.

    Good luck. I’m sorry you have to put up with this.

  120. IrishEm*

    I work in a call centre and let me tell you we have Rules. First swear gets a warning (I usually go with “Let’s keep the language PG please”), second curse gets a warning “I will terminate the call if you continue to use that language.” Third swear – Click.

    HOWEVER, if someone is instantly aggressive and abusive, screaming down the line from the get-go I am not obliged to take that call so I’ll just say “Do not speak to me like that. I am terminating this call” for the QAs (our calls are recorded and reviewed so we have to say this) and then CLICK. I’ll also send round a heads-up about this person in case they call back and someone less experienced or with anxiety like LW’s doesn’t get the shock of a lifetime.

    LW you are WELL within your rights to tell this person that you will not be passing any message on or transfer any call on if it makes you uncomfortable. If you feel safe doing so you can name the behaviour back to them (You are swearing at me/you are raising your voice at me/you are [name of behaviour] at me so I am ending this call), and especially since the VP knows what’s going on with this caller, you probably have management buy-in to name the behaviour and then gleefully never answer their call again.

    Or make like Renegade Shepard and hang up without warning if you feel safer doing so. Nobody has the right to scream you out down the phone but especially not if they’re trying to sell snake-oil to your CEO.

  121. jbn*

    This happened to me years ago when I was answering phones. They would call from a Skype number so it was impossible to block, and I usually knew it was them. They weren’t sophisticated enough at the time to ask for someone who actually existed, but we were a large company with offices across the country so at first I would spend the time to look through our corporate address book & not find anyone by that name.

    They would also get aggressive with me & if I hung up, they’d call back numerous times in a row & yell at me for hanging up. It was jarring at first, but I did get better at treating it like a game sometimes. I also clued in our office manager & passed some phone calls to her.

    Eventually they stopped calling, which is what I hope happens to you! It can’t be a good business model (whatever that business is) to constantly call people who hang up on you so I assume they moved on to torment some other company.

    In retrospect, & knowing what I know now about what’s possible to get done with IT, I think there were a few things I could have done differently:
    1. Have IT set up a voicemail for an unused line & transfer all those calls there. As soon as you know it’s someone doing this, it’s a quick “one moment please!” and transfer. If they call back, “one moment please!” and transfer. It may not satisfy them, but you’ll at least have a process to follow for yourself & potentially a record of it if needed.
    2. In lieu of voicemail, (or perhaps in addition to for variety!), put them on an endless hold. This only works if you have multiple lines so you’re not tying it up for people trying to get through, and it’s likely going to anger them in the short term, but it’s a volume game for them so the more time you can waste, the worse off they are. Bonus points if the hold music is terrible!
    3. If you have the ability to transfer to lines outside your internal phone system (like transferring to a cell phone instead of just to someone’s extension), I’d look for services that are just recordings… I’m reminded of the prank years ago when a dude would ask for your number in a bar & there was a fake number that you could give out & when they called it, there was a message that played saying something about how “she’s just not that into you!” — perhaps there is a similar service with a recording like that?

    And I know this might be bad karma, but I definitely told the spammer once or twice that the person they were asking about had died… they weren’t real people that worked for our company, so it might feel different saying that about an actual employee.

    Hoping this gets better for you soon though — I know it’s emotionally draining to deal with!

  122. On the phone all day*

    I suggest having your IT department create a voicemail box you can divert calls to if you don’t recognize the number. Check the box immediately after the call and if its legit, call back. If not, ignore.
    That way, you don’t have to engage with the nuts.

  123. Khatul Madame*

    This is 2021. The phone-answering and message-taking do not have to be done by a person who physically is in the office. Since your President and VP have been compassionate to your situation, talk to them about getting these duties reassigned to another employee.
    Other aspects of the solution include getting a call routing system in place – again, this is 2021, it won’t be too expensive. This system could include a faux extension for the aggressive caller. Bonus points if you find an antique fax machine and rig it to this extension.
    And FGS talk to TPTB about message-taking and how this amazing novel thing called voicemail can change their lives.

  124. Do you kiss to your mama with that mouth?*

    All of my staff members have blanket permission to hang up on these calls – for that matter – to fire clients who are like this as well. If they are feeling like it, they may get a call back number and I will call back – that has always ended it.

  125. White rabbit*

    If this is the same person over and over, read The Gift of Fear and get your boss to read it, too.

  126. Dual Peppin Whiskey*

    Please forgive my lack of technical kowledge, but is there some way to set up a spam screening service through the phone provider? I have a Google voice number for my business that forwards to my cell phone, and if it identifies a call that it thinks is spam, it will play a message for them letting them know that the call is being screened. To the best of my knowledge, and don’t quote me, I believe that they can still leave a message, and the phone number still shows up and rings on my end, so I do have the option of answering if I know it’s not spam. It seems like there would have to be a way that something like this could be set up for a landline for a business.

    I realize that an employer may bulk at that idea, but I think it would be pretty easy to make the argument that it will increase the employee’s efficiency to not be wasting time on so many spam calls a week (even when they’re short, studies have shown how much constant interruptions impact someone’s productivity), not to mention the relief from the mental health issues this is causing!

    Good luck LW!

  127. Sylvan*

    An old job had a customer like this. For whatever reason, he just talked my ear off, but he was abusive towards everyone else. One of his targets got a restraining order on him. The calls stopped completely.

    1. Campfire Raccoon*

      I had one of these too, when I worked as a CSR. He’d call every morning during busy season and ask for me or another coworker. He’d memorized our schedules and would get belligerent if we couldn’t take his call. We’d take the call and he’d have us spend 45min+ changing his order. Every day. Then a week before shipping date, he’d cancel the order. He’d never spent more than $100 at our company. I had friends at our (very niche) competitors, and I found out after he hung up with us, he’d call up a different company and do the same thing!

      Eventually I pulled the call data and put together a report of all the hours he’d wasted for the previous four (four!) years. IT and the Owners blocked him.

      This is obviously very different than OP’s experience – but it’s strange how prevalent this type of behavior is.

  128. JSPA*

    People used to encourage the blowing of loud whistles into the phone, in response to marketing calls and scammers. This was inappropriate for any number of ways (especially given the use of incarcerated labor for some of the calls, which meant that people who literally had no choice but to make the calls, were potentially being deafened for life).

    That said, having a button you can push that’ll make a disgusting or dismissive noise into the phone (juicy fart, long burp, retching sound, Porky pig doing “Thhhaaaat’s all, folks,” hysterical laughter, raspberry, nose blowing, really irritating ring tone) may do wonders to make you feel in control, and minimize their effect on your fight or flight response. Nothing that’ll injure them physically, but something that’ll let them know you think they’re ridiculous, not scary.

    Also, per calling the cops, if it actually is directed “at” you, or “at” your boss via you, or “at” the company, which is a legal entity in its own right, or if you’re in a state that takes a broad view of what constitutes harassment, or if the slurs and use of those slurs are based on perceived gender, and your state has broad hate crime statutes, it’s worth letting the police know. For example, making these calls could be a parole violation, or something that’ll get someone’s phone privileges revoked or monitored, depending on their circumstance.

  129. Quill*

    Hey, this depends on if you have a landline that’s capable of it, but take down the numbers you’ve blocked and see if IT can’t trace them back to a temporary number / phone call redirect system (many places use them to avoid giving out numbers of clients) and block all calls from that service.

    Other than that I think you’ll have to institute a policy of letting all unidentified calls go to voicemail, turning the ringer off, and setting a specific time each day to go through voicemail and delete the spam or forward calls.

    It’s also possible that you’ll need to reroute legitimate calls to forward automatically, with an extension to another mailbox. Again, you and the VP should talk to IT about the options.

  130. Weekend Please*

    One thing you could ask about is setting the phone to go to voice mail after getting an aggressive call to give yourself a chance to compose yourself. A 10 minute break could do wonders for your sanity without disrupting normal business. Presumably it goes to voicemail anyway if you are on anther call or taking a bathroom break.

  131. princessbuttercup*

    I have worked in mental health and crisis helplines for over a decade. There is unfortunately a known issue in this area of work of “abusive callers” (people who just begin a tirade of hateful rhetoric, or worse, “inappropriate calls” which is exactly what you think it is). I have also been involved in a handful of situations where a caller was so abusive/violent and relentless (eg. 20-40 calls an hour, every one of them with immediate screaming slurs and violence) that police were engaged and it escalated beyond a ban from the service to an actual legal restraining order. This is NOT something a crisis helpline will ever want to do if they can help it, and it is devastatingly sad and scary. But I have been in this situation many, many times and I feel for you OP. It has taken me YEARS of practice to handle these scenarios and they still unsettle me.

    There’s one important thing that needs to happen I’ve yet to see mentioned here (though apologies if I’ve missed it in comments!): whoever is in charge of crisis communications and/or risk management NEEDS to be part of this conversation. Different places have different terms, but I would be asking for a clear “issues management brief” or “escalation notice/protocol”. This is a document that outlines what is happening and what is the organizational protocol for dealing with this person. Protocol is KEY! This document MUST be shared with every senior leader and anyone who might reasonably come into contact with this individual (are you the only person who covers reception/the general inquiries line?). In most orgs it’s not ideal to spread this to everyone if it’s unlikely they would come in contact, and risk encouraging fear or gossip about a sensitive subject (eg. in one instance, an admin person who recently took a “conflict resolution workshop” excitedly insisted they would be able to “get through” to an abusive, harassing caller. That’s not the goal).

    If it’s the kind of place where it’s reasonably should be circulated company wide, then the crisis communications person should consider a summary via email to all staff. Something as simple as:
    “Alert – abusive caller”
    “We have recently been made aware of an issue with a caller contacting our company dozens of times and using abusive and violent language. [some identifying info about the caller if you have names or aliases they provide, or just saying “this person usually asks for President and gets upset and irate when told they cannot be transferred]. While it is unlikely you will be contacted, we wanted to flag this to all staff to ensure you are aware of the protocol in this instance:”

    At this point, OP, you NEED to be telling your VP and whoever owns crisis comms/risk at your business that you need a clearly outlined protocol and a SPECIFIC point of contact for this person. This needs to be a senior staff person at this point, not you (perhaps your VP, or someone with the strongest crisis skills). This is someone who the moment you receive this call, you transfer the call to them, and have some type of alert or code phrase letting them know before they pick up.

    It is THAT PERSON’s responsibility to tell the caller this kind of abuse will not be tolerated and hang up. And then log the interaction in an issues management record. And continue to rinse, repeat with the exact same approach, every time.

    I recognize many commenters here have the “just hang up!” advice, which is true in most situations, but this level of intensity and COMMITMENT should not be treated as an inconvenience. It’s a business safety issue and it needs to be dealt with and documented by someone waaaaaaay above you should it need to be escalated to the law, or should the behaviour itself escalate. To be clear, this does sound like a weirdo spammer but once you have had to pay for a staff members entire personal contact info to be changed (as I have) because an abusive person started targeting them off the phone and showing up to the office/events/etc. and contacting their family and friends, you learn to take these things seriously.

    1. Quill*

      Hey Alison, can we have this one pinned up top? Because this is probably the best expertise I’ve seen so far.

    2. JSPA*

      Yes, paging Alison / paging the pin function. This is much the best answer, plus relevant experience and information.

    3. (A different) Susan*

      I’ve read everything here. Definitely the best answer for an issue of this severity. Princessbuttercup’s experience and knowledge FTW!

  132. Lizy*

    Hang up. HANG UP.

    If – and only if – you feel comfortable with it, ask WackoSpamGuy for his contact info and supervisor’s info and company info, and then contact the supervisor and tell them to KNOCK IT OFF. Or better yet, have your VP or president call them and tell them to KNOCK IT OFF.

    Would it be possible for you to just… not answer the phones? Especially since no one is really in the office anyhow – ask your VP and president if you can just have a message saying “no one is in the office; please leave a message”.

  133. Archaeopteryx*

    No advice besides hanging up with no further speech once you know it’s spam. Let them exhaust themselves.

    People who take jobs as spammers and scammers deserve to be hung up on hall day.

  134. I’m the receptionist*

    I completely understand how you feel. My heart races when I get these types of calls. This is not a legitimate business call. Think of it as the former ‘heavy breather’ calls where the person is feeding off your fear. (I know that thought does not reduce your stress, believe me!)

    Obviously, you have to politely answer the phone, but as soon as you either recognize the voice, or the words start, put the phone down and walk away. Do not speak. Do not say anything. Walk away. Stand up and move. It’s amazing how much stress is reduced by moving.

    Even if it’s just a few minutes. Walk away. Then hang up the phone when you get back. Never say anything other than whatever your phone spiel is when answering calls.

    The guy is looking for a reaction. You can’t give one if you walk away.

    The phone company will refuse to help, bt;dt. The police can’t track a spoofed phone number. You do not have to try to be Inspector Clouseau.

  135. Bob*

    Why are they calling, to sell you something?
    You could try sending them to someone who is not the boss but pretends to be, or forward them to your local police department if you can forward to external entities. Or isn’t there some some numbers people give out to “let people down easy which is a recording of you were dumped”.

    You can of course read through the many humorous scam call refutations for ideas at Not Always Right. I wish they simply had a tag but you can try scam calls or telemarketing in the search field. The telemarketing tag will also have some of them catalogued.

    1. Bob*

      The fake boss could also buy something with a credit card number from a online credit card number generator.

    2. Mental Lentil*

      Yep. When I was a call center employee, my supervisor was the person in the cubicle next to me. I was also their supervisor.

  136. Pat*

    Can you let calls without Caller ID go straight to voicemail? It sounds like this isn’t a sales call, but someone harassing you. It might be worth calling the police. I’m sorry you are dealing with this.

  137. Aquawoman*

    From the OP’s comment, it seems like it is one person doing a lot of this. Some people have suggested the police, but a better bet is likely the state attorney general’s office–they tend to have more responsibility for issues like this. An automated system would be helpful also if that’s possible, and it does seem warranted given the number of calls you get. I don’t know that it would deter the one really persistent guy, but it would cut down on spam calls generally. Since it sounds like the president gives out his cell phone to legit people, they might be willing to add something like, “If you want to talk to [president], press 2 and leave your name and number.” Then if he gets through, send him back into the automated system.

  138. Block that fool*

    Many phone systems have a feature that allow you to block specific numbers now. Work with your IT dept to identify the number(s) this monster is using and block them. There is no justification not to do this.

  139. irene adler*

    It’s creeps/harassers like this that make me wish for the return of the old candlestick telephones.
    Reason: One can put the ear piece over the mouthpiece and create a painfully loud distortion sound -for the person at the other end. It’s painful enough that the listener must pull the phone away from their ear.

    OP, I’m sorry this asshat is doing this to you. No one -especially you- deserves such treatment.

  140. bunniferous*

    Check out your state consumer protection agency website. Some may have info/links/places to report this stuff. If your phone system gives you time and date of call (or if you can provide that info) they might actually be able to do something.

    Another thing you can do is remember this person has no power over you. If I worked in your office I would have you transfer those calls to me because I would surely have some fun with them. In my line of work I have to answer calls even if I do not recognize the number and I relish the times I get to mess with a live human scammer rather than some robocall spoofed nonsense. I do understand this is horrible for you and I am so sorry you are having to deal with this but you might have someone like me in your office who would enjoy dealing with this for you.

  141. dani*

    So many posts saying to just hang up, but if the calls are giving OP anxiety about answering the phone again… well that advices doesn’t address the problem. You’ve to answer to hang up… OP- I’d meet with your supervisor, explain the issue and how it’s affecting your, and together create a plan or script. Given that your boss schedules meetings seperately and with her personal cell, maybe you two could create a fake number to forward spam calls to?

  142. JB*

    Pretend you are putting the call through and ask the caller to remind you what company they are calling from. Hang up but google the company’s information. If it’s the same person calling, get their name, and you need to get to a supervisor at the place they are calling from and let them know the language and what is happening. Also look up the no call list and add all the extensions and numbers for your company to it. Next time the person calls and is abrasive, tell them to stop calling as you are documenting this as harassment and I agree with letting the police know you are being harrassed. This goes beyond any spam calling I have seen and I have been a receptionist for 16 years.

  143. Secretary*

    Many commenters have already said you are well within your rights to just hang up.

    I used to work in a call center for a legitimate company, but sometimes I had to make campaign calls for them which meant that I sounded like a telemarketer until I could convince someone I wasn’t one. I can tell you, making cold calls is pretty scary, because you never know how the other person is going to react.

    Now I’m a secretary and I receive these calls, and I just offer to take a message every time. If they won’t leave a message, they’re not worth following up on. If they’re abusive or pushy, I hang up automatically. They only need to ignore my saying no once and I’m hanging up the phone.

    This mindset really helped me to not be so anxious about dealing with these calls, hopefully it helps! It’s not common sense to just hang up, commenters who are saying that aren’t pointing out the obvious, it’s a skill of recognizing when it’s time to stand up for yourself.

  144. Nicole*

    If hanging up isn’t an option, can you set up a decoy voicemail? Act like you’re putting them through but send them to the voicemail instead (where the message states that they’re on another call or away from their desk or something) and periodically check the messages to make sure no legit calls got sent there on accident. It will get you off the phone quickly, and it’s harder to be a jerk when you’re not actually speaking to someone.

  145. drum kit somewhere*

    If you don’t want to just hang up on them because they might call back, can you send them to indefinite Hold? Transfer them to a line that doesn’t go to any person in particular, so it just keeps them on hold for ever. Say, “I’ll transfer you now, please wait” and then let them spin their wheels in the hamster cage.

  146. TechWorker*

    So… this is almost definitely *not* the case, but the one time in my (admittedly brief) stint as a receptionist that a caller was really aggressive and persistent, it was an individual who had some personal beef with the previous owner of the building we were in. He would phone up, insist to speak to the company owner, and try all sorts of insults to get more information about the company, whilst being really cagey about who he was and why he was calling. I think eventually the owner spoke to him, cleared up that he was infact looking for someone else, and the calls stopped.

    I know that you don’t want to engage with this person… but it could be worth one attempt at reason, or at asking them why they’re actually calling because you both know they don’t have an appointment.

    1. JSPA*

      If you’re willing to lie and can fake a good police / official no-nonsense voice, “You are calling an FBI field office,” “tracking division, please hold” or “you have been transferred to the phone fraud hotline, please hold” have been known to work ; )

  147. Sarah*

    Hi, I work as an office manager myself, and my CEO told me I could always transfer calls to her voicemail, since she, like your boss, doesn’t accept callers from the main line. Do you know how to blind transfer? That way, you don’t even need to tell the caller anything. If they call you back, just say it looks like the boss is busy. If they try to get around you, just say that boss will reach out to them as soon as he can.

    I had one spammer call me repeatedly, and when I finally ran out of patience and told him “no”, he threatened to get me fired. News flash: my job is to stop you from reaching the CEO. They’re not going to fire me for literally doing my job. It feels weird at first to just start hanging up on people, but…. you get use to it!

    1. GreenDoor*

      This! If it’s your job to be the gateway, then give no F’s about hanging up on rude people. If you’re worried that they actually might be legit, tell on yourself. When I have second thoughts, I will tell my boss in half-joking way, “You might need to fire me. Here’s what happened and here’s what I did” I look good for giving her a heads up that I might have made a mistake before she finds out from someone else…but I also look good for alerting her to something that might come up again.

  148. SummerBee*

    Call the police. There are rules about how people are allowed to use telephones, and this person is breaking them.

  149. CatPrincessDi*

    I personally have always wanted to blow an air horn into the phone when I get these type of calls. Unfortunately I keep forgetting to buy an air horn.

    1. JSPA*

      If they and you are using good equipment, most of the excess noise isn’t reaching them (and you’re just ruining the microphone on your end, in the process).

      If they’re using something older, then…what…you’re actually intending to do them permanent injury?

      We don’t cut off thumbs, we don’t string people from trees, and we don’t permanently deafen them as free-form, judge-and-jury-free punishment.

      That’s illegal/lawsuit fodder in some countries (link to follow) and inappropriate, in all. “You make my day suck so I get to remove your hearing” isn’t a thing.

      1. Kate*

        I’m not sure where you got the idea that the intention here is to destroy someone’s hearing? It’s to annoy them into not calling back. A quick, disarming whistle is *not* going to hurt someone. To compare this to stringing people from trees (!!!!!!!!) is a bizarre and frankly inappropriate reaction.

      2. Boof*

        I… don’t think any phones designed for people to actually use can make enough noise to deafen them. That would be a serious safety flaw on the part of the device manufacturer.

  150. Just Another Commentator*

    No one needs to put up with abuse like that. In my opinion, warn them once if they continue like that you’ll terminate the call. If they continue josh hang up and don’t answer any other calls.

  151. cheeky*

    My god, please just hang up! Do not even engage! Get your boss’s blessing if you need to, but you absolutely should not have to engage with any spam calls, let alone abusive ones. The instant you hear a sales pitch or a demand you know is not valid, hang up.

  152. Frenchie too*

    Put them on hold and “forget” about them. When they call back, cussing you out, put them on hold again. Repeat until they stop and go after other prey.

  153. pyewacket*

    OP* – While you wait for the management/police to figure out a strategy the calls will still be coming in. To help your anxiety when the phone rings for any calls use Alison’s re-frame your perspective advice. Maybe when phone rings put a smile on your face and think to yourself in a light, airy tone, “oh i wonder if that is my friend calling again. i bet it is. he just tells me the craziest things about his day.” when he starts talking, talk over him by saying “you are a silly goose, you know he isn’t available right now but i’ll let the president know you called again. thank you**!” hang up, block it, repeat. also are you worried that a legit customer is not getting through and that is increasing your anxiety too? go to boss get clarification on what if that happens and you block a number by mistake. how can that be reversed. maybe management can email a code word or code extension when they call in?
    ** i used to watch a tv program called, The Closer on TNT. Main character used different tones when she said “thank you” to convey anything from f- you to i need this done now to an apology.

  154. CB*

    Regular reader but first time commenter.

    OP, I am so sorry to hear you’re having to deal with this. It sounds quite spitefully personal to me. From the way this guy always asks to speak to President, I suspect he’s the ultimate target. I think you’re right that this needs reporting to the police. And I echo the words of the poster above who mentioned protocols – everyone needs to be on the same page about this and everyone needs to know exactly what has to be done when he calls again.

    I’ve done a lot of reception work in my time – it can be very interesting since you get to talk to all sorts of people, but unfortunately it’s pretty much part of the job description that you’re the first port of call for the weirdos, scammers and ranters too.

    Back in the 1990s, I was working temp jobs during the long summer breaks from uni. At one point I was sent to (wo)man the phones at what was then a nationally known courier company in the UK (I don’t think it exists any more). We sat around a long table at one end of the warehouse with all the phone equipment, and all the delivery drivers would wander in and out to check paperwork and make cups of tea and chat with us. Not long after I arrived there, problems started with a disgruntled and abusive customer, who would ring up to shout and swear at whoever answered.

    This had been going on for a while, until one day one of my colleagues (quite rightly) hung up on this guy – and he instantly called back. It went through to my phone, and he put me on blast before I could even say anything. One of the drivers was walking past, and he saw me wince (he could probably hear the yelling through the phone!). He gestured to me to hand him the phone and listened for a few seconds, before putting the guy on blast in return:


    The shouty calls stopped.

    I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that as a solution – but it worked in that case!

    Best of luck, OP, I really hope this can be sorted out for you. I’d love to hear an update at some point.

  155. AnotherLibrarian*

    We had a bunch of these a few weeks ago in the state I live in. It was bad enough that some emails went out on professional groups. I have no idea how to stop it, but I wanted you to know this is a thing and it is not something that only you are dealing with OP. I have found that for me breathing exercises (breath in for 4 seconds, breath out for at least 4 (ideally more) second for at least 2 minutes) and grounding exercises (close your eyes and really notice your body. I like to start with my feet and notice them and then work up to my shoulders and throat where I carry my anxiety) have helped me recover my balance after this sort of thing.

  156. Stormfeather*

    OP I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this. (And getting so many variations on “hang up” and “block the number”!)

    I don’t really know how useful the police would be, but I would at least ask the VP or what have you if it’s an option to try.

    My main thought though would be to try to find a way to just get somebody ELSE to answer the phones. Your VP can see how much it’s upsetting you and seems sympathetic, so they might be more likely (I hope!) to arrange something that would make this possible, even if it’s not their first choice.

    Like – is there a reason that the person answering the phones really needs to be on-site? What with call forwarding and all the other technology at our disposal these days, could the duty be circulated between people working from home? Or do they really need access to the specific phone system at your company? Even if so, would there be any way to rotate people into and out of the office to answer phones instead? (I realize that’s a big ask for COVID times, but some people might not be loathe to do it just for the sake of variety, especially if they’re able to just be in an empty place away from everybody else. No idea if that’s feasible.)

    If there’s just no way you could get somebody else to answer phones, I’m a fan of the general “let it go to voice mail” option. Maybe record a message along the lines of “we are currently handling other calls but will call you back” blah blah and if it’s not specifically a call from a number you recognize/at a time when your office is expecting a call, let it go through to voice mail. Not sure how much that might help if you’re still the one that has to check the voice mails and deal with them, but at least you wouldn’t be responding to him directly and he might eventually give up if he realizes he’s not going to even be able to talk to a live person.

    One other option, although I don’t know how realistic it is, is seeing if your President would actually be willing to talk to the guy a few times to maybe see if that’ll get him to just STOP. It sounds like you sent it through once but he ended up just hanging up. Maybe if the guy actually gets through and is told by the actual President that yes, he hears him, and no, he’s not interested and absolutely never will be, especially given the way the guy is treating his employees, it could help. Could. I’m not really very sanguine honestly, but it sounds like you’re at your wits end and there’s at least a minuscule chance that it might help.

    At any rate, good luck, and know that the readers here are rooting for you and thinking good (and calming!) thoughts.

    1. Stormfeather*

      And as an afterthought I’m leaning away more from even the small chance at that last part (having the President talk to him) helping. If he really is trying to sell something I guess there’s a tiny chance it would help, but if he IS just trying to harass and cause trouble, giving him that much of what he wants could even just encourage him more.

  157. Amy*

    When this happened at my work many years ago, the police advised us to just set the phone aside and let them keep ranting. We should make note of the date/time/duration too. They took statements from each of us (we had four or five people who answered the phone, so we all had the joy of him). Eventually, he stopped calling because he didn’t get a response. It turned out that he’d been harassing various businesses up and down the UK and I think ended up being prosecuted too.

    Good luck sorting it out and please do let us know what happens in the end.

  158. DiscoCat*

    Hiw is this even remotely ok? Calling people names, screaming at them, threatening and them… that in my country would fall squarely into criminal offense (insult and coercion) territory where police get involved. The individuals and the businesses would be held accountable, not only by law enforcement but also trading standards agencies etc. It baffles me how nonchalant people’s comments are and how LW needs to be told to hang up without a warning.

    1. caradom*

      How can they help is he spoofs numbers hundreds of times? How can they help if he is not even in the country?

  159. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    Honestly, when it comes to why this person is doing this and what he is attempting to accomplish, understand that he probably is not trying to make a sale or anything like that. Rather, he is attempting to harass you, the company, and the president of the company. In fact, I imagine the harassment, while felt most directly by you, is actually intended to target the president. And it can help to realize that this person is just spewing forth venom but it’s really not in any way about you.

    Reporting to the police is a good idea here, because even if the numbers are spoofed, this is too frequent, hostile, and desperate for your average scammer. Those people try to hit as many people as possible looking for someone to bite. They don’t put a ton of effort into one particular target that is not giving them the response they want. Scammers are looking for the right target and don’t waste time on the wrong one. And since it is not a scammer, it is likely someone known to the president or the company, so the police will actually be in a better position to investigate it than when it involves a true scammer. That said, I still like the idea of an air horn to the ear!

    As for anxiety, I also agree with commenters who suggest therapy. It may feel weird to you to seek therapy over this one issue, but that is just fine. If you need it, you should take advantage of it. And with the stress of COVID and any other number of things going on right now, you may be more anxious overall than in normal times and finding it harder to summon the resources in yourself to cope with this situation. So it is worth looking into it, especially if your office has EAP available or other resources to help you out. Good luck, and please update us as things develop!

  160. Ellena*

    This reminds me of that episode of “How I met your mother” with the receptionist played by Britney Spears :).

    And can’t those calls be traced somehow and the authorities involved? It can’t be that you have to deal with hundreds per week and then also abusive ones and do nothing to put a stop to it. It’s harassment.

  161. Claire*

    I read about a guy who made a bot to answer spammers and mess with with them. Check out

  162. Chickaletta*

    Woah. How on earth do these callers think they’re earning business by this??

    If I were getting enough of those calls I’d just let everything go to voice mail that comes from an unrecognizable number. My day would be ruined by those people too, and I’d take it back.

    And I know this has been mentioned but feel free to hang up on those people. Hell, my office hangs up on paying customers once they start calling people names. We’re a professional office, not a street gang.

  163. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    The Jolly Roger Telephone company has a hilarious recorded message service. The “person” talking to the spammer keeps going, “yes, mmhm,” at conversationally appropriate intervals, then gets distracted by the TV or a bee on their foot and asks the spammer to explain the whole thing over again. If the spammer somehow lasts through the whole message, it just loops again.

    They are amusing to listen to, even if you don’t want to get the service.

  164. Roci*

    I haven’t read all comments but haven’t seen this recommended so far–
    I’ve been getting spam calls on my mobile phone, there are several apps that allow you to block or silence unknown numbers, known robo callers, etc. Apparently “Robo Call” is FTC approved with a monthly fee, “Hiya” is another with free and premium options.

    May not work for your landline business, and plus you’re dealing with clear abusive harassment, not scammy robo calls. You should definitely look into reporting this to authorities. This is horrible.

  165. Ariel*

    Oh my. This has only happened to me once and it makes me tense just thinking about it it even 5 years later. I’ve dealt with angry clients. I’ve dealt with customers on drugs or literally insane.. The only person to mockingly call me stupid and a litany of cruel names was an aggressive scam call that wasn’t getting their way. Shock is their tactic and, like most scams, I truly don’t understand how this is successful enough to keep up. Another world truly.

  166. Megan*

    I work at a call center (our calls are for legitimate reasons, not spam) and whenever we get a rude or abusive caller, we have been instructed to tell them “if you continue to use this abusive language, I’m going to have to end this call.” Then if they continue we can hang up. We have to give the warning first, but if they don’t stop immediately then we can hang up. I would think a similar strategy could work for your company. If you can track who’s making the calls, you could also report them to police or the SEC depending on if you can think of violations they’re making with these calls. This likely would qualifying as harassment or verbal abuse.

  167. Hapax Legomenon*

    Sounds like you have a long-term plan for stopping the guy, and you already have some strategies for dealing with the anxiety his calls cause. Here are a few fun things you can try, or imagine trying, to remind yourself you’re in control when he calls:

    1. Sing “You’re an aaaaaaaaashole!” at him.
    2. Pretend he’s a preschooler. Ask him if he needs a nap, did he drink too much juice, remember we use our kind words and follow the teacher’s instructions.
    3. Pretend he’s a Lassie-type hero dog barking at you. “What is it, boy? Did Timmy fall down the well? Is the barn on fire?”
    4. Tell him “The President of the company likes me better than you.”

    Some of these you can even say to the phone after you hang up, if they make you feel better after the fact. He is trying to intimidate you and it is important to psychologically verify that you are safe and you have control of the situation. You might want to confirm with your company that it’s okay to do these things, but like #4 says above, the President likes you better than this harassing individual.

  168. Kate G.*

    That is so horrible, and I had a similar experience. In my case, the person would call ten or more times in a row. We (myself and the admins who support my team) recognized the number and would not answer. I asked several times about blocking the number, but was told it couldn’t happen until our phone upgrade was completed. I finally got tired of it, as it was making me anxious, and we filed a police report for harassment. (The caller whispered and was hard to hear, but one of the admins managed to get the volume high enough and heard some distressing sexual threats.) The officer took the details but said it was unlikely to result in anything as these callers are usually overseas.

    A week later, we went into lockdown and these calls were forwarded to my cell phone. I wouldn’t know until I answered if someone calling me was a client or the spammer, since caller ID showed my office number. We had to change my phone number two weeks into lockdown, which was a huge hassle. I’m still angry about it. It stopped the calls, but added an extra layer of stress to an already challenging time.

    1. caradom*

      Powerlessness makes everyone angry. Learning about the block function saved me (but can’t help the poor OP).

  169. Lynn Marie*

    There is nothing at all wrong or unprofessional about hanging up on any caller who is being abusive. If you recognize the caller as someone who has given you a hard time in the past even before he becomes abusive, hang up immediately. Rinse and repeat. You have the power here. Don’t give it away to him.

  170. Camellia*

    I don’t understand why people say let it go to voice mail. Then the OP has the stress of having to retrieve (a sometimes lengthy and painful process, depending on your VM system) and then listen to each voice mail and then delete it. That’s horrible.

    OP, I really like the ‘don’t say a word just put them on hold option’. They can sit there and shout into the abyss for as long as they choose, a great time waster for them! If you only have one line and that would tie up the line for legitimate callers, then please just hang up on them at the first words out of their mouth. Don’t YOU say a word – simply hang up. Do that repeatedly, giving them no response or feed back, should discourage them significantly.

    1. caradom*

      You might think it is horrible but in the moment it is worse because they are directly attacking you whilst you attempt to interact with them. Checking voicemails gives you the power to check in when you want and when you are feeling calm (a strategy I always have to use due to mania).

  171. Pink Water Bottle*

    I keep an airhorn handy with me in the construction trailer. When I get a scam call, I discharge it into the phone. I hope I’ve deafened many of them over the years.

  172. RedinSC*

    There are a lot of comments, so this could already have been said, but

    1. COpy their number down and make a complaint with the FTC
    2. Tell the caller to take you off their calling list. Technically, legally they are required to do so. These guys won’t because their asses, but each time they call tell them to remove you from the calling list.
    3. request to speak with their manager, right then. Once you hear this guy’s voice tell them you want to speak with his supervisor. He will hang up.

    Good luck. It’s more than frustrating.

  173. Guin*

    Look up the number of your local FBI office. Next time the jerk calls, say “Mr. Smith is now taking all calls at 000-000-0000” and hang up.

  174. The Meanest, Happiest Receptionist*

    Oof. Probably too late on this one, but I’ll share it just in case it helps someone.

    I used to get really really really really really upset when people yelled at me. I took it too personally, it would put me in tears. Honestly, I can say for certain I was an absolute doormat to far too many people for most of my young life. And then as I aged and started figuring some shit out, I started to gain some self-respect for myself. And here’s the thing – I got MAD. I got REAL mad, for myself, about all the shit I’d taken since I was a wee lass in school who was being bullied and constantly being told to “ignore it.” I took those words, and I turned them into a goddamn weapon of mass obstruction. These days, I LAUGH MANIACALLY (on the inside) when I get a nasty or annoying phone call, because – thanks to the fact that every last one of these fuckers is exactly the same flavor of ass-flavored shitheel – I know how to get on their nerves WAY better than they can ever get on mine:

    Be… NICE. Be STUPIDLY nice. Be so goddamn nice they have to check their blood sugar after getting off the phone with you. But here’s the thing – have you ever heard the phrase “nice” is different than “good”? E.G. lots of abusers use “nice” to get other people help them hide their not-goodness. Well, turns out “nice” is also different than “helpful”. Y’see, if someone swears and screams at me, or lies to me, or insists on talking to someone, I don’t actually HAVE to come up with a different answer each time. If they’re going to play the wear-me-down game, I’ll play too. And I’ll win. Because you can’t find anything to complain to a manager about if I’m sweet as pie to you, and you can’t pick an argument with me if I’m just a tiny bit too stupid to catch on that you’re doing anything other than trying to have a perfectly legitimate conversation with me. They’ll demand something from me. I’ll explain politely that I can’t help them with that thing and offer something else. Let’s use talking to my boss, and my offering to take a message. They say it’s urgent. I say “okay, no problem, I’ll add that to the message.” They say they won’t be able to take a call later and need to talk now. I say “sure, sure, no problem. Anything else you want me to say in the message?” They say “I can’t wait, I have a meeting in five minutes I need to have this conversation with your boss before!” I say “oh dear! Okay well, as I mentioned, it’s unfortunate that boss has a pretty full schedule today but just in case they get a few minutes in between meetings I’ll certainly add that to the message as well.” If they start getting angry and swearing and cussing I stop talking, and I wait, and they keep yelling, and I wait, and eventually they either gotta stop or have an aneurysm (I’m cool either way), and I left a pause juuuuuuuust long enough to be awkward but not long enough for them to call me out as deliberately ignoring their temper tantrum go by, and then I say “yes, I can certainly understand your frustration. Is there anything else you’d like to add to your message before you go, or…?” If they keep repeating they want to talk to them NOW I just keep repeating variations on ‘yes, I’ll certainly make sure boss knows it’s urgent’ and ‘yes, of course, and I’ve made sure it’s clear in the message how urgent it is you speak to him as soon as possible’ and ‘as I mentioned boss’s schedule is pretty packed today but if they do happen to poke their head out the door I’ll be sure to tell them that you’re anxious to speak to them.”

    Honestly, there’s like, NOTHING for the assholes to get hold of if you can learn to enjoy the taste of their rage and frustration while keeping a slippery, sweet-as-sugar attitude toward them. They can’t complain you’re being rude, because you weren’t. They can’t get pleasure out of your unhappiness because you’re just skipping over the rudeness and rage and returning to what they’d like the content of their message to be. Heck I even had one guy start dictating swearing at me and I just kept saying “uh huh… huh huh… okay…. okay, sure, I got that all, I’ll be sure to let them know” – and then passed it onto my boss, who was horrified and kept telling me how sorry he was I was treated like that, while I laughed and pointed out that I just tuned them out and kept working on what was in front of me the whole time while they wasted their time yelling at someone who wasn’t actually listening to anything they said.

    Try it. Just… try it. If you can get to the point that I have, if you can find the place inside of you that says “wow, the problem here is entirely on the other side of the phone, so the best solution here is for me to find the fun in letting an asshole metaphorically slam their head against a candy-coated brick wall for 15 minutes”, you find a whole new hobby: collecting asshole stories.

    For example, this one. To begin, “spite-nice” is only one weapon I carry in my anti-asshole arsenal. If it’s a clear scammer and I don’t have to worry about bad customer feedback, etc, sometimes I play a different game. Ask me about the time I once got this particularly rude scammer on the phone who was trying to bully me into letting them talk to the person in charge of supplies so they could sell their (overpriced) toners to us. A couple other people in the office had gotten called by this person but I’d already forewarned them of that scam so they quickly said “not in, call back later” and hung up. So when I (being the one who WAS in charge of supplies) finally was the one to take that call, I was THIRSTING for blood, and to take up some of their time so they had less time to try and scam other people in other businesses. I toyed with him for awhile, said I wasn’t sure what models we had, was pretty sure we got our toners from them already, oh did we not? Okay well maybe we got them elsewhere, I wasn’t sure. I said the person who ordered was away from their phone, put him on hold a few times saying “I think they’re back”. When he finally got impatient and started suggesting maybe he should call back, I offered to take a message and have them call him back. He bit, of course, figuring once he had a direct line he could harass them forever. Ohhhhhh, that sweet summer child who was about to see what a turned table looked like…

    I asked the name of their company. I already knew the name of the company because caller ID told me his number which I’d looked up and the business name and number was all over the web as a toner scam, but I wanted to hear it from him. And when I did, I started reading reviews to him off those sites about how they were a scam. He got mad and hung up pretty fast after that.

    I used that caller ID I’d gotten to call him back.

    He picked up and I started reading him more reviews, and he hung up again, so I called again, and he picked up again, and… well, let’s just say I had a couple staff members in the background eagerly devouring every word from my side of the conversation while they worked, and all the time I was doing this (outside the quick google search and keeping a small side window up to read reviews from when I got him on the phone again), I was quietly continuing my work in the background while fucking over his workflow for a good half an hour. (Disclaimer: we had multiple lines at that job and co-workers who were more than willing to cover those additional lines in exchange for listening to me ruining a scammer’s day.)

    TL; DR: GOD, I fucking love my job.

    1. caradom*

      No don’t be nice. All it teaches abusive people is that you are the perfect victim. Do you think abusive people chance confident, self-assertive people? NO. They rely on victims being ‘nice’. They’re hardly going to pick someone nasty……

      The only way to deal with them is to become even worse: ‘I know you are a paedophile because IT tracked one of the phone numbers you used. We don’t do deal with paedos’.

      Then laugh hysterically and block.

  175. (A different) Susan*

    You clearly have more strategies for the phone call aspect. I read that you are making a game of it, and that is helping your anxiety. I’d also like to suggest this.

    I’ve attended a few really outstanding trainings on trauma and secondary/ vicarious trauma. These occur when our brains think we or people we care about are in danger (whether we are or not), or when we hear stories about these (think 911 operators, therapists, someone telling you about *their* traumatic event). They can happen in a single incident, or through multiple exposures to the scary events. Trauma causes changes deep in the brain (in the amygdala).

    One way to deal with trauma that reliably works/helps our brains to process is to engage in bilateral motion… something that engages both sides of the body. People who have suggested jumping jacks, running, going up and down stairs, and knitting are all actually suggesting bilateral motion. I actually keep juggling beanbags on my desk for just this. If you can’t juggle three, toss a single item back and forth. Drumming works. Marching in place. Those funny hand games kids do till they’re so fast they lose track and collapse laughing (you can do it yourself in the air or against a cabinet/wall).

    Immediately following a *deeply* stressful, anxiety-producing, trauma-provoking event, see if you can engage in 2-5 minutes of bilateral motion. Psychologists think this might be part of why 9/11 survivors experienced less long-term trauma effects than Katrina survivors… because they walked out of NYC (bilateral motion) rather than were stuck in place waiting for rescue. Best of luck to you.

  176. nonegiven*

    You need to make clear that you need to be taken off phones, yesterday. Do they know how many times this guy is calling and how much time it’s taking up?

    Go to the doctor and get a note saying you need to be taken off phones as an ADA accommodation.

  177. Deborah*

    I have this suspicion – and it’s just a suspicion – that the president knows exactly who this is.

    1. caradom*

      With his endless rants I’m sure he would have said so by now. This man is a stalker and his victim is female. Doubt very much it has to do with the CEO.

  178. Texas Teacher*

    I got one of the old “This is your copier company, and it is time to refill your toner” calls once at my museum job. On my right was the actual copier guy doing maintenance on their donated machine. On my left, a police officer setting up a field trip for a boy scout troop. I put them on speaker, and the cop ripped them a new one.

    I would level with your bosses how stressful and wasteful this is. Maybe legal can do something.

  179. Hope*

    I heard this story from work a few months back: When my boss had an issue with persistent callers (after many, many, many times of being asked to delete our number) he got so fed up with it that he actually scheduled a sales appointment. He invited them in, gave them some coffee and had them wait in the waiting room for about 40 minutes. Then when the meeting started, he made it clear that there was no way in hell that they were buying anything and asked them to delete our number and stop calling. “You waste our time, we waste your time”.

    1. caradom*

      This is just the comment I wrote

      If I was the CEO I would invite them in and hopefully the police would be there. If not I would hire security to manhandle them. Personally speaking I would invite them in, take photos and a video and have security deal with it when they kick off. Then, whilst a security guard is manhandling him explain you will distribute his photo and video to every website available and to enjoy the attention (I would state it is CCTV not private videos or photos). Explain you will use a private detective to track them and the phone calls will be passed onto their workplace, family, friends etc. as well as the police. Tell them a newspaper just needed an identity to print all his bile.

      Note: security would only enter after my threats. If they’re not interested in meeting you know it is not a bizarre sales attempt

  180. LondonLady*

    Dear #LW – I am so sorry you are having to deal with this. You may not be able to stop them calling but here are some ways to try and manage it so it is not so stressful: a) hang up immediately b) pretend you are the office voicemail then hang up c) put them on hold while you deep breathe/have a cup of tea, then hang up d) say “I’ll connect you to his/her queue” then hang up or leave them on hold for a bit and then hang up. All basically versions of hang up – but you may find some work better for you than others (and ultimately discourage them). Also can you screen calls? ie listen to them and only pick up if it’s a real call you are expecting? Also one technique I found useful for managing an office nuisance was to tally the incidents – eg if I got up to 10 in a day then I would buy myself a little treat on the way home. It changed my perspective! Good luck.

    1. caradom*

      ‘b) pretend you are the office voicemail then hang up’

      She should have a recording she can play or it will be obvious

  181. caradom*

    Just hang up, as soon as you hear 1 word just hang up. You have the support of management at work so do your worst! However, it is not clear if they are aware of the fact that he is a stalker. Book a meeting, show them how insane he is with hundreds of calls and if need be involve the police so they can locate him and the company can take out a restraining order. Also, keep blocking eventually he will run out of numbers.

    1. caradom*

      If I was the CEO I would invite them in and hopefully the police would be there. If not I would hire security to manhandle them. Personally speaking I would invite them in, take photos and a video and have security deal with it when they kick off. Then, whilst a security guard is manhandling him explain you will distribute his photo and video to every website available and to enjoy the attention (I would state it is CCTV not private videos or photos). Explain you will use a private detective to track them and the phone calls will be passed onto their workplace, family, friends etc. as well as the police. Tell them a newspaper just needed an identity to print all his bile.

      Note: security would only enter after my threats. If they’re not interested in meeting you know it is not a bizarre sales attempt

  182. Meg*

    Anxiety advice:

    Hi, OP, domestic abuse survivor here. I still have trouble answering my phone and checking my voicemail due to PTSD, even though it’s been more than 10 years since the stalking and threatening calls stopped. Please take your anxiety as seriously as any other life-changing workplace injury. Verbal abuse causes the fight/flight/freeze response and floods your body with all sorts of chemicals that have a negative effect upon your health. Trauma can cause lasting damage to the structures of your brain. Please seek out a therapist, and if that’s not possible, contact a crisis line that specifically helps stalking victims. I’ve also found support groups to be immensely helpful, though a quick google didn’t turn up much for people who have been stalked by a stranger. If a support group for domestic abuse survivors will take you in, though, it may be a place where you can find community and support for the fear and tension caused by this person’s harassment. It sounds incredibly relatable to me from the experience of always feeling unsafe and like there’s no-one to turn to for help or understanding.
    I think the more support you get from people who take this seriously as real harm, as something genuinely scary that you do not deserve to be subjected to, the better you will be able to heal and figure out what to do with your work situation from a place of feeling secure and empowered.

  183. caradom*

    It is simply unacceptable that your VP and CEO have not intervened yet (I know the VP said you can hang up but you need to clearly state ‘This is happening up to 20x a day and if it doesn’t stop they’ll have to hire someone to do the reception job!’ I would suggest asking for a guy to answer the suspicious looking number and say he is the CEO and that all logs, all phone numbers have been passed to the police and if they don’t stop contacting you you’ll blow a loud whistle down the phone until they quit or the police find them.

    This abusive man has repeatedly broken the laws concerning harassment.

  184. Anonymooose*

    Your president and VP have your back on this, yes?

    Then get their approval to put the person on hold. Every time they call, if you are 100% sure that it is them, put them on hold. Indefinitely. On hold.

    Now, you might get one or two mistakes and put a legitimate called on hold…this is why you need their buy in. In case there is an, “oops” they need to be ready to smooth things over.

    I won’t go into detail about my thoughts on the level of shittiness that these callers possess BUT given their lack of ethics, be ready to get bad, fake reviews from them or other kinds of retaliation. Especially f your company has any sorry of public facing materials, from social media to industry specific reviews sites to BBB. Have a plan to handle them OR put a bit of time into finding their head office and put a cease and desist together to stop the calls and any other types of harassment.

  185. Worried*

    Maybe I am over-reacting but the nature of these calls makes me worry for LW’s safety, and the safety of the VP, whom these calls seem to be targeted at. Maybe they are all spam callers (although personally, I have never encountered such abusive language out of a spam caller!) but I kind of wonder if maybe there is something else going on…? The aggressive demands for access make me even more concerned.

    Is it an over-reaction to get the building safety / police (although I loathe to suggest such a thing) involved?

  186. Sally*

    My mother would have said to blow a loud whistle into the phone. I don’t advocate this myself, given that you might damage their ear drums. But it was very effective in combatting the repetitive ‘heavy breather’ calls she was targeted with for a while in the 70s.

  187. FormerCallCenterPerson*

    Hang up immediately. I used to work in a call center like this, it’s likely just a tactic some higher up has decided is a good idea and the employees are following along. I once had a manager who told me to pretend to the receptionist that I was the mistress of whoever I was calling. Other tactics included: lying about a warranty being expired, lying about being the technician to their equipment, etc. etc. The employees are likely metric’d on number of calls made per day (why they call you back a lot), the time they keep you on the phone (why they keep yelling), and how many decision makers they talk to (why they keep trying new extreme tactics).

    I’m not saying this excuses their behavior, but this is a symptomatic company problem, not a “jerk people” problem. You don’t meet your metrics, you get fired. Most of these employees have limited employment options for various reasons (I was a new grad, for example). Had my GrandBoss told me to scream at people on the phone and insist I had a meeting, I probably would have.

    Best thing to do is hang up immediately and don’t answer again. Don’t play the game, don’t feed the beast. Eventually, they’ll kick you off their “call frequently” list because you’re not giving them anything. Right now, you are feeding their metrics just by engaging with them.

    1. Caradom*

      This has nothing to do with company problems. This man is extremely abusive and I worry for any person around the sicko.

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