Harassing Phone Calls
How to Handle Malicious Telephone Calls
The University of Louisiana-Monroe Police Department and the Telecommunications office are very concerned any time you receive a malicious telephone call. We want your stay at the university to be as pleasant as possible, and we know that abusive, annoying, harassing, obscene, or threatening telephone calls are an unwarranted invasion of your privacy. In some instances, they may also be unlawful.
If you are off campus, check with your local telephone company and local police agency about their specific procedures and local/state laws which may be involved. The procedures listed below are specific to the University of Louisiana-Monroe Campus, but may be very similar to your local community policies and laws.
Most malicious telephone calls at the university are made by a small group of immature people who consider it funny or smart to interfere with your peace of mind. These calls do not usually constitute a threat to your personal safety; however, you should contact the ULM Police Department (ULMPD) any time you receive a telephone call of questionable intent or origin. There is usually a way to stop the calls, and we will be happy to assist you.
Unwanted telephone calls usually fall into one of several categories:
SALES OR SURVEY CALLS:
Telephone sales solicitations or surveys conducted by telephone are not regulated by the University of Louisiana-Monroe. They can be valuable and interesting in cases where the companies placing the calls have screened their prospects and know that you may be interested.
Some other groups, however, are not a particular about whom they call. Using automatic devices that dial every number in a prefix group, these calls are frequently accomplished without human supervision, and you may find yourself talking to a computer. Some persons are annoyed or offended by such calls.
Telephone services are available to anyone for legitimate use, but we don't condone thoughtless or indiscriminate sales or survey calls. If you choose not to respond, simply say so and hang up. Be sure to leave the handset hung up for at least 30 seconds to ensure the caller is disconnected.
If you are interested but are skeptical about the offer, state that you will return the call or ask the caller to try again later after you've had a chance to check the organization with the Better Business Bureau. Or ask the caller to send you some information on the product or service so you can look it over before making a decision.
If you would like to remove your name and telephone number from calling lists for national advertisers, write to Telephone Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, 6 East 43rd Street, New York, NY 10017. Include your name, address, and telephone number with area code in your letter.
There is no charge for this service, which can reduce calls from national advertisers but is unlikely to affect sales calls from local businesses.
CALLS FOR COLLECTION OF DEBTS:
Like sales or survey calls, calls for the purpose of collection of debts are not regulated by the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
If you receive collection calls that are harassing or threatening (those placed at a time when the calls knows the debtor is normally asleep or calls placed repeatedly without good reason), record the dates and times the calls were placed using a log sheet also available from ULMPD.
Since the calls will probably be originating from off campus, notify the Bell SouthTelephone Company business office and report how the calls was abusive or harassing. They will explain their procedures and requirements.
MALICIOUS TELEPHONE CALLS:
Anyone can be the victim of harassing, annoying, obscene, or threatening telephone calls. These may include random calls by pranksters, calls at hours when you are sleeping, frequent pointless calls or those where the caller says nothing, obscene calls, calls from former romantic interests, or calls where some threat is made against you, those with whom you live, or your property.
These calls are intended to upset you, either for revenge or to gratify the caller's personal urges. Most can be prevented or avoided by learning and using some simple techniques to decrease your potential for victimization.
- Your telephone is for your use and service; always use it on your own terms. If the caller doesn't speak or if you simply don't feel comfortable talking to the caller, hang up. Remember that the telephone is under your control and you are not obligated to speak to anyone.
Ask for the caller's identity or affiliation. If the caller makes an improper response or does not respond immediately, hang up. Some "silent" callers are looking for a response and may want you to become scared or angry. Don't give them the satisfaction. If the caller asks, "who is this?" or "What number have I reached," don't give an answer.
Instead ask, "Whom do you want?" or "What number were you calling?" If the call is not legitimate, that will probably end it.
Don't give out any information to anyone you don't positively recognize or who fails to give satisfactory identification or affiliation. If the caller asks for your roommate or another member of your family, simply say that you'll be glad to take a message and have the call returned as promptly as possible.
Under no circumstances should you give the names of others living with you to someone who doesn't already know them.
- If you have children, instruct them not to talk to strangers on the telephone. Burglars or other criminals will sometimes attempt to obtain useful information from unsuspecting children. Teach your children to ask for the caller's name and number so someone can return the call later.
- If a caller persists after you've made it clear you do not wish to talk, the simplest response is to hang up. Other techniques that may be useful in some circumstances include blowing a police whistle into the phone or tapping the disconnect button and stating "Operator, this is the call I wanted traced."
- Remember, don't speak unless you want to, don't give out any information, and don't respond to questions.
Occasionally, a caller may make threats against you, those with whom you live, or your property. These are unusual and extreme incidents and should not be handled with the routine methods we've described above.
Notify the University Police immediately. They'll work with the ULM Telecommunications office and/or AT&T to put a stop to the calls.
IF YOU SHOULD BECOME A VICTIM
In spite of your best efforts, it is still possible that you could be the victim of a series of malicious telephone calls. If this should happen, it is important that you do several things to assist the University Police and Telecommunications office in resolving the problem.
- Notify ULMPD immediately. Although subsequent actions must be coordinated with the Telecommunications office or possibly with other offices or vendors, your initial point of contact is the University Police. If you are off-campus, notify your local police department.
- Write information down. Using the Malicious Call Log available from ULMPD, keep a record of the calls. This information can be invaluable in bringing your case to a prompt and successful resolution.
- Notify others living with you of the problem. Avoid mentioning the calls to casual friends or in a public place, as the caller may receive gratification from your public distress. In addition, the caller may be put on guard by becoming aware that you have notified the police.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO END THE CALLS?
If there is a continuing series of calls, if the call is of an obscene or threatening nature, or there is reason to believe that the caller intends to inflict bodily harm or property damage, it may be possible to install a device on your phone line to identify the telephone(s) where the calls originate.
The officer taking your initial report will ask you to sign a form requesting assistance from the Telecommunications office and/or Bell South Telephone Company in identifying the calling number.
Since the university telephone equipment has only limited capability to perform this function, it may not be possible to initiate the procedure immediately, and the service may simply not be available in less serious cases due to more server cases reported simultaneously by other customers.
It is usually possible to have your telephone number changed if the caller identification service is not available on a timely basis and your calls are continuing. This is accomplished by the Telecommunications office upon recommendation of the University Police or Residential Life and is normally completed by the end of the next working day after the request is made.
The number change is permanent and may be left unlisted if you so desire. A change of number due to malicious calls is without charge to the customer.
ARE THERE OTHER PRECAUTIONS I CAN TAKE IN ADVANCE?
As a matter of personal safety and security, we recommend that you consider listing your first name by initial only. If yours is a common surname, you may consider listing it by both your first and middle initials. It is possible to request that your number be unlisted, but this may not be effective if others who live with you have their names listed and may inconvenience callers legitimately trying to reach you.
Electronic answering devices are available that service as a buffer, permitting you to hear the caller's voice and message in response to a tape-recorded greeting before you choose whether to override the device and answer the caller directly.
HOW DO I REACH THE POLICE OR THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS OFFICE?
If you are the victim of malicious calls or would like to request additional information on personal safety and security, contact the University Police at 318-342-5350. Off-campus, contact your local police agency.
The ULM Telecommunications office is open during regular university business hours, Monday through Friday, 7:30 am to 12:00 noon and 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. except holidays, and may be reached at 318-342-5555
You can avoid or end unwanted malicious calls. ULMPD will be pleased to help you!