How to automatically troll telemarketers and keep them busy

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jolly roger fight telemarketers
Will these robots answer your call for you? Probably not.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

There were 3.4 billion robocalls in April this year, and the chances are it feels like you got roughly half of those to your own phone. These calls aren’t just telemarketing anymore, either. Just like email spam, scams pervade these already-annoying automated calls. One way around this is to unplug your landline phone, and to ignore all phone calls to your iPhone (go to Settings > Notifications > Phone and switch off Allow Notifications).

A better way is to troll the robocallers by hooking them up to a service that answers the calls for you, and uses robots to keep the telemarketers on the line, wasting their time an costing them money. And for that, you need the Jolly Roger.

Jolly Roger Telephone Company to the rescue

The service is called the Jolly Roger Telephone Company, and in return for a $2 per month (or $6 per year) subscription, it will hit telemarketers where it hurts — in the wallet. Just like spam, telemarketing makes its money from the small percentage of idiots who actually respond to its predatory offers. If you can keep the telemarketers’ agents on the line, playing them like a fish on a hook, then you cost these scummy companies money. That’s the idea, anyway.

I’ve never used the service. And to be honest, the Jolly Roger site looks pretty dodgy itself, so you may be wary of giving it your phone number, your email address, and your payment details. For instance, the product page for the one-year “Deep Six” subscription says that “this service is available in the US and UK only,” but just a little further down the same page it contradicts this with the information that the service is “Currently available in the US ONLY.”

How to use Jolly Roger

Still, if you do go ahead, there’s definitely some entertainment value in here. First, you pick a robot from the Pick a Robot page — there’s a busy mom distracted by her teenage daughter, a grumpy old man watching hockey, a fellow who talks sports and religion, and plenty more. You can listen to transcripts of their actual calls on the linked page.

The one thing all the robots have in common is that they are genius-level experts at keeping scammers on the line, wasting their time.

The website design inspires confidence.
The website design inspires confidence.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Then, when you get your next telemarketing or scam call, you transfer the call to Jolly Roger. This involves actually answering the call, and hoping that the caller will hold for long enough for you to make the transfer, but once you’re done, the robot takes over. You have to mute your handset, but you can listen in on speaker if you like.

Once the call is done, the Jolly Roger robot will send you a transcription of the conversation, for your entertainment. Make sure to listen to some of the samples on the site, because the calls are actually pretty entertaining. In one, the scumbucket telemarketer/scammer gets so annoyed he threatens to call the robot’s husband and tell him about it.

Fight scum

Like spammers, telemarketers are total scuzzballs, so anything that fights back is great. And doing it while driving the callers crazy is even better. Should these drones get any of your sympathy? After all, they have a horrible job to do. Nope. They prey on the weak, the confused, and the stupid, and the excuse “I’m just doing my job” is no excuse whatsoever.

Alternatively, just switch all your friends and family to FaceTime audio, disable incoming call alerts, unplug your landline, and never worry about call spam ever again.