Senior Scene July 24, 2017

I am certain that almost all of my readers have experienced the phenomenon I am writing about this week – it is around the dinner hour and you are just sitting down to eat and the telephone rings. You push aside your meal and rush to answer it, but when you do, there is no one on the other end. You say “hello” a few times but there is only silence. Annoyed, you finally just hang up. This is not the first time this has happened. Read on to find out what is behind those silent calls.
There are typically two kinds of silent calls:
• Telephone fraud: Silent calls are often the first step in a phone fraud scheme that could lead to your identity being stolen or your bank account being drained. The silence on the other end of the phone is actually a computer gathering information about you; any small noise, like a cough, can signal to the computer that the number just dialed is an active line, answered by a human. Once the computer notes a person has answered the call, the numbers are gathered and sold to criminals, who use them to get personal information.
• Telemarketing blips: In Canada, a silent call is a telephone call from a telemarketing agency that does not have an agent immediately available to handle the call when you answer. In this instance, the call may be suddenly terminated and you hear silence (“dead air”) or you may hear a dial tone from the telephone company indicating the call has been dropped. How does it work? The majority of silent or abandoned calls are made and caused by automated calling systems known as dialers, or predictive dialers. These dialers, mainly used in call centres, dial telephone numbers automatically and connect people to call centre agents as soon as the phone is answered. When the technology used by call centres to detect an answering machine mistakes you for the answering machine, it cuts off the call without playing an information message, or before you hear anything.

If you are being annoyed by silent calls, or unwanted calls from telemarketers, you can have your number put on the National Do Not Call Registry at 1-866-580-DNCL (1-866-580-3625). By doing this, your telephone number will not be available to automatic dialers. There are some exceptions, so it is best to check the website at You can also try blocking individual numbers to avoid specific callers but this can be time consuming.
Once you are registered, and you are still getting calls after 30 days or so, you can complain about any that violate any unsolicited telecommunications rules (this includes automated dialing-announcing device rules). To file a complaint, you will need:
• Your phone number (where the call was received)
• The name and phone number of the telemarketer
• The date you received the call

The next time you answer the phone and all you hear is silence, do not panic. In fact, do not say anything at all – just hang up. You have most likely just avoided a pitch from a telemarketer or even better, foiled a possible plan for telephone fraud. In my case, it is usually me making the phone call, hearing the receiver connected and then silence and/or rustling sounds as I wait for Mom to put on her headset.