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How To Use Your Phone Company To Trap Prank Callers

Relentless prank dials are one of the most irritating pests known to man. Sure, they might seem funny when you hear about them from others, but after getting woken up a few times at 4am to listen to a joke about "Seymour Butts", the humor somehow seems to fade.

Unfortunately, once you've found yourself on the wrong side of a persistent prank caller, particularly one who blocks their telephone number from your Caller ID, tracking them down or getting them to stop is no easy task.

Surprisingly however, your (usually useless) cable company actually has some systems in place to help you stop suspicious calls. Using these tools, from traps to traces, you can become a super sleuth, a modern-day Dick Tracy, and concoct a plan to catch the prankster and throw the book at them.

To get started, you need to feel like a sleuth. So put on a trenchcoat and grab a cigar, and set yourself up a Private Investigator office in your basement. Make sure the lighting is dark and dramatic, and anytime anyone comes in, greet them with "What can I do for you today, sugar?"

Once you've set up the perfect sleuthing environment, you can begin to set the trap. The easiest first step is to get in contact with your phone company, and activate a system called Anonymous Call Rejection. This tool screens out any callers with blocked Caller ID (which we assume any clever prankster would use), so that their attempt to contact you does not go through unless they unblock their number.

Once they do that, you've got their digits, and can use a reverse lookup service to track down who they are and where they live.

But let's say the trick doesn't work. After all, plenty of important numbers have blocked Caller IDs as well, so you don't want to keep screening them out forever. And once you turn Anonymous Call Rejection off, a really dedicated harasser will just start attempting to contact you again.

In that case, it's time to take out the heavy artillery. You can ask your telephone company to set up a "trap", which is a system that lets the company monitor the origin of every dial you get for a few weeks. Your job is to make a note of the day and time whenever the unwanted caller checks in, and later send that in to the phony company so they can cross-reference it with their records.

If that sounds like too much work, you can also have the phone company set up a Call Trace system. This usually requires a fee, but it may be worth it: with this system in place, each time you get a harassing message, all you do is hang up and enter *57 on your phone, and the number is traced.

Usually, you are required to perform a trace several times before the phone company acts, but if you have a persistent prank dialer on your hands, that should be no problem.

The major down side of both traps and Traces is that the phone company never gives the information that they uncover back to you, the sleuth who has worked so hard to procure it. Instead, they send it straight to the police, and you never get to see a piece of the action.

But while you might not be the one who throws the crook into prison, you can at least rest easy with the knowledge that another phone criminal is off the streets, and that after a long and painful ordeal, the case is finally closed. These tips can help you avoid being bothered by pranksters and finally get a good night's sleep. By utilizing your relationship with your phone company, you can finally put these annoying contacts to rest.

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