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Telephone & Email Harassment
What is telephone harassment?
A harassing call often involves obscene or threatening language, heavy breathing or silence intended to intimidate you. Telephone harassment is against the law in California (Penal Code section 653m, Penal Code section 422-422.1).

How often many calls does it take to be deemed harassment?
Just one unwelcome call may be harassing.

Who should I contact when I get harassing calls?

For serious threats such as threats against your life or obscene calls, you should file an incidentreport with the USC Department of Public Safety and/or LAPD. Provide as much information to law enforcement as you can: the time and date of the call; what did the caller said; whether the caller seem intoxicated; and whether a name or number appeared on the Caller ID device.

Talk with someone at the Center for Women and Men. We can provide personal support and help. We also may be able to authorize call traces and number changes, if you live in university housing, you will need to contact your phone service provider for help with call traces or number changes. They will usually expect you to have filed an LAPD report. If you don't live in university housing, Most telephone companies will not take action such as changing your number free of charge unless the calls are frequent. Usually your local phone company will not take action unless the calls are frequent unless a caller has threatened you or someone close to you.

What can I do to stop harassing calls without going to LAPD or DPS?
Hang up on the caller after the first obscene word or if the caller remains silent after you've said hello more than once. This is the quickest way to deal with an isolated call, and it discourages the caller from trying again. Do not engage in conversation. The caller wants an emotional response from you: don't give one. Even a witty response may be interpreted as an encouragement.

If the silent treatment does not work,consider changing your voicemail message. The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse suggests the following message:
I'm sorry I/we can't come to the phone right now but you must leave a message. I/we are receiving annoyance calls and the phone company has a trap on this line. If you do not leave a message I/we will assume that you are the annoyance caller and this call will be traced.

What precautions can I take to reduce the risk of harassment?

  • Do not disclose personal information when called by someone you do not know. If the caller asks what number they have called, do not tell them. Instead, ask them to tell you what number they were trying to reach.

  • Do not include your telephone number on the outgoing message of your voice mail service. By omitting your phone number from your message, you prevent random from getting your number for future misuse.

  • Never reveal that you are home alone, or that you're feeling unwell.

  • Never offer details such as a home address, or your roommate's name. When placing classified ads, use a P.O. Box address if possible. If you must list your home number, don't list your home address.

  • Remember that you have choices about what directory information is listed for you in USC's online student directory. If you don't specify otherwise, your local address, phone number, major, and e-mail address will be listed. It will be accessible to all members of the university community. This is useful if you want a professor to be able to reach you easily, but you may not want someone you used to date to know your new number. You can change what appears in your directory information by going to the SAS building and filling out a simple form.

  • Always check references of any person calling or emailing you seeking information for a survey, credit check or subscription drive. Don't fall for the guy who says he's doing research on people's sex lives for his term paper.

How can I stop telemarketing calls?

The most effective and easiest way to prevent telemarketing calls is to register your personal phone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry operated by the Federal Trade Commission. You can sign up for the Do Not Call Registry two ways:

  • The FTC's toll-free phone number is 888-382-1222 (TTY: 866-290-4236)
  • Online registration is available at the FTC's web site.

Important facts to consider when using social networking sites

  • Remember that you cannot control who has access to information you post.
  • Even after you erase or delete data from a profile, blog, etc., the information you posted may stay online through caching technology. Additionally, it may have been downloaded and distributed without your knowledge.
  • Future employers, graduate schools, campus organizations and others may use information gathered from online communities when making decisions.
  • Anyone with an email address has access to the USC Facebook community, including individual student profiles, photos and groups (unless the owners set specific privacy limitations).
  • By agreeing to the terms of use, you grant permission for online communities to republish your content and share information with advertisers, third parties and law enforcement officials, among other.


How may I maximize my privacy and personal safety online?

  • Be selective about the specific content in your personal postings. Don't post items that you wouldn't be comfortable allowing literally anyone to read.
  • Use privacy settings, where available, to limit access to your information.
  • Only post phone numbers and residential information on trusted sites with enhanced security features such as OASIS.
  • Avoid posting information regarding your whereabouts or daily schedule.
  • Do not share passwords and login information with anyone.
  • Always log out and close your browser, particularly when using computers in public places (libraries, labs, etc.) or at a friend's place.
  • Understand your rights. Carefully read the terms of use policies for any online community you join.
  • Educate yourself about socializing online, avoiding identity theft and other privacy and personal security issues. is a good resource for information.
  • Learn how to cover your online history from stalkers and other abusers here.


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