Tonight I have two posts started, but suddenly I had an aversion to writing about either politics, racism or Equifax, so instead I am taking somewhat of a detour from my usual fare.
There was a time, long ago and far away, that when the phone rang, I answered it. I was nearly certain it would be someone I knew, either a friend or family member, and if it weren’t, it would be a genuinely remorseful caller who had simply dialed the wrong number. Ahhhhh … those were the good ol’ days, weren’t they?
Then came the days of the ‘800’ numbers. If the area code was 800, it might be for me, if I had, say, an overdue account or some other pending business outside of my state, but more than likely it was somebody trying to sell me insurance, a burial plot, or convince me to sign up for a credit card. I’m no dummy, so I quickly learned, with the assistance of caller I.D., to disregard calls from numbers that started with 800. Annoying, yes, but minimally so, especially since it only happened once or twice a week.
But then … then came the damn robocalls. Calls from Florida, Michigan, California, Las Vegas … all over the country. It didn’t take me long to develop a system to deal with these. I simply stopped using the ‘landline’ altogether and quit taking any calls on my cell phone from callers outside my own area code unless I recognized the number. I have voice-mail, and if it were, in fact, important, then I could call the person back. Problem solved.
And then … those who would prefer to make their living by using technology to steal from others rather than earn their money honestly, became truly sophisticated and found ways to make their ‘robocalls’ appear to be from my own area code. Not only that, but they are frequently very close … just a digit or two off … from my daughter’s phone number. Now, fortunately I, too, have technology at my fingertips and I have now adopted a policy of not answering any call unless it comes from somebody on my contact list. This means that if a little picture of somebody I know and their name does not pop up, I simply either hit ‘decline call’ or ignore it.
I also have a program that shows incoming calls on my computer, as I often do not hear my phone, and I am able to decline the call with a single mouse click. And, I have visual voice mail so that I can read any message I receive, although the robo callers rarely leave a message. I wonder, though, what their next move to foil me will be, for I have no doubt that there will be one.
Mind you, it is all annoying and some days frustrating, but I stay one step ahead of them, and if I do on occasion absent-mindedly answer a call, I simply hang up, so I am not complaining … at least not much. But what does concern me is the people who fall for these scams. And let’s face it, a heck of a lot of people are falling for them, else the scammers wouldn’t still be using these tactics.
According to a recent article in The Washington Post, one such scam, where the scammer claims to be with the Internal Revenue Service and demands fees and fines, has already cost consumers $54 million! According to the article …
“If anything, robo-calls are becoming more prevalent and more sophisticated. In their latest devilish innovation, robo-callers have been spoofing numbers in your own area code and prefix, which prompts far more people to pick up. They are also experimenting with artificial intelligence that allows the robot to hold a convincing conversation with you, as you can hear in a sample robo-call posted by Consumers Union in which the recipient tries to get the caller to admit she’s a robot.”
And they offer some good advice … some of which I was not aware of …
- Don’t answer.
- Don’t press buttons. Don’t try to opt out of robo-calls by using the call’s phone tree. “If you engage with the robo-caller in any way . . . it lets them know they’ve reached a live phone number. Your number is then added to a hot list.”
- Don’t speak. If a robo-call asks you questions, don’t answer. Some robo-callers ask, “Can you hear me?” When you say yes, the scammers may use that to claim that you said yes to their product or service.
- If you receive a robo-call, the FTC asks that you file a complaint online or by calling 888-382-1222. The agency chooses which robo-callers to go after partly based on these complaints.
There are others, and you can read the article, but these four were, I felt, the most relevant. I was not aware of the third one, “don’t speak”. I have, on occasion said some choice words to a robocall, but I’m pretty sure that ‘yes’ was not one of those choice words 😉. And as for contacting the FTC, I don’t know about you, but despite being on the ‘no call list’, I receive on average three of these calls a day, so it would be impractical for me to contact the FTC each time.
Technology … ain’t it grand? I close with a funny story from long ago. One day, probably in the early 1970s, I answered the phone and a female voice that sounded very familiar said, “Hi … whatch’a doing?” Thinking it might be my friend Patsy, or some other friend, I told her whatever I was doing at the time, and we chatted amiably for about five minutes. I was still trying to figure out who it was, and didn’t want to embarrass either of us by having to ask, when she said, “you been working out in the garden this morning?” BAM … I knew she had the wrong number, for I not only did not have a garden, but I am known nationwide for my ‘black thumb’. I can kill the unkillable, and plants simply commit suicide when they see me coming. So, we ended the conversation and both agreed it had been a pleasure talking to each other. Again … ahhhh, the good ol’ days.