Tech & The Web

Unwanted Telemarketer Calls Beyond ‘Out of Control’

If you’re like many people I know, you receive more telemarketer calls than calls from people you actually want to talk to and no relief seems in sight.

The other day, I received one of the strangest telemarketer calls ever.

It was the third call in the same day from a place called Middletown, New Jersey. Each call was from a different number, but the three numbers were just a couple of digits away from each other.

As far as I know, I don’t know anyone in Middletown, New Jersey. I’m sure it’s a nice place with plenty of nice people.

But I had a valid reason to avoid these calls: an app on my phone called Hiya watches incoming numbers and instantly compares them against a database of reported spam.

Hiya marked all three calls as “Potential Spam.”

I’m old enough to remember when spam used to be something you only encountered in your email inbox.

When the third one came in, I took the call and listened through a brief recording and, when prompted, I pressed the number 3 to reach a “specialist.” I wanted to try to get some sense of who this company was — or at least who it claimed to be.

Imagine my surprise when the “specialist,” who sounded like a high school student making a prank call chuckled as he said this:

“Hi, my name is Scott. May I have the 16 digits on the back of your credit card?”

Yes, he actually was laughing as he said it.

Taken aback, I was silent for a couple of seconds processing what I’d just heard. Without saying another word, he hung up.

These days, despite being on the Do Not Call list, I receive multiple telemarketer calls a day.

Most of the time, in fact, when my cell phone rings, it’s not someone I know. Thanks to spoofing technology that scammers use to hide their actual phone number, you never know who you’re talking to. You certainly can’t trust the Caller ID.

So I no longer do business by phone. If someone I suspect is genuine calls me, I’ll make an excuse, tell them I will call them back, and then end the call. A while later, I’ll call the number I have on record for them and make any appointments or conduct any business.

If they call me, they get no information from me at all. I don’t know of a safer way to prevent being scammed these days.

FCC releases ‘Robocall Report’

The FCC recently detailed its efforts to curb telemarketer calls.

“No consumer wants to be bombarded by spoofed robocalls—they’re a waste of time at best and a scam at worst,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said.

An organization called ACA International argues many legitimate calls happen to be robocalls, and that it’s important that they not block calls made by legitimate businesses.

And right away, I wave the BS flag.

Almost no legitimate business needs to employ robocalls. They’re annoying. They’re horrible customer service. Any legitimate businesses who use robocalls ought to be ashamed of themselves and deserve to lose the customers who are so turned off by them that they hang up as soon as the recording begins.

Yes, there are always exceptions. When a health care provider or pharmacy needs to notify a patient or when a school needs to notify a parent of a problem, a robocall may be a more efficient option.

But there aren’t many exceptions beyond that in my book.

The FCC report discusses efforts to prevent the delivery of calls that spoof telephone numbers that currently aren’t in use. That may well be a partially-effective step, but we’ve all received spoofed calls from legitimate numbers only to call the Called ID number displayed and hear from people who had no idea someone was using their number.

The report also mentions the multitude of call-blocking services now being used, many of which “are available for free to consumers.” Verizon keeps offering me a free trial of some sort of call-blocking service. Sorry, but I’m not paying them to block numbers when it’s the providers themselves who have failed to come up with a way to prevent their own network from being fooled. Call-blocking services should all be free until the telephone companies figure out how to make things right. It’s their inability (or inaction) to solve the problem that has created the service they now want to charge customers for, and that’s not right at all.

Maybe there’s more good news coming.

This report, according to an FCC news release, also mentions “significant progress made toward caller ID authentication.” It also states that the agency has either “proposed or imposed monetary forfeitures totaling $245,923,500 against violators or apparent violators of either the Truth in Caller ID Act or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act since 2010—the vast majority of which has taken place in the last two years.”

Honestly, I have to wonder why it has only happened over the last two years. This problem has certainly existed longer than that.

But when you’re talking about $245 million in fines, that’s pretty significant.

Of course, if they’d pass a law that required a mandatory minimum fine of $1 million per call for violators, that might help, too.

It’s a shame that people can’t be left alone without someone finding a way to bother them with unwanted calls. It’s even worse that so many are apparently so cavalier about breaking the law if not flat out ignoring it.

It’s time the FCC does something about it to stop it once and for all.

1 Comment

  1. What I do is I assign a special ringtone to everyone on my contact list. My family has one ringtone, friends another, and businesses a third ringtone, it is isn’t a special ringtone I don’t answer it

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 29 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.