Friday, April 6, 2018

Who's Calling Your Phone?

Telemarketers have a crappy job. There’s no way to sugar coat it. People are so fed up with the scammers on the phone that all telemarketers get lumped into one big category. With the advent of Caller ID, it’s much easier to screen these calls so you don’t even have to pick up. The scammers keep getting better and better at getting around that, though. That just means we have to be a little creative. I’ve had a little fun with some of the scammers.

One of the best known scammers is the Windows computer virus scam. They used to call my house sort of regularly. They haven’t called in awhile. One time they called, I actually answered just to have some fun messing with them. It went something like this:

Scammer: Hello, Mr. Bacon, I am calling about your Windows computer. You have virus…

Craig: (in old man voice): Hello? Huh?

Scammer: I am calling about Windows virus on my computer.

Craig: Oh, the computer! My daughter does all that for me.

Scammer: Yes, a virus.

Craig: Yeah. My daughter orders all my prescriptions on the computer. She can probably tell you what you need.

Scammer: Sir, I am calling about your Windows computer.

Craig: Hey, do you think you could order me some of that Viagra? My daughter won’t do it for me.

Scammer: Sir---

Craig: There’s a little lady in the home, just down the hall…

Scammer: Sir---

Craig: I’m eighty-four years old!

You get the idea. The poor guy on the other end of the phone line was clearly flustered. Meanwhile, I was laughing as I finally hung up on him.

Telemarketers, both legitimate and not, have a new tactic in getting you to pick up that telephone when it rings. They are spoofing local numbers so that it looks like your neighbors are calling you. That’s what happened with my cell number earlier this week. Somehow, this is not illegal? This is driving me crazy, and I’m sure that it probably is driving you crazy, too.

According to the Minnesota Attorney General, “Spoofing technology allows scam artists to trick caller ID into displaying false information. Scam artists realize many people no longer answer calls from phone numbers with unfamiliar area codes or that display no caller ID information, or “unknown,” on their caller ID. By spoofing local phone numbers or information into caller ID devices, scam artists hope their calls will appear familiar enough to entice the recipient to answer.”

The FCC continues with, “Under the Truth in Caller ID Act, FCC rules prohibit any person or entity from transmitting misleading or inaccurate caller ID information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongly obtain anything of value.  If no harm is intended or caused, spoofing is not illegal.  Anyone who is illegally spoofing can face penalties of up to $10,000 for each violation.  In some cases, spoofing can be permitted by courts for people who have legitimate reasons to hide their information, such as law enforcement agencies working on cases, victims of domestic abuse or doctors who wish to discuss private medical matters.”

Reading both of those statements, it would seem that there’s too much leeway for scammers to use my number, or your number to make calls. Let’s read one of those lines again. “If no harm is intended or caused, spoofing is not illegal.” If no harm is caused is the part that I have issue with. It seems like a giant loophole for the scammers. If you hang up on them, then no harm is caused. Maybe the FCC can work on tightening them up just a bit?

It’s more than scammers using these local numbers. Sirius-XM calls me regularly from a Lockport number. Does anyone know if Sirius has a local office, or are they sneaking in under the limitations of the written laws. I don’t like the idea of some corporation using my number to make phone calls.

With these telemarketers and scammers using local numbers, it’s getting harder to avoid them. While that’s good for them, it’s not exactly great for my sanity. Most of the time I simply hang up when they start their spiel. Sometimes, when I’m in the right mood, I mess with them, but only the ones that are scams. I like to waste their time just a little bit. Aside from the Old Man schtick, I’ve also asked if they’ve found Jesus, talked about the porn I might have downloaded to cause the issue, played the piano with special appendages, and cashed in on my mother-in-law. My ultimate goal on these calls is to get them to swear at me. I know I’ve won when I achieve the F-Bomb Hang Up.

If you received a “spoofed” call, you should report it to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Federal Trade Commission. These agencies have the authority to enforce federal laws that regulate caller ID spoofing, autodialed calls, and interstate fraud perpetrated over the phone.

That’s the official line from the FCC. I think everyone should absolutely follow those directions. And then maybe keep the scammers on the line a little while. Just play dumb, never say “Yes,” and have a little fun.

Craig Bacon does not call people he doesn’t know. He barely calls people he does know.