Robocalls

I’m in the bathroom, the phone rings and my wife is out picking up grandchildren from school. I open the door, run across the bedroom and grab the phone and blurt out, “Hello”? A voice answers, “This is Linda with Master Card/Discover credit card services …”

I’m driving in my car and my phone rings. I think it might be important so I pull over and find my phone. I press answer and hold it to my ear, “Hello?” I say. “Hi, this is Tony” says the voice on the other end, “with an important message about your credit …”

I’m in my recliner taking a nap when I am jarred awake by my phone ringing. The number on my caller I.D. is a local exchange so I figure it’s someone I know. I don’t recognize the number but I haven’t memorized everyone’s phone number. I say hello and a voice on the other end states “This is the IRS. You have a judgment against you, and you have three days to reply or face penalties or possibly imprisonment …”

Welcome to 2019. With number spoofing, the phone is now a weapon of deception. A study by the Federal Communications Commission projects that almost half of the cell calls that will be received this year are going to be spam. These junk calls with their uninvited robot-voices are designed to get your money or information. The governments “do not call list” isn’t helping. There is no reason to tell them not to call again either. They just spoof another number and call again.

It has gotten so bad that I carry both my cell phone and my cordless phone with me when I am home. I have to do this because the provider of my chemo drug will call me to schedule my monthly delivery and I don’t want to miss their call.

Just how did it come to this? Time was, a ringing phone indicated that someone I knew wanted to talk with me. Why else would they have my phone number? Sure I got a few prank phone calls, with a last name like Rug I expected them, but I didn’t get them very often.

Today though, it’s not even a person calling you anymore. It’s a computer program that can dial hundreds of people an hour. I am constantly called by telemarketers, credit card people, and political campaigns. They all combine to annoy me with unwanted calls and that doesn’t include all the scams, frauds and illegal schemes that stay just one step ahead of the overworked regulation agencies.

This field has grown so much that the scam artists can now create a spoofed number that looks like someone you might know or impersonates a business person that you might know.

According to a CNN article, “A scammer could call you from what looks to be a familiar number and talk to you using a voice that sounds exactly like your bank teller, saying they’ve found suspicious activity on your account. You’re then tricked into ‘confirming’ your mother’s maiden name, your address, your card number and PIN number.”

This is terrific, one more thing for me to worry about besides stolen passwords, identity theft, and credit card fraud and fake news.

I signed up for the “Do Not Call Registry” and thought that this would stop these calls. Silly me. The Do Not Call Registry is a big joke today, useless against robocalls and offshore individuals that laugh at this attempt to reduce the “garbage calls” as we call them. While writing this article I received three robocalls that interrupted me.

An FCC report stated that progress was being made but another report indicated that robocalls were up 57 percent in 2018 from 2017. An increase of 57 percent doesn’t sound like much progress to me.

The FCC is now requiring that the phone companies implement a technology called SHAKEN/STIR. This makes sure that the number you see on your phone is a real number and not a “spoofed” one.  I am sure that by the time this technology is put into service by the phone carriers that there will be a new scam. I know from my days picking locks and hacking that anything that was built by a man can be defeated by a man.

All of this has made people disregard phone calls altogether, checking the display, frowning in disgust and refusing to answer. This is not a great solution though. Say, you’re on your way home after work. It’s a Friday night and your cell phone rings. You look at the number and it doesn’t look like anyone you know so you press ignore.

The next day, your best friend calls. “Hey, you won’t believe this. Someone gave me four court side tickets to the game last night. I tried calling you on Bill’s phone, but you didn’t answer. It was awesome! Sorry you missed it.”

Alexander Graham Bell is in heaven looking at this and thinking, “What the heck happened?” And then, his heavenly phone rings and he hears a voice that says, “This is the IRS. We are calling to inform you that an arrest warrant has been issued in your name …”

Norb is an independent journalist from Lockport. Previously published in the Niagara Gazette.

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Kindness

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You got to try a little kindness
Yes show a little kindness
Glen Campbell 1969:

I recently ended up on the ground as I was on my way to a medical appointment. My legs just gave out. Several kind people came to my aid and they even called an ambulance for me. It got me thinking about kindness. There are many ways to show kindness.

When you find yourself waiting in a line in a supermarket and there is someone behind you with just a few items you let them go ahead of you. It won’t take much of your time and could make someone’s day. Be courteous.

When I used to take bike rides thru the city, I would greet people I would see sitting on their porch. They would always say hello back. Say hello to strangers when you walk past them on the street. Be friendly.

Yours truly walked into a local food bank with some cash and gave it to them. Donate anonymously. Just the act of giving is all the reward you should need. Most of us have clothing we have out grown or don’t wear anymore. Donate your used clothing to charity. It feels good to know you are helping someone out even if you don’t know them. Also you can donate your used vehicle to a worthy cause. Be charitable.

Upon witnessing three soldiers in desert camo going into a local sandwich shop, I circled the block and went in and paid for their meal. When I see a veteran with a ball cap indicating they had been in the service, I go out of my way to thank them. This also happens to me as well when I wear my Vietnam veterans’ hat. Make every day Veteran’s Day. Be thankful.

While working at a super market in my youth, one of my jobs was to go on “cart patrol”. It was especially aggravating to have to get dressed in my winter coat, hat and boots to retrieve that one cart someone had left in the furthest corner of the parking lot. Return the cart to the store or the cart corral if they have one. Be considerate.

Speaking of shopping carts, I give my cart to someone at Aldi and when they offer me the quarter, I refuse and tell them to pass it on. Sometimes I just push it into the cart collection area and walk away, leaving the quarter in it. It’s just a quarter, It’s not going to bankrupt me. Be thoughtful.

My wife likes flowers so I try to keep fresh cut flowers in the house every day of the year. Give flowers to someone for no particular reason at all. Be loving.

We all get frustrated in traffic at one time or another. However, simply because traffic is moving slowly doesn’t mean that we can’t let another driver into your lane. One additional car in front of you isn’t going to make you arrive any earlier or later. Mow the lawn, rake the leaves or shovel the snow for a senior citizen and surprise them. When I was younger, I used to snow blow all the way around the block. I figured I was dressed and out in the cold anyway, why not help people out. Be kind.

The next time you hear someone sneeze, say “Bless you” whether you know them or not. People rarely do this anymore. Be polite.

At some point in time, we’ve all had to call a handyman to help us out. The next time someone is at your house fixing something, offer them a cold drink. Let them know you value the work they are doing for you. You might get a higher level of service in gratitude and maybe the bill will be a bit lower. I know, I used to run a handyman business myself. Be appreciative.

Hold the elevator for someone. The few minutes you wait for someone will not affect your day but it may improve theirs. Be nice.

I have taken extra coupons to a fast food restaurant and give them to families with children or older couples. If you have extra coupons give them to other customers. Stop at a kid’s lemonade stand and buy a drink. It’s usually only a quarter. You will make them smile. Servers make their living on tips. Leave a big tip and the next time you go you might be treated well. Be generous.

Telling someone you like their work, their outfit or their haircut is the cheapest form of kindness there is. Acts of thoughtfulness generally cost you little and can make a person’s day better. Be Complementary.

Recently, I was at a Dance recital. At intermission, I had gone out to get something to drink and they were selling iced, bottled water for a dollar a bottle as a fund raiser. Unfortunately, the cooler was on the floor. Being as I have a balance issue, I asked the person in front of me to get me a bottle of water. She handed me the one they had gotten for themselves and bent over to get one for herself. When she did this I slid my way around and cut in front of her. I can only imagine what she was thinking. When it came time to pay, I paid for both of our drinks.

One good turn deserves another. Kindness starts with just one person holding open a door for another one and that person passing it on.