‘I’ ON CULTURE
Few things are more annoying than getting unwanted phone calls, particularly if you are in the middle of doing something. The phone rings, you grab the handset, look at a number and realize you don’t recognize it; but, then again, who even remembers most numbers since we started using our smart phones? And then you hear a message that is often a waste of time or a scam. We do have a “Do Not Call” system but, unfortunately, it is not well enforced.
There is a huge exemption, of course, for politicians. They are absolutely intent on getting messages through, and since they write the laws, they can make certain that they don’t have to live under them. Thus, if you are a Republican, you now get constant calls warning you that Charlie Crist is Rosemary’s Baby, and that he was a corrupt governor who will undoubtedly ruin your life if he wins. And if you are a Democrat, you now get constant calls warning you that Rick Scott is the Son of Satan, and that he is a corrupt governor who will undoubtedly ruin your life if he wins.
And for those of us lucky enough to be signed up with neither party, we get those calls from both sides. Even though at this point the messages are beginning to make me wonder if I need to evacuate the state, I can go along with letting politicians’ messages in. After all, it is one of the prices we pay for democracy.
If you are as old as I, you get taped messages (constantly) that begin: “Congratulations, Medicare recipient. Press one to talk to us about getting a free…” The last part always ranges through a list of things I hope I never have to use. I really don’t want to think about catheters, free or otherwise, and pray I never have to use one.
The people behind these calls love the word “free,” but they actually just mean that I’ll be paying for the stuff through my taxes instead of writing a check. Why can’t someone offer me something I really want? I mean, if they gave me a free Porsche, it certainly would lift my spirits.
Finally, we get to the scams. The advantage to the scammers is that they have ways to get around “Do Not Call” defenses. I started getting calls a few months ago from people listing themselves as “Consumer Services,” who sent me recorded messages saying that they were concerned they had not heard from me since I was paying far too much for credit card charges. I actually answered the phone the first time and thought it was my own bank, but, being the suspicious type, I asked them which bank they represented.
Then I began to get calls from numbers all around the country. The local number was for a Barbara Scott. When I tried to call her number back, all I got was a busy signal. And I got calls from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and elsewhere, as well as a couple of different 800 numbers. Somehow, my old friends Rachel and Bridget, who either were giving me a second notice or a final warning, managed to be on all of them. They left messages which clogged up my answering system.
I checked and found that my “Do Not Call” listing had expired. For some reason, registration lasts only two years, presumably based on the assumption that after two years of not getting useless calls, people will get lonely. I wonder how much money lobbyists paid to limit registration. Anyway, I re-registered and discovered that the people calling have a month before they stop.
A month went by and I stopped getting calls from most of the numbers. Then, to top it off, I read an article that the whole thing was a scam. You could get a low interest rate for a couple of months and then it would skyrocket. Yet the calls keep coming.
We need a way to block these calls. The simplest would be to allow us to hit the pound key and start charging the companies. The government is not succeeding in getting much done. Perhaps it could start small and fix this minor problem. That would get my vote.