‘I’ ON CULTURE
A few weeks ago, this newspaper had a great editorial about the problem of phone scams. It is becoming a greater problem because with all the technological improvements coming along, the stronger focus is on how to find ways to annoy us instead of to protect us.
We can assume this comes because of very strong constitutional arguments on behalf of those who wish to get through to us. The vast majority of those have pictures of Ben Franklin on them. As a result, the government is willing to give assistance, but always only in a limited way.
For example, we have the Do Not Call Registry. It is a great notion. It takes only a minute or two to register a number, and the register does not drop them. But those using robocalls, and by this I mean legitimate groups who merely want you to contribute to charities or buy actual products, as well as those ready to scam you, stomp all over the registry. After all, it is a robot doing the calls.
There are many ways to get to us. I really love getting a call from Detroit telling me that I am so lucky that their security company is doing work in my community and they can just drop by. That is, if I’m stupid enough not to wonder why a local company is calling from a thousand miles away and has no idea that people in my gated community already have security devices.
One real favorite that uses local numbers and long distance from all over the country is “Account Services” that has “Heather,” “Carmen” or “Francie” calling with a number to first assure you that your credit account is OK, but they have a way to cut your credit card interest rate. And they do. For a few months, you will have a low rate, but afterward it will be super-high, fees will be exorbitant and you will be tied into it. Not to mention that you will be giving out a lot of personal information along the way.
My top favorite is getting calls reporting that their office is monitoring my computer and that they are concerned about its lack of speed on the Internet. I have been greatly impressed by the number of young men speaking with an exotic-sounding accent but based at a wide variety of area codes who seem so concerned. Of course, when they ask questions based on operating systems and computers I don’t use, I discover that their careful, all-knowing monitoring system has not managed to notice that.
What we really need is a high-tech way to stop these calls. The editorial called for getting phone systems to block robocalls. That supposes that companies truly care. The government has given permission and the technology exists, but the companies are not interested. Even better, land-line phone companies say it is against the law to block any calls. What else is new?
A better system would be that for those phones (and cell phones, since they get the calls as well) on the registry, if you get a call from an unrecognized number, you can press the star key and 10 cents will be transferred from the account of the caller to you.
If you do this to a friend, they will leave a message, and when you call back, you can suggest they have their company identify them for Caller ID. For a dime, who would care?
For a company making thousands of calls a day, it will matter. We gets ads in return for watching TV. What do we get from phone calls? And the call will have been delivered, so the company cannot argue.
Perhaps we might even have a way to get more money for listening to the robotic call all the way through. I get enough every week that I could go out for dinner on the proceeds.
Our public masters are happy to fight over who stays in the country and who gets taxed less or more and all claim they want to make us happy. Only the people doing them like the robotic calls. Perhaps the two parties should get together and with a more or less unanimous vote, protect us this way. Don’t hold your breath.