Open Thread

Open Thread Update: Phone Follies

Remember when phones were a convenience?

Apparently a lot of readers are nostalgic for those earlier, simpler days.  Days when there weren’t call centers and hackers the world over, all desperately trying to reach you.  They have exciting news about your auto warranty!  There is a mysterious $900 charge on your Amazon account!   The police/IRS/Immigration/FBI have a warrant for your arrest unless you pick up the phone and send them a ton of dough via gift card!

Those are three actual calls I got this past week. And I’m not alone in these Phone Follies, readers say.

Occasionally there is something going on in my world that could increase calls from unfamiliar numbers…  Reluctantly, I may gently pick up the phone and clear my voice to avoid saying “yes” or anything courteous.  – Jean A.

 

If I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. They have the option of leaving a VM message. I’ve gotten calls from Kenya – other countries too, but Kenya is the best. LOL. Then I’ve gotten calls from the DC area code. Messages left. Foreign accent. Message says that if I don’t respond to a particular number, the authorities will show up at my door and arrest me. Boy, am I ever tempted to “play”. I am on the Do Not Call registry. Still, they call. I block spam numbers. Still they call – Vicki

 

 If I get a unwanted call I just pick up the phone and say the word NOOOO. and hang up. Ah peace.- Cookieu71

Some folks, like AnneJ  use Nomorobo. Many others, like Steven G., rose W., and Claudia N., to name a few, use the phone’s Caller ID as a screening device and don’t pick up unless the number is familiar.

However, one reader got a weird new phone folly – a strange text.

Last week I received a strange text asking if Savi was available to watch her cat. I told the texter that they’d reached the incorrect number, no Savi here. Texter apologized and said her name was Mary from Malaysia, 34 years old, now living in New York. She asked if I wanted to exchange photos and be friends, saying it’s fun to make new friends. I checked her area code, which was from Los Angeles, and decided this was fishy. I blocked her number. I’m not that desparate for friends. – Susan

Thanks for sharing, Susan, but please ignore strange texts as you would a strange caller ID phone call. Debra here knows the score:

If they are legit, they will leave a message, dont answer unknown callers. I see some have started using bogus text messages. beware of these, delete. Its a wild world. Be safe. Double check. – debra s.

Of all the ways to handle this plague, I’like Cheryl’s the best.

It doesn’t bother me that much anymore. I usually just egg them on or laugh at them very loudly. Since I’m retired I am more tolerant of pests.- cheryl

Of course, nothing can top this guy’s solution, which is pure genius.

We’ll keep this post up for a while so you can share your ‘phone folly” in the comments.  The original column is below:

When I turned 60 I stopped answering the phone.

There’s something about turning 60 that sends a message to every grifter, malcontent, con artist, call center employee and hacker that tells them I am in prime scamming position. It must be like that big board in the John Wick movies, with the countdown clock to when Wick is up for grabs.

Failed Phone Follies… 

So, after one call too many telling me my auto warranty is expiring (don’t have a car), or warning me the IRS is waiting downstairs in a tank to arrest me (um, no), or that my grandson is in jail in Tijuana (no kids) I stopped answering the phone unless I knew the number.

At that point, I picture the big board message saying “She’s on to us” and con artists switching to spoofing numbers for banks, brokerage firms, insurers, Medicare, and utilities. There was even one exciting spoofed call that looked like it came from….me. A breakthrough in quantum physics! I regret not picking up the phone to see how I was doing.

…And a close shave

Every so often a message slips past the goalie and I pick up. One seemed legit from my bank and I almost got scammed. (That guy was good, but I remembered all that advice from AARP and called the bank directly.) And I once listened to a voice mail from the “IRS” that was so scary and convincing that I had to go for a walk to calm down.

Beware the New Phone Folly

It seems that just when I think I’ve got it sorted, they come up with a new wrinkle.  This one is the Mystery Call.

I’ve been getting calls that don’t register on Caller ID at all. It just rings and rings and goes silent. That’s some kind of psychological mischief, because I look at the phone and wonder if it’s Meals On Wheels using a phone with a call blocking feature, or someone calling me back and deciding last minute “The hell with her!” and hanging up or… what?

I really hope it doesn’t catch on, because with no number and no message, it’s guaranteed to drive me crazy.

But how about you? What is the latest Phone Folly that’s been driving you crazy? Let us know in the comments!

 

Virge Randall is Senior Planet’s Managing Editor. She is also a freelance culture reporter who seeks out hidden gems and unsung (or undersung) treasures for Straus Newspapers; her blog “Don’t Get Me Started” puts a quirky new spin on Old School New York City. Send  Open Thread suggestions to editor@seniorplanet.org.

 

COMMENTS

25 responses to “Open Thread Update: Phone Follies

  1. Sometimes, just for kicks, if it is a local number/AC that I am 90% sure is a scam, I say: “Sheriff’s office, fraud division. How can I help you?”
    They usually hang up, though some protest: “No it is not.” Then I hang up.

  2. My phone company screens many of my scam calls. However, I get a few each week. When I do answer, I answer like I did as a receptionist for a company. I give a make believe company name and ask how I can direct their call. They hang up.

  3. Just for fun, try looking into the Jolly Rogers Telephone Company, a very reasonable fee based service which uses AI technology to trick telemarketers etc. into thinking they are actually speaking to a human and WASTE THEIR TIME. The inventor of it has done TEDX talks and the service itself has gotten wonderful reviews .
    You can also access some of the scripts that are guaranteed to make you giggle.

  4. We were receiving 20+ scam calls daily on our cell phones. Our phones are Google phones. The phones have built-in call screening at no extra cost. After activating that feature, the Google Assistant screens every unknown # that is not in our Contacts. We can see the caller’s words translated Live & can choose to pick up if the caller says “doctor so-and-so is calling for…”. If the call is a scam, we have the option to mark it as such & it gets entered into Google’s database of scam numbers.

  5. when I pickup a crank call, I try to get to a supervisor and tell them that this phone
    belongs to a 7 year old child and that this is considered a child endangerment
    violation. They usually don’t call back.

  6. Latest wrinkle is to spoof the phone company’s “verification” of numbers. Verizon supposedly marks a “V” on calls from verified numbers, intended to make it easier to know when a caller is legit. It did not take long for the scammers to copy the “verified” symbol, and now that appears on most of the bogus calls. So we also don’t answer any unknown numbers, which does make the phone less useful and valuable to us. There needs to be some consequence to crooks stealing my resource like this.

  7. I don’t answer if I don’t know the # either. My phone will display the # and city or state the call is coming from. I sign a lot of petitions for environmental, animal welfare and political action groups, though, and they are allowed by law to call me to solicit funds, unfortunately, so I believe a lot of these calls come from these organizations. Some of them have taken to leaving voicemail messages, which is annoying. It costs me to listen to the vm. Some vms are silent – VERY annoying!

  8. I never answer my [landline] phone unless I recognize the caller name +/or # and especially if I’m expecting the call. I consider my phone a screening device, first and foremost! Voice mail messages can supply anything I need to deal with or know about.

    By the way. l really enjoy + appreciate Senior Planet offerings, most of all, the wellness exercise routines. Sally Saenger [Strength + Stability] is my favorite!

    1. Normally I ever answer calls that come in as unavailable, name withheld etc. I was caught unawares and being set up for a potential scam as a result of coincidence. I was having massive problems with my nationally recognized internet provider. My wireless was dropping constantly and I was losing data, documents and assignments. In the midst of this o e day, I received a call from said company. I was told that their equipment indicated a problem that could be fixed remotely.
      Will continue.

  9. Once, when I accidentally answered the phone, the caller asked, ‘How are you today?’ I actually answered that I had a cold and I couldn’t find the flavor teabag I knew I had purchased. The caller mumbled something and hung up on me.

  10. Like most of you, I don’t answer unless I recognize the caller. If they’re legit, they’ll leave a message. One caveat if you do talk to an unknown person: Never say “yes” to anything they ask. E.g. “Is this Joan Price?” instead of “yes,” I’ll say, “Who is this, please?”

    Reason for not saying “yes”: scammers can cut and paste your audio “yes” to create a record that you gave consent to whatever they want.

  11. I am turning 65 in 15 months and the Medicare calls are rolling in, sometimes four and five a day. By call #4 on day 5 I was a screaming mimi. I’m in healthcare so I know what’s going on, who I’m going with, etc. I was not prepared for the volume of calls. Another 15 months of this????

  12. Occasionally there is something going on in my world that could increase calls from unfamiliar numbers (doctors, lawyers, native-american chiefs☺️) Reluctantly, I may gently pick up the phone and clear my voice to avoid saying “yes” or anything courteous. I am always perplexed and become angry when no one says anything on the other end. I usually scream, “what’s the point of wasting my time and yours?” Are these calls just to know there’s a live body on the other end? Or to annoy me tomorrow

  13. I had trouble with retreaving my messages from my land line voice mail so I had the company take voicemail off my phone. I’m home most of the time and if they want me they will call back. I enjoy a lot more peace since I did this. Most callers will let phone ring 4 times then hang up. If I get a unwanted call I just pick up the phone and say the word NOOOO. and hang up. Ah peace.

  14. Last week I received a strange text asking if Savi was available to watch her cat. I told the texter that they’d reached the incorrect number, no Savi here. Texter apologized and said her name was Mary from Malaysia, 34 years old, now living in New York. She asked if I wanted to exchange photos and be friends, saying it’s fun to make new friends. I checked her area code, which was from Los Agngeles, and decided this was fishy. I blocked her number. I’m not that desparate for friends.

      1. If I don’t know the number, I don’t answer. They have the option of leaving a VM message. I’ve gotten calls from Kenya – other countries too, but Kenya is the best. LOL. Then I’ve gotten calls from the DC area code. Messages left. Foreign accent. Message says that if I don’t respond to a particular number, the authorities will show up at my door and arrest me. Boy, am I ever tempted to “play”. I am on the Do Not Call registry. Still, they call. I block spam numbers. Still they call

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