Fighting phone fraud

phone fraud

 

It’s a huge, multifaceted problem — the bilking of senior citizens. And making seniors aware is only part of the solution. Of course they, we, I need to be aware of and on guard against all the schemes.

But articles like The New York Times’ “Phone Swindlers Tap Into Fear and a Sense of Duty” make me angry. Once again the failed Do Not Call lists are not mentioned.  There is a lot of information about frauds reported after the fact, and a link to a very informative AARP map showing the types of fraud being reported in each state. But what about doing more to prevent phone fraud, the method used by some 40% of scammers?

Where’s the demand that Do Not Call laws be given teeth and be strictly enforced? When was the last time you heard of someone going to jail for violating those laws? And when was the last time you got a phone call from a scammer or telemarketer? I’m guessing you’ve never heard about a violator being prosecuted. And I’m guessing if you have a land line, you’ve probably received at least one call like this in the last week. I often get several a day.

I’m aware of the schemes. I don’t answer the calls. But I may not always be so alert, so aware, and so intolerant of phone calls that want to cheat me or sell me something I don’t need. Someday, perhaps in a lonely, less coherent moment, I may pick up the phone and fall victim to one of those calls. Will it be my fault for having grown old and confused and daring to have a phone? Or the fault of lawmakers and law enforcement for not stopping such calls in the first place?

13 comments

  1. I like the sentiment, but the content isn’t relevant down here. We have different problems, of course … But goodonyer for mouthing off, Susan !

  2. I don’t answer the phone either, if I don’t recognize the number. Even if I’m talking with a “known” correspondent, say my bank, and they offer, say, to increase the credit level on my VISA card, I tell them that I’d rather do that in person, thanks, rather than complete the transaction over the phone. I am 99% certain I was dealing with a legit entity, but that 1% uncertainty keeps me following through. Besides, I don’t need extra credit on my charge card!

    1. Better safe than sorry when it comes to banking, that’s for sure. When BoA called me once to ask about a suspicious-looking charge (which it was, and I was so grateful they caught it), I followed up with a call back to them to make sure everything was legitimate.

  3. I’m with you, PT. We got such calls every week or two for the first few months of this year. They were of familiar varieties. One was a robocall (that’s been a word since the ’90’s) from a company marketing devices for seniors – often the gizmo for calling for help if you fall. Usually, part of the message is low or no cost, implying that Medicare will pick up the tab. Another was a ubiquitous entity called “Card Services” or some such, wanting to “help” me with my burdensome credit card debt.

    Another common kind was some guy with a thick Jamaican accent informing me I had won some big prize, like a lottery or Publisher’s Clearing House. He would always call me “Jaz”. I assume there is a Joplin phone book down there somewhere – I am listed therein as “Jas” rather than James. I wonder how long it takes someone to call every name in the directory? Must be three or four weeks because that’s about the interval between calls. And, how odd, I’m thinking, that as soon as one guy completes the list, another takes up the book and starts the same process over again, expecting a different result. That fits the definition of insanity, right?

    A few years ago the Missouri AG forged a campaign based on going after some of these and I did read that a couple of them got prosecuted, but in truth, I think the initiative was mainly a vehicle for a politician to get some name recognition. (I can’t remember who he was. 🙂 ) The principal problem with enforcement of no-call lists, I submit, is the same one as (not) extraditing felons who have fled to other states. The cost. The USA Today paper did a big expose’ on it and it seems to have landed with a dull thud. If the crook’s not here anymore, he’s someone else’s problem and good riddance.

    We like to think that here in the land of the free and the brave, justice operates like a well-oiled machine. The truth is, it’s a cranky, leaky, inefficient Rube Goldberg contraption. If it does catch a crook, society then has the privilege of paying his room and board for a while. But, the jails are all over capacity, further diminishing the incentive to catch more crooks. And underlying all these problems is the big one: the ever-increasing pay-gaps between the haves and have-nots. I think the phone problem is symptomatic and we’re just seeing the tip of the desperation iceberg.

    1. “Jaz,” eh? That’s funny. At least that call left you with something to laugh about. It creeps me out when I get a call from someone who knows my name. It makes me feel like some stranger is peeping in my window or something. That’s another reason why I no longer answer calls from numbers I don’t recognize. In this age of robodialed calls, I’d almost forgotten there are still phone directories in circulation. And then there are the phone lists that businesses give or sell to each other; I think that should be illegal. No business should be allowed to give or sell your information to another.

      You make a good point about enforcement of any laws when phone calls cross state lines or international boundaries. I’m loathe to throw up my hands and say nothing can be done, but I can’t think of any solution that would work.

  4. Two stories here:

    1. For a year, I was without insurance. Changed jobs, no insurance and was waiting for the market to start up. Anyway, I was taking some rather expensive medication and looked a little bit online to see if it would be cheaper with an online store. I emailed a few sites, which I included my phone number so they could call me, and I wish I never had. My number was sold to some outfit in India that will sell whatever drug you want. I don’t know if they in turn sold me number, or what, but I know receive at least 5 calls per day from India asking if I want any drugs. They refer to themselves as “my pharmacist.” I have tried everything under the sun to get rid of them but they won’t go away as there’s nothing that we can do here. I have been polite asking them to remove my number (yeah, right). I’ve yelled at them. I have used a canned horn-blaster-thingy in the phone (hurt my ears probably more than theirs). I have told them I’m not Michelle, I just bought this phone number and to go away. Nothing. Nothing works. So when they call, I just put that number in my “reject” list on my phone — but they jump phone numbers. They have various US numbers that are not in service, but have them listed in their database as an outgoing phone number. When I’ve tried calling the numbers that come in, they’re all disconnected. The only way I will be able to get rid of them is to change my number — and I have waaaayyyy too many clients that call me and it would be a real pain to change it. Besides, dammit, it’s MY number!

    2. Received a call supposedly from “Google” and first thing they asked is if I was sitting in front of my computer. Of course, I knew immediately it wasn’t them. Google does not make any general phone calls at all. None. Zero. Zilch. I laughed at him and said, “yeah, right.” I told him he contacted the wrong person and have written posts about people like him. He replied back with, “how do you know I’m not Google” which in and of itself said it all. But I was in the middle of working on a site and didn’t have time to play so I hung up. Now I wish I had played along just to see what he was going to try to do. I’m thinking that he was going to “need access” to my computer to fix some bullshit thing and ask me to approve his remote access. Makes me sad because so many people would have bought into it — my housemate for one. She’s quite a bit older than me and just never really caught on to computers and the internet. Only because I have told her over and over and over again to never ever click on “iffy” links, open “iffy” emails, and certainly, NEVER give any personal info over the phone. If in doubt, hang up and call the purported company directly. But if I had not drilled this into her head, I know she would have heard “Google” and said, “okay, what do you need me to do?”

    Predators.

    1. Typical of the calls I get all the time. I’ve considered getting a new unlisted, unpublished number, but when I consider the hassle of getting so many businesses and contacts up to speed on a new one after 10 years with this one …

      I never give my number to anyone I don’t have to, and never online, for precisely this reason. Not that it matters. They have robodialing and will eventually find you anyway. Makes blocking numbers virtually impossible (even if I had a phone that did that).

      And from one source or another, probably AARP from some years ago, they know how old I am. So I get constant calls and junk mail regarding home security, medic alert devices, funerals, cremations, reverse home mortgages. The list is endless. Well, the calls come in, but I never answer a number I don’t recognize. I have an answering machine if it’s a genuine call.

      1. I typically don’t answer a call from a number I don’t know or doesn’t have a name attached to the number. Unfortunately, when many of my clients call from a business line, the info does not always show. It will usually show the location, so if a state I have some active clients in, then I will answer it. Otherwise, I send to voice mail. If it’s legit, they’ll leave a message and I will call back.

        I never should have given my number out. There were legitimate online pharmacies, but I knew better than to do that. Stupid!!!

        1. My pharmacy uses an automated system to call and tell me a prescription is ready for pick-up. Caller ID displays “IP Voice” and I always have to kick myself with a reminder of what that is. Otherwise I might not even let it go to the machine (because that entails my having to listen to four rings, my recorded response, and their message, and that’s more time and irritation than any telemarketer deserves).

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