Saturday, May 11, 2019

Still Life with Robin: It`s Not Me...Despite What It Says on Your Caller ID

Don't Pick Up The Phone!
by Peggy Robin

The hot topic on the Cleveland Park Listserv over the past few days has been the unrelenting toll of phone spam on our mobiles and our landlines. Eighteen messages have been posted on this problem over the past three days. Some people report getting four or five calls a day, all from someone supposedly named Jason, whose unwanted calls display a different spoofed number each time. Some people have found relief in call blocking apps and screening programs. Others let all calls from unrecognized numbers go straight to voicemail. Or they use the call blocking features built into their phones or their carrier’s system. There are ways to combat this problem.   

But that's not the problem I have. The one I have -- I can't think of a way around it. My problem is that I’ve been cast unwittingly in the “Jason” role. My phone number has been spoofed by the spammers. It's bad enough that they call me a dozen times a day -- but I don't have to pick up, so I don't. What's worse is that they’re calling others, thousands, maybe millions of times, and for some of those times, they are making people think it's me. So now people all over the area are blocking my number, as if I were the culprit. And I have no way to defend my phone honor.     

Yesterday, I got a call from someone who received a spam call that displayed my number. She dealt with it by calling the number she thought was responsible. I told her what I thought had happened to my number, and she was very understanding. But that means nothing to the thousands of other random strangers who must be seeing my number come up on a spam call. I can't explain to every one of them what's gone wrong.   

A good portion of them will deal with the problem by blocking my number. No harm done if they remain strangers. But what if one of them is a Cleveland Park listserv member? And what if  that member has a lost dog and needs my help in getting a post on the listserv ASAP? I could get an urgent message in such a situation, but be blocked from calling back. I can think of any number of other not-so-far-fetched scenarios that could end badly, all because my number has been misused by phone scammers – and all without any consequences for them for what they've done.   

Of all the posts made on the listserv so far, the one I found most interesting was this one, from a list member from Austria, who observed that while in Austria “I get no spam calls, pay $24 for a month of mobile phone with full roaming in all of Europe and get a months' worth of high-speed internet access for $35.” He went on to say, “It's not a technical problem, it's a regulatory problem, and if we don't demand better of our politicians we won't get better service.”     

Ah, so there's my solution! I can move to Austria. Because there's no solution for the American phone system coming from our political leaders any time soon.

Still Life with Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.  

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