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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Who Is Calling Me?

     Are phone scummers and assorted other low-life types calling you? The site Who Calls Me can often give you an idea of who it is that keeps calling. This is a user supplied database of phone numbers of telemarketers, non-profit organizations, charities, political surveyors, SCAM artists, and other companies that don't leave messages, disconnect once you answer, and simply interrupt your day. If you received a strange call, unwanted messages, or just came across a number you don't recognize and want more information about, most likely you are not the only one. Search for this phone number to see the reports of others. If there are no reports yet, leave your comment to start a conversation. 
     Fortunately our answering machine allows us to block calls, but there are so many of these that there must be 15-20 numbers in its database. A while back I accidentally answered one and some low life wanted to speak to a family member, but would not say why. I kept her busy for a minute while I looked up another phone number and advised her that the person she was seeking could better be reached at this new number. She said she was changing it in their database. The number I gave her was for the local FBI. 
     You can report them to the State Attorney General's office, but don't expect them to do anything.  Like most government agencies they are utterly worthless.  The Privacy Rights Clearing House has some interesting information on these kinds of calls.
     One interesting thing is those calls where the phone rings and there is no one on the line. What is happening? Random digit dialing devices are able to dial all possible phone number combinations, even unlisted numbers, and dial them much more rapidly than any person can. Some telemarketers use "predictive dialing" technology to call potential victims who are not on the National Do Not Call Registry. A computer dials many phone numbers in a short period of time. When an individual answers, the computer seeks a sales representative who is not occupied and connects the call. If all employees are handling other calls, the consumer hears dead silence. These are "abandoned calls." In most cases, these calls are from telemarketers.  As for the Do Not Call Registry, many telemarketers, generally criminals anyway, just ignore it.  The FTC has a Consumer Alert on "robocalls" HERE and HERE.
     If you are receiving a lot of abandoned calls you can call your local phone company. My phone company allows me to hang up on the caller then dial *57 and an attempt will be made to trace the call. There are restrictions on what calls can be traced and what the phone company will do. There is also a $10 fee for every call that is successfully traced. You could spend a fortune on this service and all for nothing. 
     My cell phone carrier, Verizon, is probably typical of what is and is NOT an unlawful call. Unwanted Calls are usually not against the law and typically include: Fax calls, Hang-up calls, Computer calls, Solicitation calls, Robocalls, Telemarketing calls, Debt collection calls, Obscene or Harassing Calls.
     Short version...except for the one being called nobody is really interested in stopping these calls.  After all, the scammers have to use the phone company's services to make the calls, so why would they want to put them out of business?  Your best defense is a good answering machine that allows you to to block the numbers.

Check out my post on Phone Scams 
C-net article - Screen unwanted calls without one-at-a-time blocking
Answering Machines with Call Blockers

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