Commentary – Scam phone calls uncontrolled

Jeff Burgar

Last week, May 10, in the space of about three hours, I got three fake phone calls from scammers.
Well, to be honest, if I had to bet my life on them being scams, I wouldn’t take the bet.
But, the three calls were all “tagged” by my Android smartphone as being spam. How does my phone know this? Magic dust? Conferring with the great Samsung database in the sky? Oops! Sorry! In the cloud! Heck, maybe it was Caller I.D.!
I hear phone companies make cash on this caller identification thing. Apparently, every time a name shows on my phone, a tiny portion of a penny gets billed to my account, or the equivalent amount is removed from my calling minutes. The catch here is, my account gets billed even if I don’t answer! Wow, what a racket! Or fake news?
If true, it doesn’t sound like much. But multiplied by a billion robo-calls a day, and it adds up. As in, a million dollars per day. One research outfit figures there may be as many as 90 billion such calls per month.
Anyway, the fourth call was identified as a local convenience store. Since I have no idea why they are calling, I can’t really call it a scam. Maybe they were telling me they had a special on coffee today. That really isn’t a scam, is it?
Of the other three, I answered one. A foreign voice asked me if they could help. Maybe I didn’t follow the script properly when I asked back, “No thanks. Can I help you?”
The nice lady said, “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! Oh, dear!”
Then the line went dead.
Well, gee. No discount travel to Las Vegas and the Caribbean? No Nigerian uncle leaving me a pile of money? No Canada Revenue Agency telling me my social security account is suspended?
I’m told this whole scamming thing is happening a lot lately. On some days, I get no calls at all. Then come a bunch. Many from local numbers. News stories keep reporting how people are being fleeced of thousands of dollars. Sometimes life savings of much bigger amounts.
There is a problem here.
Phone companies say they can’t do much about this. It has to be asked, in this, the 21st century, why not? Somebody is getting their leg pulled. Hard. What possible services are being used by the scammers that, supposedly, are free? Because, it is impossible to believe phone companies don’t charge for this “service,” if they aren’t making money from it.
And if they are making money, the whole can of worms can be traced, right back to the headset that lady used to talk to me.
Internet of Things? That’s when your fridge calls the store to have your order of fresh milk ready. Or your furnace calls for a new filter. Each and every device online knows who, what, where, when and why.
And of course, the phone company is lurking in the back. Taking a cut. Making a tenth or a hundredth or thousandth of a penny. It sure can add up. Long overdue for serious discussion.

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