A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Phone scams when even breathing is hard

Written September 14th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

What “hazardous” air quality looks like, on Ninth at Geary shortly after 2 p.m. Monday.

Air made hazardous to breathe because of wildfire smoke means nothing to the creeps who want to steal your identity and your cash. The attempts at telephone scams just keep coming, and the question is why the phone companies don’t make them stop.

The scammers have learned to trick you into picking up the phone or answering your smartphone when a call comes in. They make it appear that the call is coming from someone you know, or at least from someone in town. The caller ID shows a phony number, but one that looks like it’s local, along with a phony name.

My favorite is the one with an accented voice announcing that they have detected fraudulent activity involving your Social Security number, and press 1 if you want to find out more. This is a close relative of the call that announces they have a warrant for your arrest, and you better respond or dire consequences will ensue.

Most people getting these calls hang up. That’s obvious. But a few apparently don’t. If nobody ever fell for these tricks, the scams would stop.

But why is it possible for the scammers to fake the numbers from which these calls are made? If caller ID can be fooled so often, and by  criminals at that, what good is caller ID? Surely the technology exists to prevent people from disguising the number from which they’re making a call.

The phone companies can’t be blamed for particular crimes committed by means of their wires or their cell phone towers. But they should be held responsible for failing to fix their systems so that the caller-ID feature they are selling can’t be fooled.

What does this have to do with hazardous air? (The PM 2.5 reading Monday afternoon in Albany was 394.) Well, annoying calls from thieves are doubly annoying when you’re stuck inside because the air outside is dangerous to breathe. (hh)

Posted in: Uncategorized

8 responses to “Phone scams when even breathing is hard”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    One tool I use to help minimize the # of spam-calls coming in:
    http://nomorobo.com/ Absolutely free and my junk-calls dropped 90% over a period of several weeks as it was “learning” on my VoIP land-line phone. They do have one for cell-phones too, but it;s $1.99/mo.

    When a call comes in, your phone rings. However, after about 2 rings, it can detect that it’s a phony call and will then block that call from again ringing your phone. You may “see” it, but hear no ring and then it drops off…

    As usual, these spammers & scammers are playing one-upmanship with folks trying to block them… Nevertheless, the massive reduction in calls initially was/is wonderful. :-)

  2. HowlingCicada says:

    One interesting thing about garbage calls during 20 years on both landline and cell (same number) is that they’ve almost never left a message on my answering machine or voicemail. Maybe to avoid leaving evidence? Never got more than 2-3 per month, almost never answered.

    It’s unconscionable that caller-ID won’t be made to work. Another symptom of untrammeled “free” enterprise?

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    Robocalls – we still get them. They are spoofing actual phone numbers to hide themselves. We have received several with our land line and name as the caller.
    Until the do nothings in Washington get off their collective backsides and actually do something for their constituents we will have to put up with it.
    Being on the do not call list has not helped either.
    Tip – if you don’t recognize the number don’t pick it up. If it is someone who really wants to reach you they will leave a message. Leave a message on you phone to the effect that you don’t know the number called from and will not answer unless someone leaves a message.
    Taking a nap? Unplug or turn off!!
    Stay safe everyone

  4. Richard Smith says:

    Interesting fact: We had AT&T (cell) and were getting 20+ junk calls (spam and scam) a week. AT&T had zero interest in actually doing anything. Moved our accounts toT-Mobile, and have had two, in over two months.

    It’s so bad that we no longer answer our land line, instead letting every call go to answering machine. Weeds out most! Sad that we pay for these services, and get treated this way!

  5. centrist says:

    Nothing requires answering the phone. If I don’t recognize the ID, I simply don’t answer. I’ll consider a message, but haven’t found one yet that isn’t immediately dumped.

  6. Brad says:

    The reason caller ID spoofing hasn’t been stopped in the past 20 years that it’s been a thing is because our phone systems are still running on the same basic technology that they’ve been using for about 100 years. Sure, they upgrade equipment and make things fancier, but the basics of how the whole system functions hasn’t actually changed at all. A huge overhaul of the entire system is needed, involving hundreds of phone companies across the country coming up with something new and everyone implementing the same new thing. It will never happen.

    Some law was passed a year or two ago that promises to authenticate all phone calls so you’ll know for sure that the person calling you is legit. The problem with their idea is that it’s still running on that 100 year old system and it’s gotta stay backwards compatible with all the equipment from the past, so I kind of have my doubts their authentication is going to do any good at all. If they shut down the scammers from spoofing, they shut down legitimate businesses ability to do it too. Yes, legitimate businesses need to spoof.

    The thing that will fix the issue with be the death of the 100 year old system that our land lines are running on. It doesn’t need to change, it needs to die. We need to move on to something better that has real authentication built into it. A universal internet standard that can be updated occasionally will do the trick. Until that happens, enjoy those robocalls because they’re not going anywhere.

  7. Richard Vannice says:

    Brad – have you used the 100 year old system? If you were making a call off your “party line” you had to go through an operator. Yes it was slow and your neighbors all knew your business.
    Is what we have now really that much better?

    • Brad says:

      I know about party lines and how much they sucked, though I’ve never experienced them myself. I would say yes, what we have today is much better than all your neighbors being sneaky and listening to you. At least when the NSA listens, they’re not allowed to spread all your gossip around town.


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