Local View: Any ideas for out-sneaking sneaky phone scammers?
In my opinion, besides robbing the general public, scammers using the telephone are putting an end to worthwhile and honest telemarketing.
Just the other day, for example, a manly sounding gentleman claiming to be from the Paralyzed American Veterans called. Because we have been receiving five to six scam calls per day, partway through his speech, I said: "I can't tell whether you're a scammer or not. Please forgive me, but I'm going to hang up."
According to MarketWatch, "An estimated one in every 10 Americans lost money to a phone scam in the past 12 months. On average, each scam victim lost $450, totaling about $9.5 billion overall."
For the last five years, I have noticed a great increase in the number of scam phone calls we are getting. The scammers are trying to sell back or leg braces. Some are trying to sell me on how to save money on my bank accounts. Some say they are representing the Internal Revenue Service, and so on.
So to put a stop to this atrocity, we registered our phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. When that didn't work, we had our phone numbers changed. We have, when the phone display said, "Out of Area," picked up and then immediately hung up the phone. That didn't stop the scammers, either.
Because of a scam incident that took place on Jan. 28, I am to the point where I'm going to get rid of our land-line phones. Our telephone number has the Biwabik prefix of 865. At 10:10 a.m. on the 28th our phone rang. I looked at the display. "Biwabik," it read, and the number on the display showed the 865 prefix.
"A call from my friend in Biwabik," I thought. So I picked up the phone and said, "Hello." A robotic female scammer said right away, "Don't hang up. I'm here to tell you how you can save money ..."
"Wow!" I thought. "These crooks are really getting sophisticated."
How can the phone companies allow these scammers to modify the caller information so the call appears to be coming from a neighbor?
Hoping to get some help from our telephone-service provider, I immediately called tech support. After a 20-minute wait, I was able to begin telling my story to a tech-support person. After I talked for two minutes, the techie apparently pushed a button that sent my call to another person. Even though I was being a gentleman, the same thing happened three more times. I got the message. They weren't going to help me either.
By doing what they did, my own telephone-service provider is aiding the scammers. And they also are playing a big part in putting an end to honest telemarketing.
If anybody out there knows of a solution to this problem, I'd be glad to hear it.
Joe Legueri of Gilbert is a writer, lifelong Iron Range resident, regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page, and retired educator who taught English and college writing to grades 7-12 for 35 years at Biwabik and Mesabi East schools.