Telephone spam

Over the past two months I have been getting harassing phone calls from a machine. The recording always features the same woman’s voice offering a vaguely described financial service that is “about to expire.”

The Caller ID number, it turns out, never tells me where the call really originated; instead they use some number that has been disconnected. So it’s clear at the outset that something shady is going on: The caller wants to put the touch on you without giving you any way to call back and complain.

I call this “telephone spam” because, as with junk email, trying to get off the company’s dialing list only proves that your number is valid, assuring that it will be dialed more frequently. Yet these calls are hard to screen because Caller ID always shows just a telephone number and (usually) the message “Out of area.” My mother’s mobile phone also gives the “Out of area” message, so I am inclined to pick up the phone whenever I see it.

We are on the National Do Not Call List, so I have been dutifully filing complaints each time a call occurs. The FTC, which receives the complaints, makes no promises to do anything about them. All it offers is a way of documenting the offenses for possible action by some law enforcement agency. (Don’t hold your breath.)

On Monday I received two of these calls, exactly one hour apart. The first peddled an auto warranty; the second, lower credit card rates. This time I filed a complaint with the state attorney general (here, located through the well maintained page How to Report Fraud in Alabama).

Consumer fraud makes me angry. Now I want to help defeat these people.

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2 thoughts on “Telephone spam

  1. Often I don’t know where to begin with situations like this. I wish the Do Not Call List was binding with legislation, but I’ve never seen anyone propose it.

  2. Based on feedback I’ve gotten in person, it appears that there’s a veritable plague of phone spam in Birmingham right now. On Saturday, while I was stripping paint from a plaster ceiling at the Quaker House, I answered the phone and heard yet another solicitation for an auto warranty.

    What most angers me is the realization that these callers are trolling for the most vulnerable consumers out there — inexperienced young people, old people living alone, anyone who struggles to live independently. A government that can’t or won’t intervene in a case like this seems to me to be a failing government. I’m thinking in particular of Alabama state government.

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