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May 01, 2017

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-- the kind of phone call that my mother (and many other, especially older people) have gotten, involving a lie about taxes owed, and a frightening threat of arrest if they don’t pay the money on the spot;
That particular scam called almost everybody in the country, I think. I suspect the people most affected were those who actually *did* cheat on their taxes, and they're probably not talking, which might have been the point of the scam.

Agree that telephone spam is totally out of control. My landline is unusable at this point and I mostly keep it only because it's linked to a huge pile of accounts. I never answer it and clear the messages every other week or so. And, like you, I'm starting to have problems with my cell as well. With the telephone I think the solution is prosecution of spam callers, and steep fees on calls from foreign countries that don't coooperate. For email I think the solution is something like a 1 cent fee on emails, with the option to whitelist addresses for groups you really do want mail from.

A month or so ago, a number of people involved in an IRS tax scam were arrested.

Recently a hacker who had compromised thousands around the world and leased them to spammers and scammers was taken down.

I generally don't answer unfamiliar numbers and Google them to see they're legit or not.

More Arrests - And A Guilty Plea - In IRS Phone Scams

U.S. Accuses Russian Email Spammer of Vast Network of Fraud

Gmail is very good at filtering spam. It's hard to change your email of course, but the also have robust forwarding feature one can use during a transitional period of time while switching from the old email.

the vast majority of calls to my cell phone are junk. they're probably 10:1 junk:legit, these days.

there are apps you can buy/subscribe to that will filter some of these calls, but they aren't cheap and i'm loathe to add another monthly cost to owning a cell phone.

I get 1-2 junk calls a month on my cell phone. It is always the same special offer for a trip to the Bahamas. I block that number but they use another one eventually.

All my junk mail goes to one account as I only give my daily email to people and companies that I actually do business with. I get the same 10 junk emails a week that I just delete.

If Hillary had run on the issue of "eliminate spam email and telemarketing calls" she would have won in (more of) a landslide.

BUT HER EMAILS! yeah, I know. And also being stuck on those old 20th century issues and problems. It's like hearing oldsters fighting over Free Silver.

For the current debate on telemarketing: "drone strikes, or nuke them from orbit?"

I'm all in favor of trying drone strikes FIRST, but I'm notoriously moderate and kindly, as the readership here will surely confirm (fingers red button meaningfully)

...also, too, it turns out to have been a mistake to move landlines from copper to fiber.

With copper, at least you can attach a high-voltage power supply to make your displeasure clear.

And that doesn't even deal with mobile-phone spammage, although I'm hoping someone chimes in with "there's an app for that!"

I get 1-2 junk calls a month on my cell phone

i had 29 in April.

So this one day, I bantered back and forth with the guy for quite a few rounds.

A friend of mine did this, but leading the guy on as though he was following his instructions on his computer - and recording it. Once the guy was onto him, they had a fairly lengthy exchange about each other's mothers.

It was funny in a juvenile sort of way. Lemons and lemonade, I guess.

It was funny in a juvenile sort of way.

My occasional forays into actually talking to these people are no doubt juvenile, or maybe the opposite, in the "get off of my lawn" sense.

But I did think the juxtaposition of "Fnck you" with the polite "ma'am" was funny.

*****

Until a couple of months ago I rarely got spam calls on my cell phone. Then it started to pick up, and now I'm climbing toward cleek's level. The landline is up and down: there are phases where it rings 8 or 10 times in a day (I never answer it and I don't have caller ID; anyone I want to talk to will call on my cell). But then days can go by with nothing.

My dim understanding is that it's not a hard technical problem to make this stop. But there's a vested interest in not bothering. (What interest is that?)

Similarly with internet security in the workplace. I keep wondering when the cost burden of keeping data secure will outweigh the value of having the data in the first place. Or maybe it already has, but because money is flowing *somewhere" -- "we" don't care. And that money is being skimmed off of all of us.

I'm sure someone here knows more about this than I do...I would love to hear more from someone knowledgeable.

I keep wondering when the cost burden of keeping data secure will outweigh the value of having the data in the first place.

If you're referring in general to the big piles of customer, employee, etc. data warehoused by various companies and organizations, the answer is definitely 'it already has' for a lot of it.

And yet most of them keep holding onto it.

That's due to various combinations of inertia, aversion to hitting the delete button, lack of institutional processes for actually formalizing that cost/benefit cutoff, vague (and usually unrealistic) hopes of someday mining it for something useful maybe, and cheap storage.

There *are* people in the data world trying to push their bosses to actually think this through and then shift to a perspective where data is (correctly) viewed as a liability rather than an asset, but they're still a minority AFAICT. For the most part data tends not to die.

I want phone companies to offer a whitelist feature, so that no one can make my phone ring that I haven’t pre-approved.

Comcast actually has a pretty good system for blocking calls. We get one, maybe two, rings on the land line, and then it's gone. These days, we go weeks between someone from a new spam calling number gets thru -- and then we just at that number to the list and move on. Not quite the "white list" feature you are asking for, but it mostly does the job.

As for my cell phone, I seem to be exceptionally lucky. As in, I get maybe one spam call a month. Possibly this is because I use that number for very little. Family, work/business calls, but NO commercial accounts, etc.

i block every junk number that comes through. but i know it's pointless: about half of the numbers are spoofed to make it look like it's a call from within the same exchange as my cell #.

Try living in a "battleground state" wj.

Oh, is one of the political parties sharing phone numbers with con artists? Whodathunkit?

I have a contact listing on my cell for "Those F***heads at the Symphony" -- since they always use the same couple of numbers to call from when trying to raise money. I am still annoyed by the ringing but enjoy the amusement of seeing the caller name.

A friend of mine did this, but leading the guy on as though he was following his instructions on his computer

my wife and i used to let my stepson take all the marketing calls when he was middle-school age. he had a repertoire of personas he would use, including a really convincing Bengali housewife.

He could keep them on the line for about 20 minutes on a good night.

Most of the spam on my cell now comes from the text messaging app -- I have a couple dozen numbersfor the contact named "Do Not Answer", for whom my phone does not ring.

When I first got a cellphone, the assigned phone number had most recently belonged to a young woman named Julie with a diverse array of skeevy acquaintances accustomed to call in the wee hours, and a wide selection of unpaid creditors who tended to call during business hours.

If I'm getting any email spam at all, it's drowned in the overwhelming tide of political fundraising email. Two weeks ago I getting fifteen messages a day urging me to give to John Ossof, and another fifteen for various other candidates. In mid-October it was over a hundred messages a day total.

As for my cell phone, I seem to be exceptionally lucky.

my strategy for my cell phone is I don't answer it. works every time!

my strategy for my cell phone is I don't answer it. works every time!

That's funny, it's just the opposite of my custom, which is to answer my cell but not my landline. I don't have caller ID on my landline and no one real calls me on it anyhow.

The problem is going to come when the equivalent of stolen email address boxes starts to get used by phone scammers, and the callers spoof the numbers of my actual friends instead of just numbers in my area code.

At that point I will probably throw the phone in the lake.

Or better yet, I will throw it through the big plate glass window of the store front of my cell provider.

JanieM

You're showing your age, assuming that a modern cell phone, when thrown, could break through a plate glass window. It'll just bounce off, maybe even survive.

Now, one of Ma Bell's CLASSIC desk phones, sure. And give someone a concussion if they got in the way.

So, if you're going to follow through with your plan, I suggest using a rail gun launcher.

And give someone a concussion if they got in the way.

The Naomi Campbell treatment...

I dunno, Snarki, I'm also a cheapskate, so I have the cheapest phone Verizon would sell me. It's not as lightweight as you might think. ;-)

i'm still on a good old flip phone, whatever they'd give me for short money with the plan. i got the "ruggedized" one because I always drop them or run them through the washing machine, it looks like a tiny tonka truck. sounds like a tiny tonka truck, too.

the "ring tone" sounds like a phone ringing. whenever it rings, nobody knows what the hell it is anymore. they think it's some kind of weird alarm. LOL.

i don't have a land line, so I guess I'm just in the "don't answer the phone" club, full stop. if it's my wife, I pick up, otherwise folks know to leave a message and I'll get back to them. or, more likely, they know to email or IM.

the whole idea of having to stop what i'm doing to have a conversation with somebody at any random moment of the day or night just seems crazy to me. i'll get back to you. Most days I don't even turn it on.

I like the whole "Fuck you, ma'am" thing. You got inside his head enough to get him off script, but he stuck to his manners!

:)

I'm with you about the craziness of the assumption that the phone trumps everything else. Pre message machines (yes, there was such a time), I had only one friend who was completely impervious to the demand of a ringing telephone. She didn't care if she never found out who it was. Everyone else *always* got up from whatever they were doing to answer the phone. Then again, the phone didn't actually ring all that often!

Once answering machines were invented, you could ignore the phone if you wanted, and find out who it was later -- and I think there was a phase of the culture where people actually did that! A lot!

Now I will really show my age, but I'm certainly not singing a solo here, when I say that it's now far worse than it ever was. People bring their phones to meetings and let them ring (one of my colleagues has a cat meowing, it's the most bizarre thing, especially when I'm dialed in to the meeting remotely). They bring them to dinner, they apparently bring them on dates....

It seems like *nothing* is uninterruptible by the need to answer texts (admittedly more domineering than the actual voice phone these days) immediately. NOW! Whoever is on the other end of that line is *always* more important than the actual human being(s) sitting right in front of you.

I was going to rant a bit about the old days when people behind counters would let actual humans wait in line because the phone always came first, but that doesn't seem to happen much anymore. Well, a surviving version of it is that a driver coming up to drive-up teller slot will get waited on immediately, before the people waiting in the actual line in the bank.

me: Then again, the phone didn't actually ring all that often!

And of course, hard as it is to remember in terms of how our lives were organized, the damned phone stayed home. (Even there, in my experience, it didn't ring that often (okay, I'm an introvert).) But now it even rings in public bathrooms, and people actually talk on it in that setting!

Once semi-long ago (14 years), I was in Providence looking at colleges with my son. We were walking down a busy street looking for a place to eat, and a young woman near us on the sidewalk was on her phone having a bad fight with her boyfriend. Like, maybe it was her birthday, and they were breaking up?

And my son started walking faster and faster, until I had to tell him I couldn't keep up. And he said, "I'm just trying to give her some privacy." And I said, "She's having the conversation on a public street! If she wants privacy that's her problem, not mine!"

See, I was curmudgeonly even before I was this old.....

But I did like the fact that my son was a courteous young man. ;-)

I still get mildly freaked out when people talk on those headsets in public.

First I think they're talking to me, and I have no idea who they are or what they are talking about.

Then, I think they are talking to themselves, or maybe their invisible friend, and I discretely look around for paths of escape.

Then, I realize they're talking on the phone. The phone that they're wearing on their head.

Odd times, these.

I wonder if the culture around phones changed because, at least as I remember it, initially most us with mobile phones had them for work. In particular, I only had the phone when I was On Call -- having that phone meant I could at least leave home for a bit, rather than having to be sitting home by the (land line) phone.

So yeah, it got priority over the people I was out to dinner with. Because it was work, and it was the reason I was able to be out to dinner at all.

That's not the current situation for most people who, of course. But I think it may be where today's phone culture comes from.

meanwhile, another jazz-related off topic drive-by.

just found out the great Horace Parlan passed, back in Feb of this year.

Parlan had a partially crippled right hand as a consequence of childhood polio. And, nonetheless, became a gifted, original, and beautiful player. His discography is as long as your right arm, and your other arm, too.

Jazz is a real hunger artist discipline. you work your damned ass off, for many many years, and if you're lucky the number of people who give a shit about what you do is, maybe, enough to fill a high school auditorium.

Some folks live for beauty. Dedicate themselves to it, accept it as their pedagogue and their master. And, a small number of them get far enough to break through to where they're really doing it.

To do all that, with a fairly significant physical impediment, is a pretty big achievement.

RIP Horace, and thanks for the beautiful music. You done good.

Somewhat related to the post--

http://theweek.com/articles/695333/write-internet-im-sorry

Russell--

on the off chance you're a mystery reader, one of the side bits I enjoy in Michael Connelly's great Harry Bosch books is Bosch's love of jazz and his occasional encounters with old jazzmen around Los Angeles. It's a nice touch.

Amazon's Harry Bosch drama series based on the books are pretty good too. Even has some jazz.

hey jakeb, thanks for the heads up, i will check it out!

Perhaps lj would educate us all into the detailed cultural norms of mobile-phone use in Japan.

I know there are "no phone zones", and other zones where it is okay, and (at least pre-smartphone) a convenient "politeness switch" on phones to turn off the ringer. Which is MUCH better than negotiating half a dozen menus to "STFU dammit!"

I'll try and talk about mobile phones, but give me a bit to collect my thoughts.

A present for Russell and the other jazzers out there, this was passed to me by my jazz lab band director.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DnBr070vcNE

"Which is MUCH better than negotiating half a dozen menus to "STFU dammit!" "

One of the things I like about my phone is it has a mute and a do not disturb setting on the pull down settings on the main screen.

Related:

http://theweek.com/articles/695333/write-internet-im-sorry

This problem has already been 90%+ solved in the UK.

It's illegal to contact a person once they have indicated they no longer wish to be contacted, and the process of opting out of contact can be done through a central agency called the Telephone Preference Service.

Failure to comply is greeted with a £5000 fine per breach.

I get occasional - once a month - calls on the landline, and the caller is told swiftly to remove my name from their database or face prosecution.

Email still gets loads of spam, but as others have mentioned, gmail probably filters 99.9% of it. I don't remember the last time a genuine spam got through to my inbox.

You just need to live in a country that cares a little bit more about its citizens than its corporations.

Good luck with that.

You just need to live in a country that cares a little bit more about its citizens than its corporations.

Easier said than done, either way.

But also, the calls I get are not from legitimate corporations, they're from crooks. The do-not-call list in the US works pretty well in my experience though it should go further and make charities and political entities subject to the same rules as businesses: if I say don't call, don't fucking call.

So...what feature of the UK system stops the criminal scammers from robo-calling everyone all day long? Surely a scamming call center in India or Bangladesh isn't all that worried about the fine, so are they being blocked by technical means? And we can't have that in the US because it would then be too easy to block corporations as well, and they won't have it?


But also, the calls I get are not from legitimate corporations, they're from crooks.

So where would A-Holes cold calling people to sell stocks or other securities fall on the spectrum between crooks and legit corporations?

So where would A-Holes cold calling people to sell stocks or other securities fall on the spectrum between crooks and legit corporations?

I don't get calls like that, so it's easy to assume (and I guess I am) that they're legit enough to be paying attention to the do-not-call list, which, as I said, I feel works pretty well.

Then again -- if it's a robo-call I invariably hang up without waiting long enough to hear what they're pretending to offer me. So maybe I do get the calls you're talking about and I just don't know it.

If someone calls me to sell me something even though I've put my name on the do not call list, then they're definitely A-holes. Whether they're technically crooks is a matter for a lawyer, isn't it? ;-)

But if it’s a real product, that's still a little different from someone who is only calling to steal my credit card #.

From Do Not Call Compliance FAQs:

What are the Penalties for Violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule? Anyone who violates the Rule is subject to civil penalties of up to $16,000 ($40,000 beginning 08/01/16) per violation. In addition, violators may be subject to nationwide injunctions that prohibit certain conduct, and may be required to pay redress to injured consumers.

The latter relating to sanbikinoraion's comment earlier.

"So where would A-Holes cold calling people to sell stocks or other securities fall on the spectrum between crooks and legit corporations?"

How I miss the days when fast talking strangers from Boca Raton would call me during the dinner hour. One guy would address me as "Johnny".

I'd say they fall somewhere in the same vicinity on the spectrum, by which I mean below the "crook" line, as these Wall Street analysts, who now refer to wages and pay raises for people who work for a living as a "wealth transfer" and a "worrying precedent".

http://www.seattletimes.com/business/wall-street-balks-as-american-airlines-gives-employees-pay-raises/

As Russell points out, they want it all. And they want it as an untaxable entitlement.

No doubt they also refer to the breathing the rest of us do as an "oxygen transfer".

No doubt they also refer to the breathing the rest of us do as an "oxygen transfer".

If so, then I'd be happy to give them lots and lots of oxygen, concentrated LIQUID oxygen.

And a match.

"Job creators" who hire people to make unsolicited calls are only doing their patriotic duty to grow The Economy. What's wrong with you people?

--TP

So where would A-Holes cold calling people to sell stocks or other securities fall on the spectrum between crooks and legit corporations?

In the U.K, that would be straightforwardly illegal - though it is not illegal to cold call to sell investment services:
https://www.ftadviser.com/2015/11/19/ifa-industry/your-business/cold-calling-need-not-be-a-hot-potato-DKHfwDRCdSp09VDbworRzL/article.html

Horace Parlan passed...

Never heard of the guy, but your post moved me to look up his music.
Thanks, russell.

A couple of people have mentioned that gmail filters spam quite well. So does my DSL provider (whose email I use), so do the services that my workplace has used.

But spam filtering is still an overhead that costs somebody something, even if in my case it's folded into my DSL fee and in gmail's case it's hidden...somewhere else.

An employee at my local Verizon store once told me, patronizingly condescending to a person he thought was a non-tech-savvy old lady, that Verizon couldn’t help it if I got unsolicited “premium texts” that might cost me as much as $10 apiece; it wasn’t their problem, they just allowed the spammy texts through their system and passed the bill to me on my phone bill.

And anyhow, he said, this kind of thing was inevitable because our mobile phone system was “an open system” and that was a wonderful thing. Of course, I could pay Verizon $ to get an unlimited texting plan and do away with the problem that way, or (and he didn’t tell me this, the little twerp), I could just block all texts. Which I eventually figured out, and did.

I told him that the “open system” wasn’t an act of God, it was an act of Congress, and Congress could change it if they wanted to. He was a little surprised that the bumbling old lady with the flip phone knew anything about the relationship between cell phones and Congress. As far as that goes, I suspect he himself thought God gave the system to us on Mt. Sinai.

This was back when cramming was still legal, or practiced, or something. (Phone companies passing along third party charges on phone bills and taking no responsibility for anything else but the pass-through.)

We have a certain kind of system for reasons.


*****

Also, I meant to come back to this from jack lecou:

If you're referring in general to the big piles of customer, employee, etc. data warehoused by various companies and organizations, the answer is definitely 'it already has' for a lot of it.

I wasn’t thinking of that, but that’s another interesting piece of this topic.

What I was thinking of was the increasingly burdensome overhead of just trying to keep any kind of data whatsoever secure from hackers and thieves. I get an ID protection service through my workplace, and they send out a newsletter every week about that week’s breaches: stolen social security numbers, medical information, etc. etc.

I got a text once from my credit card company, asking if it really was me trying to buy a $4,000 guitar at a store in California.

Nope.

It's fairly easy to keep data 100% secure. The problem is letting (some) people have access to it.

See this pile of 9track 6250bpi tapes here? TOTALLY secure.

And they've got SECRETS. GOOD secrets, secret secrets. Mmm mmm, if only you knew.

Fuck you, Republicans:

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/house-goper-move-to-another-state-if-you-have-a-pre-existing-condition

Get your bullshit Republican filth Civil War right here, suckers:

http://juanitajean.com/and-you-thought-there-was-no-downhill-from-why-did-we-fight-the-civil-war/

I got a text once from my credit card company, asking if it really was me trying to buy a $4,000 guitar at a store in California.

on the flip side of that: we recently cancelled a credit card because their fraud detection system was too aggressive; our cards we being frozen once a month when we bought something it didn't approve of, like groceries at the same place we always shop, or music from iTunes or whatever. it did catch someone trying to buy train tix in Barcelona, but it also caught me trying to get a haircut down the road from my house.

It's absolutely daft for providers to be able to charge your bill for contacts you didn't initiate. In the UK, again, you only pay to call or text someone. The receiving party pays nothing.

The exception is receiving phone calls when you're roaming abroad: at my mother-out-law's place in Switzerland, downstairs my UK mobile roams onto the cell towers in France, across the lake, where it's 5p/min for inbound and outbound calling. Upstairs in Switzerland, it's £1.20/min either way. And, hilariously, £5 per megabyte. Megabytes didn't even cost £5 when you had to buy them in the form of 3.5" floppy disks!

Re: Indian call-centres, I would assume it's simply not worth their while racking up the phone charges to make the calls. But then again, my mother-in-law had the "Microsoft Support" one last year in Switzerland. But then she actively subscribes in for all the flyers from the supermarkets and stuff, so I wouldn't be surprised if she's somehow got on a list somewhere of gullible idiots to try it on with.

in 2016, only 17% of the fraud phone calls in the US actually originated in the US.

https://www.pindrop.com/phone-fraud-report/

Voice over IP and free long-distance on cell phones make it easy to set up shop in India, where US laws have no reach.

the world of fraud is flat!

"Voice over IP and free long-distance on cell phones make it easy to set up shop in India, where US laws have no reach."

But drones do reach. And the NSA spysats can certainly pinpoint the source.

We have to strike 'em over there so we don't have to deal with their damned spam over here, amirite?

But unless they start sending spam texts to Trump's personal (twitter generating) phone, why would we bother worrying about it? Let alone running a drone strike.

Some years ago my email address managed to get on enough spam lists that I was getting about 10,000 spam emails a mouth. Currently, it's about 400-500.

In case anyone might still notice, there's this:

drat ... messed up link

Vermont town's phone number used by hackers... ... town has to pay.

It could be you, or me, or anyone. My understanding from the security admins I know is that the phone companies could stop this, but they won't.

but they won't

there is a valid (and widely used) use for number spoofing: a big company with an internal phone system needs a way to allow outgoing calls from its users even though those internal users don't have actual phone-company-issued phone numbers; so, when the user dials '9' to get an outside line, the company's phone system slaps the company's external number on the outgoing call.

the ID on the call is spoofed. but this is actually more correct than not putting a number on the call at all.

My sense is that there is a growing use here of number spoofing for the purpose of generating a local number. Any local number. The thought apparently being that people will be wary of a number far away, but tend to assume that a local number (i.e. in their own area code) is legitimate.

they're definitely doing that. which is why i ignore and then block all calls coming from the same area code + exchange as my own number.

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