Friday, November 15, 2019

4520 New Fiction: Caller ID

Once a valuable reference book, now, useless, but biodegradable. 

You used to have to pay extra for caller ID.  A valuable service. You’d always know who was calling.  Well, almost always. Now, it’s almost as useless as the phonebook -- which used to be free.  

Spoofing.  That means replacing the number your phone sends to … the person you’re calling.  Cops, fire departments, your grandchildren, real or imagined. Spoofing is so easy, even a kid can do it.  Or a crook. 

Phone customers have developed a market-based response to this current evil. First, many just dropped their landlines, the most frequent targets of scammers and spoofers.  

But the bad guys caught on quickly and set their autodialers to random cell numbers.

Now people don’t answer cellphones, either.

It used to be tough to resist a ringing phone. But people have conquered this problem with the Magic Chant: “If it’s important, they’ll leave a message.”  How many times have you said that already this month?

Spoofing isn’t always against the law, only when there’s fraudulent intent. Try proving that.

But all is not lost. There are defenses and you don’t even need an app or a smartphone to use them.

Here at the Wessays™ Secret Mountaintop Laboratory, our operators answer the phone “Fraud Bureau. How may I help you?” That generally results in a hangup.  Notice, we do not say what the Fraud Bureau is a bureau of.  Can’t say cops or any other law enforcement police.  That would be an actual crime.

And here at the lab, we play games with the latest iteration of the robocall, the Interactive Babe.  It’s always an automated voice of a woman.


Us: “Fraud Bureau. How may I help you?”
Robot (cheerful, youthful): Hi! This is Lorna Dune. I’m calling you on a recorded line.  Is this Mr. Mountaintop Laboratory?”
Me: “Speaking.” (Never say the word “yes” to a robot. Explanation below.)
R: I’m here to tell you about a wonderful real estate opportunity. May I?”
M: “I will listen.” (Remember: Not “yes” or “sure” or “okay.”)
R: Well, let me ask you a few questions to make sure you qualify.  Are you breathing?”
M: “I can both inhale and exhale.” 
R: “Do you like sunny skies and warm temperatures?”
M: “I like all weather.”
R: “Give me a sec and I’ll check whether you qualify.”
M: “I’ll wait.”
R: “Good News. You qualify. Now may I put a Sunny Sky Timeshare specialist on this call with us?”
M: “First I have a question for you.”
R: You have a question for me? I’ll be happy to answer.
M: “Are you free for dinner tonight? I know I nice place nearby where we can talk some more.”
R: “I’m sorry, I can’t answer that. Any other questions before I connect you with a Sunny Skies Timeshare Specialist?”
M: “Uh. What are you wearing?”
R: Okay, I’ll connect you. Please stand by.”
Live Operator: Hello Mr. Laboratory, this is Alfred, a Sunny Skies Specialist.  Let me ask you a few questions.”
M: Sure Mr. Live Operator.  But Ms. Dune didn’t answer my last question.”
Specialist: “What was that?”
M: for the sake of our G rating, I won’t disclose the question. 

But I tell him and it has something to do with the manufacture of human embryos in a low rent motel or the back of an SUV.

He hangs up. It takes a lot of time to do this. But it’s worth it if you have the time and like to fool the foolers.  Remember, for every minute they spend on the phone, that’s a minute they can’t be trying to scam someone else.

Now, about why you never say “yes” to a robot.  Because they record the calls and can use your recorded “yes” to any questions including but not limited to “May I put you down for a $10,000 down payment?”

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ® 
Please send comments to
© WJR 2019

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