For Whom the Bell Tolls—But Who the #%&@! is Calling? by Norm Brown

I know a lot of people nowadays are using only their cell phone instead of a dedicated phone line at their home. Mostly due to the fact that I have an older ADT alarm system connected to my landline, I still have both. Like everyone, I carry my cell phone with me wherever I go, but very few people, mostly family, get that number. Also, call me out-of-date, but I really don’t like a ringer or buzzer going off in my pocket all the time. It reminds me too much of when I used to be “on call” during off business hours for Dell IT. I still flinch when my cell phone rings, though now it doesn’t always mean trouble.

For many years my current setup worked fine, but I think anyone with a home phone will agree that during the last couple of years the robo calls, political calls, sales calls, and outright scams have become a real nuisance, if not a threat to your security. I’ve had Caller-ID since it first became available. (Remember when you had to have a separate little display device attached to the line?) Now, more than ever before, I rudely screen my incoming calls. If the phone number is blocked, I simply do not answer–ever.  If it’s important the caller can leave a message to identify himself and provide a number. If the number is an 8xx type or some area code I do not recognize with no caller name or a suspicious looking name, I do the same. Apparently you can put anything you want for a Caller-ID name. Occasionally I do have to apologize when some business or person I know starts to leave a message. That is very infrequent.

Even so, it is still an annoyance to have to go over to the phone, look at the Caller-ID, wait and wonder. I have, however, found a few tricks to at least in some cases reassure myself that I did the right thing by not answering. Some charities call so often without displaying a Caller-ID name that I immediately recognize the number and just go back to what I was doing. Also, I have discovered that there is information available on the internet about some of the other unfamiliar numbers. After ignoring one of these calls, I type the number in the form nnn-nnn-nnnn into Google search. It will always list a bunch of websites offering to provide information. If it is a legitimate business, you may get their actual website name. This is fairly rare in my case. Many of the other listed hits from the search are from websites that charge a fee to get a name or address for the caller. I don’t use those. A useful site that pops up pretty often is “800notes.com”. This is a popular website that you can search for a specific phone number. It lists any complaints/comments users have reported to them. I don’t know what else they offer, but this has been really useful for me and it’s free. To see an example, search the site for “307-243-5143.” This is a number used to call me by one of those foreign scammers claiming to be a Microsoft technician calling to get access to your PC and solve some made up problem. By the way, Microsoft does not monitor your computer system for problems or cold call customers. As you can tell from the complaints, this is a dangerous scam. If allowed access, they put a virus on your PC and then charge to remove it. The number is fake (Wyoming) and is not the only one they use. To research a caller that did not provide a name but is local or from a legitimate looking area code, there are a number of websites that provide a free reverse look up on a phone number. I’ve used “Whitepages.com” and “anywho.com/whitepages”. These work only for numbers listed in White Pages or Yellow Pages across the country. If the call is unlisted or from a cellphone, you’re out of luck, as far as I can tell.

I’m no expert on this subject, but maybe this information might be useful to someone. Unfortunately, I don’t currently have a way to block or reduce the frequency of these calls. You should register your phone numbers on the Do Not Call list (donotcall.gov), though I’m not sure how effective it has been overall. I’ve seen a lot of debate about that and it doesn’t include charities or political calls anyway.

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.

6 Comments

Filed under internet, life, Norm Brown, writing

6 responses to “For Whom the Bell Tolls—But Who the #%&@! is Calling? by Norm Brown

  1. I still have an old land line too. It’s the number I give to people I don’t want to talk to. We never answer it and only check the voice messages on it once or twice a week. Before I return any call I use the 800notes website.

  2. I miss my land line. Talking on a cell phone for any length of time can be very annoying. Thanks for the tip about 800notes.com. I’ll have to try it next time I get a mystery call.

  3. Thanks, Norm. I think we’ll always keep our land line for the sake of security. Since cell phones are two way radios, I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying things that may be heard by others. I was backstage at a play one time and a conversation between 2 people was coming over the two way radio the stage manager had. Distracting!

  4. We still have a landline because we make and receive international calls. But yes, we get lots of fake calls too. Unfortunately out caller ID doesn’t recognize international, so we end up answering a hundred fake calls to every one real one, just in case someone in England needs to speak with us. Least favorite fakes – the dreaded Windows one, and the “last chance” we’ll get to do something dire to our credit card.

  5. Although we’ve been on the Do Not Call list and have updated our registration on that list, many calls get through. It won’t be long before cell phones get the same amount of SPAM calls. I’ve got something on my cell that lets me read messages in voice mail. Saves me a lot of time cause I can see from the first few words if I want to delete or read.

  6. Thanks, Norm, for the info on 800notes.com. I didn’t know about that. I, too, am on the “do not call” list, but these days, I can’t say it helps at all. I wish something could be done about receiving calls we don’t want. Maybe one day.

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