When the Phone Don’t Ring, We Know It’s Carmen

A few weeks ago we ported our landline number to Ooma’s VOIP service, turned on their Community Blacklist, blacklisted a few pests that crept through, and … the scam calls vanished. For the first week, the only calls we received came from people we know.

Most of the Caller ID numbers seem faked, so one side effect of blocking them will be to prevent calls from real persons or businesses eventually assigned those numbers. In particular, I’ve set up a blacklist filter that kills calls from numbers that differ from ours in only the last few digits: at least one scammer combined the first several digits of the called number with some random digits at the end.

Obviously, it’s impossible to kill all the faked numbers. The filters work surprisingly well, though.

Killing nearly all the scam calls is worth ten bucks a month right there, even though it seems odd to pay a private party to prevent illegal action by somebody else. Used to be the government put our tax dollars to work and dealt with people who performed illegal actions, but … that was then, this is now.

As an aside, I wonder how the NSA handles all those scam calls. Given that the Feds regard anybody within three or four hops of a Person Of Interest to be a Person of Interest, not only should all the scammers have terrorist tags (they call everybody all the time, right?), we ordinary folks picking up the phones are now within a few hops of a known terrorist affiliate.

Conversely, if the NSA discards scam calls, then I know precisely how to set up the perfect terrorist communications network.

Verizon refunded $3.11 from our last bill and didn’t try to convince us to retain our landline service. They’d recently “upgraded” our copper line to fiber, so the basement has a nice Optical Network Terminal that I just unplugged; they don’t seem to want it back. Maybe I’ll harvest the 12 V 8 Ah (!) SLA battery for a project.

We’re not interested in the FiOS “Triple Play” special offers that hover around $90/month for two years, plus unknown equipment charges, plus a regional sports network surcharge, plus unknown taxes and fees, with or without a $250 gift card kickback, with or without a discounted tablet. The cable company recently boosted what we pay for 15/3 cable to $60/month, so we’re definitely trapped by a duopoly.

Some things (all, some, or none of which may be true) I learned while chatting with various contestants:

  • Overtalking them with “You may hang up at any time if you agree that you’re a scammer” produces either an immediate hangup (they agree!) or a very interesting discussion.
  • Starting with “You have sixty seconds to prove you’re not a scammer. Go!” generally produces an immediate hangup.
  • Setting up a call center “the size of your garage” costs about 85 kilobucks and provides seats for about a dozen “agents”.
  • It’s the best job you’ve had, if you’ve been unemployed for three years, because it’s minimum wage plus a bonus for every prospect you “qualify”, all without having to work in a retail environment. I was unable to discover when the bonus kicks in, but likely after the Level 2 closer sucks actual money out of the victim’s credit card account.
  • Some contestants sincerely believe they’re doing a Good Thing: helping people get lower interest rates on their credit card debt. Pointing out that I’ve asked my credit card issuer whether that works and getting a firm “No!” in reply doesn’t change their belief in the least.

It’s sad that getting a dead-end job in a scamming company might be the best thing that’s happened to some of those folks in a long time. Makes me almost regret having some of them break down and cry under interrogation…