Attack of the phony phoners

I’m becoming increasingly popular. I must be. Suddenly, people from all over the country are trying to contact me. Today I got calls from Brookhaven, New York; Downers Grove, Illinois, and Madisonville, Tennessee. I’m not sure what any of them wanted though, because I didn’t answer.

I used to answer every call I got on my cellphone. Well, except the ones I got in church. I didn’t answer those.

But then I had a string of callers claiming they could lower my credit card interest rate or that I was in trouble with the IRS. I even had a message one day warning me that there’s been a warrant issued for my arrest in a town I’ve never visited. I wish I could remember the name of it, because I probably should avoid it.

And they always call at a bad time, though I suppose they can’t be blamed for that. The only good time for them to call is never.

I’ve always been careful about sharing my cellphone number, but clearly, it’s fallen into the wrong hands. I bet half my recent callers have been phony phoners. You must have heard from them too. By one estimate, Americans received 29 billion unsolicited calls in 2016. Of course, those were not all scams, but plenty of them must have been. According to one survey, we lose $8.6 billion annually to phone scams. I think after they die, anyone who ever sold phone numbers to scammers should spend all eternity listening to robocalls.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve changed my phone behavior to defend myself. There was a time I dropped everything to answer the phone. These days, I don’t even set my cellphone to ring. When it vibrates, I glance casually at the caller ID on the off chance that I might recognize the number. Most likely I don’t, so I let the call go to voice mail. It’s true. The bad guys have forced me to screen my calls. Apparently everyone else does too, because no one takes my calls anymore either.

We’re fighting back the only way we know how. We’ve stopped answering. But scammers are tricky. Thanks to phone spoofing software, they can make it look like they’re calling from anywhere, including our own area code or even a business we’re familiar with. Maybe leopards can’t change their spots, but skunks can change their stripes.

I know I should hang up, and I do. But sometimes I want to give them a piece of my mind. I want to ask them if their mother knows what they do for a living or tell them I’ll give them my credit card number if they give me theirs first. 

When they call me to tell me my computer is having issues, I want to say mournfully, “Isn’t that just my luck. My dog died. I’m being evicted. Someone stole my car, but I don’t see how, because it didn’t even run. And now this! Thank goodness you called. I don’t need trouble with my computer too. Here’s my credit card number. Are you ready? Kidding!”    

I don’t though. I hang up. But I’ve succumbed to temptation a few times. Once I told a scammer to get a real job. Another time, I knew as soon as I saw the name on my caller ID that it was a scammer. I lost my temper, picked up the phone and screamed into it, “Stop calling me!” It was a recording.