Common Enemies to Bond Us

Robocall

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — So I’m sitting here thinking – a scary thought, pardon the pun – about ways we can become more unified in these times that are so divisive that we all may as well meet at Gettsyburg and get it over with already.

Before we go there, though, let’s go here.

Let’s think of the late Rodney King, who implored us all to get along in the midst of the Los Angeles riots of 1991.

We have some common enemies, true leeches on our collective hide.

Not matter our heritage or religion, let alone political leaning, they don’t play favorites.

I talk, of course, of scam artists.

I could let my mind wander over to the ultimate such being in the White House, but I won’t go there (even though I just did).

I’ll keep to those who are even worse, as they can ruin your life in a more direct and insidious way, hacking their way into your personal information.

These are some of the most inventive beings out there, lurking in the shadows, and it makes one wonder what would happen if they focused on helping society.

This time of year, especially in an era of Internet shopping, cyber-scamming is ratcheted up several scary notches.

It is not uncommon for “spoofing” sites to be set up set up to capture innocent shoppers looking for a bargain.

Also prevalent this time of year are charity scams, where the money you donate – along with your personal information – goes to the scammer.

While organizations like AARP warn seniors, no one is immune.

All day, and I mean all day, my phone rings with numbers I don’t recognize.

There is no way, and I mean none, that anyone at the other end is out to do you and your family any favors.

At best, it might be someone conducting a political survey.

Yeah, it’s harmless enough to vent to them for a few minutes, but they have your number in their database for life.

If I tell you I’m a Bernie Sanders guy until further notice, no reason to call again – until further notice.

Got it? Get it. Apparently not.

They will call again – multiple times – and it will never ever be at a good time.

Eagles in the middle of eating my heart out? They’ll call.

Re-watching Paulie and Christopher get lost in the Pine Barrens for the 194th time? They’ll call.

Dinner? You can bet tomorrow’s lunch on it.

Get Caller ID, they said.

It helps, but it doesn’t stop the calls.

And if the ID says “No Name” or “Anonymous,” you won’t be talking to me (until I’m in a mood to fight with someone).

Buy a magical thingamajig to stop them?

A) Why should we buy something extra to stop what the phone company should police better?

B) We all know it’s a matter of time before these PITAs find a workaround. It’s like an electronic fence. If Fido is determined, you are going to find him in your neighbor’s yard (if you’re lucky).

C) How do I know the sellers of the thingamajig are not scammers?

Do away with my home phone? I get just many unwanted calls on my cell phone as I do the land line, which I have admittedly unplugged (not a good idea with a kid at school) just to catch an afternoon nap with Rex.

Yeah, there is a mechanism to block that number. A day later, I just get another call from a number with one digit changed – and at the same time of day.

What do these people want? They rarely, if ever, talk anyway.

Before they got busted in 2016, after four years of playing their trade, there were these creeps who would call and say they were from the IRS.

I once decided to answer and play along.

The callers had very thick accents – from India or Sri Lanka – but were using names like John Smith and Tim Jones.

One time, I told the guy I was going to give him some advice on how to be a better scammer and not use those anglicized aliases, as no one will believe them.

But, sadly, people – particularly seniors on fixed incomes – panicked at the prospect of being in trouble with the IRS and turned over personal information.

The rules here are simple.

If anyone – in a phone call or e-mail – asks you to update credit card information, give them your social security numbers or anything else (bank account information for an alleged forthcoming deposit from an African prince), don’t do it.

It happened to me just this week, with an e-mail from Netflix, saying there was trouble with my account and to update my credit card information.

They even coopted the Netflix logo, so it looked semi-legit.

Plus, it was the third or fourth such e-mail in the last few weeks. From past experience of writing up zillions of scams in police reports, I called the Netflix customer service number.

Things are so bad these days, that I was a bit worried that the woman in the other end was not legit. However, it became crystal clear I was the target of a scam in the e-mails that she was the one helping me keep my account secure (while on the phone, I received several e-mails from Netlfix about re-setting my account, etc.).

This is an example of what it has come to, as we are even wary of people doing their jobs because others have nothing better to do with their ingenuity than to use it for malevolent purposes.

If we can all agree on that, maybe Rodney King’s question – “Can we all get along?” – is still a beckon of hope.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 8, 2019.

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