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THE INC. LIFE

Robocallers’ Nastiest Trick Yet Is Driving People Crazy. The Question is How To Stop It

These people don’t have scruples. They do, however, have an imagination. Now, the beginnings of a fightback.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 05 Jan 2019

robocallers trick

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

I have several assumptions about life.

One is that it makes no sense. Another is that humanity is a frightfully primitive species.

A third is that when my phone rings, it's a robocaller or a telemarketer.

Unless I recognize the number with certainty, I don't pick up the phone.

I really don't enjoy talking on the phone anyway, so this isn't an imposition, so sometimes I just let every call go to voicemail.

Goodness, if it's someone I actually want to talk to, I can call back.

For some, however, robocalling is an ever-present blight. For whatever reason, they seem to get numerous robocalls a day, as if they've been placed on some elite list of robocalling victims.

These people are now being assaulted by a trick that severely affects their equilibrium.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, robocallers aren't just using numbers that appear to be from your neighborhood, a neat trick they must have adored developing.

Now, they're actually purloining real people's numbers.

When especially annoyed recipients let the call go to voicemail and call back, they get a surprise.

On the other end is a bemused, real human being who had no idea that their number has been used for nefarious purposes.

There's one enormous problem. No one knows how to completely stop it.

For some people, number spoofing is important. Their jobs -- doctor, for example -- are such that it's not helpful if their real number is seen on the recipient's screen.

Sometimes, privacy still matters.

Worse, it's clear that a lot of robocalls come from foreign lands, making them harder to trace.

You can't easily build a wall inside your phone, steel or otherwise. And what if you discover that the robocaller is actually using one of your friends' numbers?

Some people have become so annoyed at being called by annoyed recipients of robocalls using their number that they've changed that number.

And then the same thing happens all over again.

The Federal Trade Commission says that it received 1.9 million complaints about robocalls in the first five months of 2017.

Robocall-blocking company YouMail estimates that the U.S. was subjected to 6.3 million robocalls an hour last month.

The average number of calls per person was 14.4.

This year, however, the government promises to do something about it.

It's launching a system that uses a digital signature to see whether the entity making the call has the correct authorization to make the call from the number displayed.

Still, this technology won't block the call. Instead, it'll offer some kind of visual check mark on your screen to tell you whether the call is legitimate or not.

Which is, at least, something.

There are many companies that claim to block robocalls -- reports of their success varies. Moreover, as my colleague Bill Murphy Jr. reported, Google's Pixel 3 phone has an uplifting (for some) robocall-screening system.

I fear, though, that there's only one sure solution and that is to never answer the phone.

Hey, there's texting, there's Zoom, there's FaceTime, there's Skype.

Some of these even work quite well.

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