Hero & Zero

Cranky Calls

Let’s forgo the Hero this week to discuss a huge Zero that affects landline phone users. Though less than half of America’s households still use a landline, that minority (including me) suffers from numerous unwanted and fraudulent calls on a daily basis. Recently, the culprits placing the calls developed a devious technique to coax us to answer. Our caller ID displays a local phone number with an exchange identical to our landline, making it look like a call from a neighbor. When we pick up, we hear dead air, a hyperfriendly recorded voice from a bogus travel service or a live person purportedly from Microsoft informing us that our computer went on the fritz. Sometimes three calls in a row come in, whether we answer any or not. An annoying robocall arrives every evening around 8pm, just in time to catch us with dish soap on our hands.
While these calls are inconvenient and invasive, folks in Sausalito, Tam Valley and Belvedere have an even bigger grievance. Last week, a duct-cleaning scammer rang after midnight. (It’s upsetting to receive a call in the wee hours, because it’s usually a drunk ex or bad news on the other end.) For the record, these calls are illegal for a variety of reasons, but even charlatans seem to respect the Federal Trade Commission regulation that prohibits calls before 8am or after 9pm.
How do we stop these irritating calls? Register your number on the federal Do Not Call list by visiting its website or calling 1.888.382.1222 from your landline. That should help weed out legitimate solicitors. To avoid a good percentage of illegal calls, try Nomorobo, a service that blocks telemarketers and robocalls free of charge for digital landlines, such as Comcast or AT&T wireless. (Unfortunately, it won’t work with the traditional AT&T service that I use.) For the scammers that make it through—and they will—the FTC advises us not to answer.

Nikki Silverstein
Got a Hero or a Zero? Please send submissions to [email protected] Toss roses, hurl stones with more Heroes and Zeroes at pacificsun.com.
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