Robocalls a Universal Nuisance

Robocalls a Universal Nuisance

While vacationing last October in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, I saw a TV commercial for a candidate in neighboring Virginia. I don’t remember the office the candidate was campaigning for, but it was a statewide election. In other words, no small change.

The pitch: the candidate vowed to outlaw spoofing calls by telemarketers.

“Wow,” I thought. “I’m not the only one who hates those calls.”

Judging by a candidate for a statewide office pegging his entire TV commercial to outlawing such practices, millions of others share my opinion.

The Never-Ending Flood

It seems like Robocalls come in a never ending flood. | Ken Walker WriterEven when I don’t answer them—and thanks to caller ID, I never do—they still irritate me.

When the May primary elections ended, I breathed a sigh of relief. I thought the never-ending barrage of calls from my “304” area code would diminish. (Only rarely did the candidate leave a message, although when they did I quickly hit “7” to delete without listening beyond the greeting.)

No such luck. After the election, my phone seems to be ringing more often than before May 8.

Some folks—or their computer—call three or four times a day. I recognize the number and wonder how long it will take them to get voice mail before they quit.

Invariably, they eventually do. The computer must be able to detect “voice mail” 100 times and figure they’re not going to get me. They won’t.

Discouraging Outlook

Indeed, I suspect if average citizens could line up to toss pitchforks at the offenders, their life span would be short-lived indeed.

Yet, the forecast isn’t encouraging. When I saw the story on NBC News about the FCC recently levying a $120 million fine against one operator for placing 100 million robocalls over a three-month period, my first thought was, “Good luck collecting the money.”

Soon after, I checked online sources and found this story from a tech-oriented website headlined, “FCC slaps robocaller with $120 million fine, but it’s like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon.”

That opinion came from FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. Though she applauded the fine, she questioned the practicality of pursuing damages when steps are needed to prevent the crimes.

Writer Devin Coldewey opened his story with the observation that whoever thought we would leave telemarketing behind in the brave new smartphone world lacked imagination.

“Robocalls are a menace growing in volume and even a massive $120 million fine leveled against a prominent source of them by the FCC likely won’t stem the flood,” he commented.

Disregarding the List

Robocalls on Cell Phones | Ken Walker WriterSome 12 years ago when we moved back to West Virginia from Louisville, I had failed to go Uncle Sam’s “Do Not Call” register to enter our new phone number prior to relocating.

A half-hour after our phone service was turned on, we received our first telemarketing call. I registered that evening.

I remember how overjoyed I was when the state of Kentucky had beat the federal government to the punch and instituted its own “Do Not Call” list.

Today, the idea seems so quaint. The robocaller operators simply do not care about such a list, as evidenced by the dozens who violate it routinely on just my phone number.

They’ve even gravitated to my cell phone, though I know better than to answer a call that comes from people who aren’t on my contacts list.

Since computer hackers and robocallers seem to occupy the same space—which means they’re a step ahead of tech gurus and Uncle Sam—my hopes of the nuisance calls ending soon aren’t too high.

Maybe I can join some other folks in a pitchfork line.

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