I must be a very popular fellow. At least I am with a few women who think I’m some sort of catch, because they keep calling even after I hang up on them.
The one most enamored and persistent is Rachel. She calls with urgent concern about my credit card debt, even while strangely reassuring me there is no problem with my credit card debt. See? She’s been crazy from the outset. She asks if I want her to stop calling (while simultaneously issuing a testy lover’s ultimatum that it’s my very last chance to speak with her) but continues calling no matter what I say or which button I push. Clearly, I have pushed her buttons somehow.
And this relationship is toxic. She is Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.” But I’m not Michael Douglas. I did absolutely nothing to lead this woman on. Blocking her calls is useless. She simply calls from another number.
Then there’s Heather. She must be Rachel’s little sister, also from “Card Services.” She sounds younger, with the same urgency but with a more empathetic voice. It could be youth I sense. She could have daddy issues, unlike sister Rachel who is looking for a sugar daddy, I believe. Regardless, I’m too old for this. If I want relationship grief, I’ll open a Match.com account and create a fake profile.
Now it’s Amy who calls. She’s the one among the women who at least knows a little something about me — that I’m a senior. Amy wants to send me, with no obligation, a medical alert device to wear around my neck. It’s for those “Help, I’ve fallen and can’t get up!” moments “as seen on TV.” I hang up, but she calls back. She must fear I’ve fallen.
There’s a guy in the mix. Todd also calls about that medical alert device. Amy probably told him to call, since I’m a chauvinist geezer prone to respond to male authority. Or worse, was it that spurned Rachel spreading falsehoods about me to Todd? I rejected her comely siren calls, therefore she spitefully suggested to Todd that I must like men instead. Todd, buddy, Amy and Rachel have steered you wrong: I haven’t fallen, I can indeed get up and I’ll take care of my credit cards myself. If I need help with the latter, I’ll drop by my local bank. I wouldn’t seek financial help from a stranger on the phone, nor should anyone with an ounce of sense.
Apparently, there are many in Consumerland who actually lack several ounces, let alone pounds, of good sense, so the phones keep ringing. Or even more sinister, there’s enough naïve senior prey. According to a Federal Communications Commission document released in April, more than 2.4 billion robocalls per month were made in the United States last year. Notice, that’s per month, not per year.
My number has been on the DoNotCall.gov list for years. I have faithfully maintained the registration. Still the calls come through because that system, operated by the Federal Trade Commission, was designed for landlines. Clearly, the two agencies, and others, need to work together in modern day.
Early this year and out of frustration, I sent an email to my congressman, Arkansas Republican Steve Womack, complaining (but nicely). I proposed that if the current debacle is the best the government can manage, then why not end these impotent efforts completely and put the money toward the onerous federal debt. On second thought, use the money for President Trump’s tweeting data overages.
Weeks later a polite young aide from Womack’s Washington office called. He validated my concern and shared my pain but said it was difficult to stop these offshore calling operations because there is a paucity of technology to prevent illegal spoofing of valid phone numbers. I appreciated the call. The tele-crimes continued.
But hold the phone. More recently, on Nov. 16, the FCC announced a new initiative to block caller ID spoofers. In the end, though, according to telecommunications expert David Frankel and Consumers Union analyst Maureen Mahoney, the new FCC approaches will only reduce these calls by 10 percent or so. One small step for telephonic technicians but no giant leap for mankind.
Speaking of which, the difficulty with old people in their 60s, like me, is that we lived in the ’60s when a charismatic president challenged a nation to put a man on the moon before decade’s end. And it happened in 1969, thanks to engineers with slide rules. Rockets of fire were launched by rubbing numbered sticks together — because there was a will to do it.
Today there’s more computing capability in a hand-held phone than what once filled rooms at Houston Mission Control. Yet today government can’t supply technology enough to protect us from phone crime?
The problem in Washington is not that there isn’t a way. It’s that there is no will. Till that changes, say hello to Rachel, Amy and Todd.