The Con Man Always Rings Twice

By now I would have hoped that everyone in the U.S., indeed in the entire world, is savvy to the currently pandemic con in which some mysterious outfit offers to reduce, or even eliminate, the interest on your credit cards. The other day I got just such a call …indeed twice in less than an hour.

Sad to say, there are still lots of vulnerable consumers out there, otherwise this particular scam would slither away into the night.

Sadder to say, it is VoIP telephony that in good part makes it possible to pull off such a scam – because of the low cost of calls, combined with the unfortunate ability to use a phony caller ID. Both, of course, were features created to help consumers – the lower price is obvious, and the flexible caller ID lets you use a designated number for callbacks, no matter which of your numbers you are calling from.

But there is a flip side to the situation: The very same VoIP telephony flexibility includes features that make it possible for the user to shut out the con artists entirely. Phone.com, for instance, includes features on every one of its plans that can do so. I’d hope most folks know how to do that by now, but it’s always worth reviewing:

The easiest way to keep your phone from ringing is simply by going to your call log, identifying the scam call, and hitting the block button. Alternately, you can go to the call blocking menu and type in a number to block. Unfortunately, con artists do periodically change the numbers (usually phony numbers) that they have created to show up on victim’s caller IDs. So to some extent the use of call blocking can be a never-ending task. Still, it is fast and simple.

A bit more sophisticated is the use of menus. Those stop all automated phone calls dead in their tracks, or at least they do with current technology. The menu can be as simple as an announcement that says: ‘If you are a human being, please press one.’ The downside, of course, is that someone who relies on automated messages to remind them of things such as medical appointments may find the menu does block those.

Stuart Zipper is currently a contributing editor to Communications Technology, a high tech business journalism consultant and freelancer, and the past Senior Editor of TelecomWeb news break