Thursday, November 7, 2019

Scamming America

Remember in the days of golden oldies? When your telephone had only one ringtone, and one dialed by a circular thingie attached to the front?  And a slim few of you might remember "party lines", where several folks shared one line, and where you might have to hang up until one of the other parties finished their call.  But mainly, remember when the telephone was almost completely about speaking with one another? When you answered the phone whenever it rang, because it would always be someone you know, and it might be important?  Then Jimmy Carter deregulated telephone service and the Contest Was ON. Which company of nobodies could produce some whizkid technology at a lower price than AT&T? And they did. And gradually, AT&T faded into the netherland of hasbeen companies—think on that  . . . AT&T began failing.  And now? Now, we have high tech phones—we call them “smart phones” and crap companies selling us services at maybe ten times the rates we used to pay. But we get so much more, right?? Why, we can take photos with our phones. And we can connect to the Internet. And our phones now tell us what time it is, so we can make our next appointment, also on our phones.  And now our phones tell us how to get home from wherever we are, and whether it will be raining when we get there.
But, increasingly, our phones no longer do what the phones of olde used to do—connect people together in actual conversations.  No, now we no longer actually talk on our phones. We “Text”, or we “e-mail”, or we send messages on Facebook, or, worse, we “Tweet”. But talk?? Hmm, no, not so much.

But has the talk feature disappeared from our newfangled phones??? Well, no, they still work in that now outmoded method. So, who uses the “Talk” feature?  Well, the Scammers of America use that feature. Yeah, it’s like the “Talk” feature is reserved for America’s newest industry—Scamming.  And what do I mean by scamming? Well, I get perhaps 10 calls per day, 9 of which are from numbers we do not recognize.  And those 9 of 10 are reserved for companies that want to sell me something I neither need nor want. They tell me that they are now ready to talk with me about the home mortgage deal of a lifetime, or about that business loan for my business that I inquired about (I didn’t).  Or how about a hot deal for paying off my student loan (Hey, bud, I graduated from Stanford in 1956 with a loan debt of $2500, and I paid that off a while ago)?

The odd thing is that the same person keeps calling. I sometimes answer, just for the hell of it. And they call so often, that I actually recognize the person calling. And when I inform them that they have called now six times and I don’t want what they are offering, and then hang up, but they continue to call.  So, we have adequate evidence that, not only has the phone system turned into a giant scam industry, it is also the most inefficient, ineffective industry in the world.  How do they possibly make money at this scam, or even make enough to pay their hordes of callers?  We conclude that some people actually are so bored, or so out of touch with reality that they engage these scammers and then succumb to their charms.  Yeah, obviously, some folks are parting with their money enough to make the calls continue.

And we have tried to deal with this phenomenon by using that handy “call-block” feature of most smartie phones.  But finally, we just gave up, since they seem to have an inexhaustible supply of telephone numbers. Oh, and the calls come from everywhere in the US, not just our home country of North Carolina.  So, now, largely we answer our phones only if the person’s name from our contact list in the phone shows on the dial screen. And they almost never leave a voice mail. Nope, they always try to hang up before the voice mail kicks in. Sometimes, just to be mean, I answer the phone and then hang up, just so they get charged.

And remember those olden phones, the ones actually tethered to the wall via a telephone line, connected to what is now known as a “landline”?  Well, we still have one, but it supports our alarm system. And we never answer it on purpose, but nobody ever calls on that number, because we never give anyone that number.  So, if that phone is called, it is a certain scammer.

And this would all be funny and just part of our 21st century life, I guess. Except that for we folk of olden times, it has practically eliminated one of the nicer features of our modern life—speaking with friends.  Oh, we still communicate by other means, as noted. But the telephone used to be such a nice little touch. Out of the blue, someone would decide they wanted to chat with us.  How nice. So, the scammers of the world have virtually eliminated that nice little touch in our modern world.  And frankly, that pisses me off.  And what it tells me is that, as we eliminate real jobs, we are apparently replacing them with crap jobs, scamming the public. I have often wondered how the people manning these phones feel about their work. Can you imagine devoting your life to a job that involves scamming the public? “And how was your day dear?” “Oh, it was pretty good. I managed to con four people out of some of their savings.  And, I actually spoke with 57 people, well 20 of them hung up before our conversation began, but they count, right?” “Sure hon, so it was a pretty good day, huh?”

Maybe this is all about the shift in our modern world into an entirely financial world, in which nothing actually matters but money, and it no longer matters how you make your money, so long as you make enough of it.  Donald Trump, the Scammer-in-Chief, is finally getting through to all of us, I guess, even though he is not responsible for this crappy little world of scammers. He just cheer leads for them.

So, maybe we will soon begin giving up on the “talk” aspect of our smartie phones. I expect Apple to come out first with the “No-Talk” option for their I-Phones.  And we may have to return to that thing where we look someone in the eyes and actually toss words at them. How’s that for a new App?