It is 6:25 a.m. opening day of the deer hunting season. Still coal black outside, so I am sipping the last of my coffee before heading into the woods.
The telephone rings. Who calls at this time of morning on a dark, rainy day in November?
It is my wife, calling from home: “The bank just called to say our credit card has been compromised. Two charges, one for $1,100 and another for $300.”
She still has the caller, who identified himself as a bank fraud squad guy, on another line. He has given her his name, and a badge number. (Bank employees now have badge numbers?)
He is asking that she go to her computer and open the credit card account to confirm a few things.
It is all very slick but she refuses and calls me. He has told her that our credit card has been frozen, which I say is good because no one, including a thief like him, will be able to use it.
She gets rid of the guy and calls the real bank fraud unit, which confirms the card has not been comprised, the account is not frozen and there is no need to worry. The caller was just another scammer trying to weasel pieces of information that would allow him to get into our bank accounts.
All that settled, I pick up my rifle and head for the cottage door when the phone rings again. It is a woman with a thick accent and unpronounceable name. She says she is with our bank.
I have a short fuse that gets shorter when something or someone holds me back from a trip into the woods.
I launch a rant into the phone’s mouthpiece, which is answered by a click, then a dial tone. The caller was either a bank employee not wanting to listen to a madman, or a scammer who realized this was not going to be a profitable call.
Finally out in the woods I sit and reflect on what has happened. I become angry, very angry. And nervous.
Within 30 minutes during a period when much of the country was in bed, two different scammers have telephoned our home and our cottage and have identified us by name. This is either a wild coincidence or a group of criminals invested some time to find out who we are, where we bank and that we have two telephones at two different residences.
Most disturbing is the cottage call. Our lake place is precious part of our lives. It is a place where we resist the outside world. No one enters that space unless we invite them.
We all get these annoying, and disturbing, intrusions on our telephones, personal computers and mobile phones. There seems to be no end to them, and there will not be until we demand that telephone and internet scamming be treated as serious and dangerous crime, and not simply a nuisance.
These calls are not just annoying nuisances. More and more they are a means to successful identity theft.
Statistics show scam calls on a rocket-launch rise and are the top consumer complaint received by the United States Federal Communications Commission. Presumably they are a top complaint in Canada also, but you can’t find out for sure on government bureaucratic sites, which are mainly interested in boasting how well they are protecting consumers.
A recent Forbes magazine article said that 60 per cent of people received a scam call during one survey week. That’s a 113-per-cent increase over the same study one year before.
And, the New York Times has reported that robocalls hit an all-time high of 3.4 billion in one month – April of this year. That’s an increase of 900 million over April 2017.
Scamming is out of control and threatens to become worse. Governments and data and telephone carriers must begin taking it more seriously and create better strategies to stamp it out.
Scamming is trespassing. Farmers and ranchers, particularly out West, have a saying about trespassing. It goes like this:
“Prayer is one of the ways to meet your Maker. Trespassing is the fastest.”
We need faster ways to send the people and organizations behind high tech scamming on to their just rewards.