Thursday, September 18, 2014

Does the “Do Not Call Registry” Mean Nothing Any More?

I don’t know about the rest of you, but years ago, I diligently listed both my telephone and cell numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry. Since then, I’ve updated the numbers by registering each of them again.

For quite some time, the precaution was quite effective. I very seldom was interrupted by an unwanted call. And on the rare occasion I was, I dutifully notified the registry of the violation. This past year, however, things seem to have changed. Calls from “blocked” numbers or “unidentified” callers are showing up with increasing frequency. In cases where the calling number is shielded, I have learned to wait patiently until a human interrupts the robocall to eagerly anticipate a live customer on the other end of the line. Once I determine the identity of the outfit calling, I inform the intruder they were being reported to the Do Not Call Registry.

I now see the scumbags (I really shouldn’t use such hyperbole for people simply trying to make a living for their families) have another trick up their sleeve. The last couple of calls I answered did not have the blocked or unidentified alerts. Instead,  the screen on my telephone was filled with a long string of numbers that defy identification. They are banking on me believing this was simply a software glitch and accepting the calls. It worked for the first two times, but now they stand revealed.

The most recent slew of calls have all started out in a similar way:

“Mr. Travis?”


“This is Alex (or John or Thomas or Steve) with Word. We see that you may have some problems with your computer.”

Yeah, right … Alex. Alex with an East Indian accent (and I don’t mean the Iroquois Confederacy in the Northeast United States). Stay with them long enough, and you’ll learn they want to sell you a not inexpensive service contract for troubleshooting your computer.

To be honest, I bought a contract from such an outfit a couple of years ago. Again, in the spirit of fair dealing, I must say that when I contacted them for help, they took remote control of my computer and managed to solve most of the problems. I had trouble reaching them at times, but worse was the difficulty of understanding what Alex and Tom were saying. They had the same problem understanding me apparently, as I usually had to state my problem multiple times. Sometimes my calls were automatically transferred to a number with a definite continental ring tone. More often than not, these were never answered. Needless to say, I did not renew, even though they had been relatively responsive and responsible.

For the last three months, I’ve had numerous calls from such outfits. These are not robocalls, and it is always Alex with Word or Alex with Microsoft on the line. They seemed to be fixated on the European name of “Alex.” But the heavily accented voice is not the same each time. I have now simply reverted to the tactic of saying I know this is a scam, and am reporting it as such before I hang up.

But my friend “B” has hit on a much more effective tactic. She told me she had a similar call last night. The man’s spiel was that he was Alex with “Microsoft.”

“For the past week,” this particular Alex said, “we’ve been getting a signal from your computer that it has a problem.”

B says she has no idea where her response came from, but it was right there. “Wait! Wait!”

“What?” Alex asked.

“You’re right. I hear it.”

“Hear what?”

“Hear it calling out.”

“You … do?”

“Yes, my computer’s saying, ‘Help me. Help me. Oh, please help me!’”

Alex hung up.


Well folks, see you next week, same time and same place. In the meantime, I hope you aren’t overwhelmed by people wanting to fix computer problems that don’t exist.

Thanks for reading. Take a look around the blog site while you’re here.

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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