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Spam, and I don’t mean the kind in a can, is a pain in the pattootie. I actually like canned Spam, the canned meat that fed an army during WWII. I know, I can hear you all saying, “Eeww!” But I’d rather eat Spam’s canned meat than have to deal with the spammy scams that come over our telephone lines.

We’ve all experienced it. Those annoying phone calls that pop up all day long from spoofed numbers with the first three numbers of your cell phone, home phone, the numbers from your neighborhood, or from 1-800 and 1-900 numbers. I live in a relatively small community and I don’t know a lot of people in the area, so when I get a call from an unknown number sporting the local exchange, I know it’s phone spam.

On a good day, I might get one or two on the land line, and as many on my cell. On bad days I can receive six to twelve, sometimes one every hour from the same numbers. Thank goodness for our home phone system that allows us to program different rings into the numbers for family, friends and service people who regularly come to the house, and the computer automated voice that tells us the numbers. The latter stuff we just let ring.

Although, there have been a few unexpected calls that we’ve inadvertently picked up. For example, there was the day that our own home phone called us. The hubby was downstairs working in the basement and I was deep into writing a new chapter for the book we’re working on. The phone rang and announced his name. I briefly wondered why my husband was calling me on the land line, not his cell, from the basement.

Not thinking, I picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?”

Immediately, the thickly accented voice on the other end began rattling off a scammy spiel.   I hung up. Had I been thinking clearly I would have realized that my land line can’t call itself. I know, because I’ve tried to do so before. A couple of days later, the scam repeated itself. That’s what they do when they get an answer. They keep calling back. I wasn’t in another zone, so I ignored the call.

Even if we don’t pick up the phone, we have robocalls that leave partial messages on the voice mail system. The partial messages are a result of the robocalls starting to speak as soon as the phone is answered. They talk through the answering machines message.

The newest robocall I’ve been getting is from a Mandarin speaking person who rattles off a bunch of words that mean absolutely nothing to me. Apparently, according to my local news resources, Chinese scammers are trying to reach illegal Chinese immigrants and scare them into sending money to keep them from being deported back to China.

Another call I get a lot of say “There is a $299 charge to your account for computer service. If you want to continue service, press one. If you want to cancel press nine.”

Another variation of this scam is the $2000 charge to your account. “If you did not make this charge, call to cancel it.” Yeah, right. I’m not falling for that one because all our cards have purchase alerts on them. Which, I highly recommend if you can do this. It’s caught false charges ranging from $.99 to $9,000.

Then there are the scams that say “…company shutting down. We can’t provide services due to changes in U.S department. To get refund for subscription please call “such and such” number. Within an hour I got three of this same message from a local and two different 1-800 numbers. I don’t know what company is shutting down, because the message started late, nor do I know to what U.S department the message refers. And, as Rhett Butler so succinctly said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a d….”

The Social Security number scam had been making the rounds, too. Supposedly, my number has been used in Southern Texas. Before they stopped, I received about six of these partial recorded calls from multiple numbers, in thickly accented, broken English. Our credit information is locked down, and we have an ID Theft notification service, so I know this was a scam. I highly recommend if you haven’t locked down your credit information with the big three companies, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian do so NOW. I’ve heard reports on the news about people who didn’t do so when the hack hit, and now they’re dealing with ID theft and credit issues from hackers using their stolen information. Lock down your children’s ID information, too. They now have Social Security numbers assigned from birth, and there have been reported incidents on the news where a child’s ID was stolen.

But the scariest call of all had to be the first scam call I ever received, which came on my cell phone. I was working in the garden and by the time I got my gloves off, clicked the phone on, and held the phone to my ear, I heard a partial message from Officer Heather Gray, from IRS, telling me that I owed back taxes and if I didn’t call back the number they left right away, they would send an officer to my home to arrest me.

Talk about heart pounding! That initial message sent my blood pressure soaring. I hadn’t caught the number. Who carries pen and paper into the garden when they work? I knew we had paid our taxes, and even had received our refund, so the IRS calling me made no sense. Still, I called my husband and relayed the message to him. He told me to calm down. We weren’t in arrears. Our taxes were paid. The IRS didn’t have my cell number. We had never given it to them. In fact, at that time the only people who had our cell were family and close friends. I wasn’t giving it out even to my doctors.

“It’s a scam,” he said. “IRS will not call you on the phone. They do it all through the mail.”

Later that day, I searched the internet for tax scams and found a boat load of information about Officer Heather Gray. Now, after fielding hundreds of spam calls, I shrug them off, or if one piques my interest I google it.

Unfortunately, there are others who must not shrug off these calls or research them, because the calls keep coming. Someone, somewhere, is stealing from unsuspecting people, who don’t know any better, by scaring them sending them money.

My tiny list of telephone spam doesn’t begin to touch the hundreds of scams out there. If scammers can think of a way to cash in on your fear and unfamiliarity with their profession, they will. A quick internet search on telephone scams will bring up a list that will keep you busy researching for hours.

Bottom line, people: Please, don’t send money to strange people who call you. Don’t make Paypal payments to them. Don’t send them gift cards. Don’t wire them money, even if they say a family member is stranded or jailed or anything thing else. And don’t give out any information to ANYONE on the telephone when they call.

If you answer the phone and someone says you owe them money and the company happens to be one that you deal with, hang up. Then YOU call a number that you know is a reputable one. Your paper bills have numbers to reach the proper customer services. The numbers on the back of your credit cards will get you to the real customer service. Be very careful if you look the number up on the internet. Scammers often make their numbers look like the legitimate number you’re searching for.

Never, never, never engage the unknown persons who call you and demand money. Never, never, never give them Social Security, Medicare, bank or saving numbers, other personal information, or even your address. They may have your address, name, and even the last four digits of your Social Security number, but don’t let that fool you. Anyone with a bit of internet surfing knowledge can find out stuff about you. But that doesn’t mean they are legitimate.

Even better, invest in a phone answering system that allows you to block, identify, and sort your family, friends and service numbers by special rings. If you’re not sure about a call, ask a family member or trusted friend to advise you. Let any number you don’t know go to voice mail. If you miss a call, the people who matter will call back or leave a message. After a while, you’ll get used to letting the phone ring. And trust me, Office Heather Gray will not appear at your door to arrest you.

 

While you’re enjoying your new-found free time (since you’re ignoring all those robocalls) why not pick up a copy of Catherine’s award-winning romantic comedy with a touch of drama A Groom for Mama? Here’s a quick peek at the blurb. If you like the book go to Barnes and Noble or Amazon and pick up a copy or read the sample.

A Groom for Mama

By Catherine Castle

Beverly Walters is dying, and before she goes she has one wish—to find a groom for her daughter. To get the deed done, Mama enlists the dating service of Jack Somerset, Allison’s former boyfriend.

The last thing corporate-climbing Allison wants is a husband. Furious with Mama’s meddling, and a bit more interested in Jack than she wants to admit, Allison agrees to the scheme as long as Mama promises to search for a cure for her terminal illness.

A cross-country trip from Nevada to Ohio ensues, with a string of disastrous dates along the way, as the trio hunts for treatment and A Groom For Mama.

 

About the Author:

Multi-award winning author Catherine Castle loves writing. Before beginning her career as a romance writer she worked part-time as a freelance writer. She has over 600 articles and photographs to her credit, under her real name, in the Christian and secular market. She also lays claim to over 300 internet articles written on a variety of subjects and several hundred poems. In addition to writing she loves reading, traveling, singing, theatre, quilting and gardening. She’s a passionate gardener whose garden won a “Best Hillside Garden” award from the local gardening club. She writes sweet and inspirational romances. You can find her award-winning Soul Mate books The Nun and the Narc and A Groom for Mama, on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Follow her on Twitter @AuthorCCastle, FB or her blog