Rob Oxford: “Congratulations! You’ve just won…(click)”

Saturday, March 28, 2020

This is Rob, innocently answering his phone

By Rob Oxford

I’m not quite sure why I bother to answer my cell phone anymore? I really should know better. Most if not all of the people I have regular dealings or care to speak with have been saved to my Contacts List. Caller ID really is a wonderful feature, but only if you choose to rely on it.

Still, I continue to find myself answering calls with the (206) prefix and then immediately regretting it.

You see I’m the booking agent for my band and my number accompanies all our press materials. Unfortunately, not every potential client has a number with which I am familiar, and I’d hate to miss the opportunity to book a date. Club owners and promoters can be an impatient bunch and quite often they need answers right away. In the entertainment business, one needs to strike while the iron or in this case the band, is hot. 

I also have relatives who are presently dealing with a variety of health issues and at any given time someone could be calling from a healthcare facility, a doctor’s office etc.

That being said, not a day goes by that I’m not inconvenienced by some sort of “solicitation.” 

Currently it’s either Carnival Cruises or Marriott Hotels. Now I understand it’s not really Marriott or Carnival calling to offer me an “all-expenses paid trip to the destination of my choosing” and fortunately like Yogi, “I’m smarter than your average bear,” but it’s not someone like me these scammers are attempting to contact.

This is Rob, who has just realized he is talking
to a spammer. Grrrrr

Occasionally I will remain on the line long enough to engage with a human and usually when that human (and I use the term loosely) realizes I’m not a potential target, the call is immediately dropped. However, not before the two of us exchange some spicy language.

Recently after a day of unbridled harassment, I decided to call the Washington State Attorney General’s office for advice. 
A nice young lady put me in touch with the Public Affairs Unit at the Consumer Products Division. 
They are available to answer your questions Monday through Friday from 10am – 3pm at 800-551-4636.

I spoke to a gentleman named Anthony who was not only patient and eager to answer my questions but shared some very insightful information.

The first thing he said to me was “if you don’t recognize the phone number, DO NOT ANSWER!” 

If it is indeed a matter of importance, they will leave a message. In this situation, a few extra seconds won’t make a difference. 

Now, I realize it can be more convenient to simply answer the phone than to check your voicemail later, but there is a reason for not answering. Once you have answered your phone, even if you immediately hang up, the scammers make a note that it is a working number and will simply call back from a different “pirated” line.

“Scammers are attempting to contact someone at the right time of day, at the right time in their life with the right story.” 

They will not just move on to the next number. The same applies to “blocking” the number. This is a futile gesture. Doing so tells the caller it is in fact a residential number and not a fax line or some other auto-attended phone system. They will merely continue to call from a different line that has not yet been blocked.

To most of us, what I’m sharing is common sense information, but Anthony shared a few horror stories of well-intended citizens being taken for hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

There is, however, a silver lining to my story. Federal Law Enforcement has been steadily making progress in the war on telephone scams and it has become a worldwide effort. Authorities in Mumbai, India recently busted a phony IRS Call Center and have been able to return upwards of $232 million dollars to defrauded consumers.

Diligence is the key.

If you have elderly parents or grandparents living independently, remind them that Microsoft will never ask them to pay off their account with an Apple iTunes Gift card… yes, it’s happened. Nor will a legitimate organization request a Google Play gift card or any gift card, for that matter, as payment on an outstanding debt.

Also remind them to NEVER wire money without first asking for assistance. You may also consider questioning them as to whether they have recently been contacted by someone asking for financial assistance. The sad truth is they may have forgotten.

Mail fraud is also a danger to our seasoned loved ones. If you or they suspect a piece of mail is fraudulent, take the time to report it to CISC. It’s easy to just disregard, but your action may prevent someone else from being stripped of their life savings.

Fraudulent mail: Criminal Investigations Service Center
Attn: Mail Fraud 433 W. Harrison St. Rm 3255
Chicago, IL. 60699-3255

You may also report suspected scams to the FTC and can find extremely valuable information at their website 

Ironically, as I was writing this article, my cell phone rang and against my better judgement I answered it. It was a recorded message. I’ve gotten so many of these recorded calls lately, I have seriously considered taking Mandarin at my local community college in order to understand just what is being said.

I hope this information helps someone you love.

Stay safe, stay healthy and most importantly, until further notice, stay secluded.


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