Coffee heat rising

Making Telephone Solicitation FUN….

Mwa ha ha! The idea I came up with for harassing the goddamn nuisance telephone solicitors is WORKING. And it is a bit of a hoot.

Thought I’d described this antic in a post here on Funny, but don’t see the thing in the blog’s dashboard. Must have held forth about it on Facebook. Oh well…

Here’s the gambit:

When a phone solicitor calls, instead of hitting “call block” (which, since they spoof telephone numbers, doesn’t block THEIR phone but instead blocks some innocent soul in your area code or even your own exchange), pick up the phone and speak sorta politely into it.

Let the crook begin to deliver his pitch. As he yammers on, take a deep breath and SCREAM AT THE VERY TOP OF YOUR VOICE, as LOUD as you can, into the phone. SHRIEK YOUR GUTS OUT. Give him the shrillest, loudest, earsplittingest

GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH

you can blast out.

Scream nonstop until you run completely out of breath. Then hang up. Do not speak a word. Just hang up.

Most of the criminals are probably using headphones to do their job. That means you leave not one but both of their ears ringing. With any luck, maybe you’ll burst the bastard’s eardrum.

Interestingly, this seems to have worked. It’s 10:15 a.m. just now, and I just repelled only the first nuisance call of the day. Usually they start about 8:00 a.m. — sometimes even earlier. And the number of nuisance calls has dropped spectacularly, from around 10 calls a day to one or two. Some days even none!

No kidding: I was getting up to a dozen pestering calls a day. Never fewer than eight or ten.

Within a couple of days after I started the Scream Gambit, the phone soliciting harassment dropped like the bastards all fell off a cliff — down to one or two calls, and some days even none. For those that persist: it’s strangely gratifying to know you left the SOB’s ears ringing.

So far I haven’t done it, because I haven’t wanted to pony up the cash, but part of the plan is to buy one or more recorders so I can play back the SHRIIIEEEEEEEEEK into the phone without having to strain the vocal cords. But seriously: after s few days of this, the number of calls has dropped to the point where that may not be necessary.

Silence is golden…

Weather Report: Scattered Scam Flurries

Honest to Gawd, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many scamming emails fly in over the digital transom as have come in over the past two or three weeks. Every time you turn around, here’s another wacksh!t scam. Check out the latest:

Begin forwarded message:

From: “Customer Service” <elijahbillingdepartment@gmail.com>
Subject: Attn: We have noticed unusual activity in your PayPay account….
Date: April 22, 2022 at 12:08:50 PM MST
To: vickyhay@mac.com
Reply-To: “Customer Service” <anthonybillingdepartmentus@gmail.com>

Dear User
Attn: We have noticed unusual activity in your PayPay account

Thanks for your patience while we review the unauthorised activity case on a payment you have sent. We’re happy to confirm that this transaction is eligible for PayPal Buyer Protection, and we’ll cover the full disputed amount for you if there are any.

The payment for this transaction is now pending in your PayPal balance awaiting confirmation from the sender. If It’s you, There’s no further action required from you at this time. We’ll let you know if we need any additional information.

Transaction details:

Merchant’s name: Home Depot LLC.
Merchant’s transaction ID:973476LAIPXJ
Your transaction ID:5896321478LWISUSD
Invoice ID:49598-WPLS-268P-4178-9689
Transaction date:22 April 2022
Transaction amount:$1296.97 USD

If you did not authorize the charge, you have 72 hours from the date of transaction to open a dispute. For more information, We recommend you to get in touch with us.
PayPal Customer Service toll-free for the USA & CANADA +1 (805) 421 4441 or info@paypal.com
Please don’t reply to this email. This mailbox is not monitored and you will not receive a response. For assistance, log in to your PayPal account and click help in the top right corner of any PayPal page.

Great stuff, ain’t it?

It’s particularly interesting — IMHO — that they seem to assume the targets of their scams are spectacularly stupid. Guess there must be enough morons out there to make it worth their time.

Hey…we elected Donald Trump to the august office of President of the United States. We can’t be all that bright, as the citizens of a nation, can we? 😀

Still…you’d have to be even stupider than that to not remember the details of a $1300 charge on a credit-card-in-the-sky.

Forwarded this direly urgent notice to Paypal. Not that they can or will do anything about it.

But we can!

Pay effin’ attention, folks! Do not believe anything that comes in over the email. Even if you think it’s credible — today I also got one claiming I owed for some purchase I imaginatively made on Amazon, whose delivery services I use all the time — check, check, and double-check before you send money or information to any email that comes in over the transom. Look it up: did you really make that charge? Did you seriously not pay it? Really? Did you receive whatever they claim they’re sending to you? Do they really have your mother-in-law kidnapped in Guatemala?

Report these efforts whenever you can. Here’s the address for fake PayPal demands: https://www.paypal.com/uk/smarthelp/article/how-do-i-report-potential-fraud-to-paypal-faq2422

Google the business involved and “phishing,” “scam,” “email fraud,” and/or whatever other relevant term comes to mind. This should elicit a department where you can report attempts at fraud using the company’s identity.

A number of agencies investigate online fraud operations, plus just about anything that spills over state lines can be reported to the FBI. Here are a few places to report these fine schemes:

Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
USA Gov: Report Scams and Frauds
Gmail: Avoid and Report Phishing E-mails
U.S. Internal Revenue Service
U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation: Spoofing and Phishing
FBI: On the Internet

There are many others. Google where to report phishing emails to access the bonanza and possibly to find sites especially relevant for whatever scam has come your way.

Know that there are widely available mailing and telephone lists organized by age. I first was made aware of this when I magically became eligible to join AARP. Suddenly I found myself not only the target of endless pitches from that august institution, but for hustle after hustle after hustle from scammers who clearly hoped I had arrived at the threshold of old age absent some of my marbles.

In about three weeks, I will reach the 3/4 of a century mark. Clearly, this also is another milestone for hustlers, peddlers, and effin’ crooks: they all think if you’re pushing 75, you must be shuffling off to Senility Acres.

Keep your wits about you as you approach your allegedly Golden Years. The gold these clowns see is in your pocket and your bank account.

 

Scam-a-Rama!

Welp, the scammers are frolicking about in force. Must be the spring weather that calls them out from under the fridge…

The past three or four weeks, my email inbox has been hit with scam after scam — four of them in just the past ten days or so.

The Scam of the Day tells me my McAfee antivirus subscription has expired and I must hurry right up and send money now.

😀

McAfee? McAfee? We don’t got no steenking McAfee!

All of my fancy electronic doodads are Apple products. Apple provides a very fine antivirus program called MalwareBytes. It’s free, and Apple updates it whenever Apple feels like updating…without you having to mess with it.

LOL! Yes, when I used PCs, I did use McAfee. Because my employer, the Great Desert University used McAfee, and I did whatever the IT dudes advised. But no, I do not now and never have had it installed on the Macinoid devices.

But…

But…thought I…maybe it comes with the iPhone, that fine device that I have yet to learn how to use. Hm…..

Like a MacBook, the iPhone displays a list of applications. No sign of McAfee in there. But just in case…

Just in case, this morning I cruised in to the T-Mobile store, the better to pester my handsome young friends in there.

Cute Dude of the Day looked puzzled when I asked him if we could tell whether McAfee is now or ever has been installed on the i-Gadget. Uhmmm….McAfee doesn’t GET installed on iPhones, quoth he. We check the applications anyway: nope. No McAfeeoid programs.

So…yeah. This is THIRD scamming email I’ve received in as many weeks. So far none of them has tried to persuade me that my son has been kidnapped by ransom-demanding Ukrainians. But I’m sure that one will be along soon.

The first one pretended to come from Amazon — cleverly, for (as you know) it is virtually impossible to get ahold of a live human being at Amazon. It was trying to extract money for the privilege of posting my books for sale on Amazon, and they apparently did have real data from my Amazon seller’s account.

Amazon, as you know, short-changes customers (and sellers) on customer service every which way from Sunday. I finally gave up trying to get a CSR who spoke English and appeared to be a living being, and just took all my products off Amazon.

Don’t forget, BTW, that you can read some of them for free right here at FaM, just by clicking on the linked images in the right-hand sidebar.

At any rate, I dunno why the bastards have suddenly decided to blitz me with scams. Probably it has to do with my age: as we all learn from the ad blitz that comes from AARP the instant we turn 65, marketing hustlers can buy mailing lists that are compiled by age. And they know that old bats are peculiarly vulnerable to email and telephone scams.

Whatever. Be aware, and do know that these people can and do acquire a great deal of private information about you: much more than you might imagine possible. Because they know key details, they sound convincingly like a vendor that you do business with. Any time someone asks you for money or personal information — even someone claiming to represent a business you know — proceed with caution. Or better yet: don’t proceed at all.

Just Hang Up!

Seems like every day we hear about some new telephone or Internet scam — and, in the “one born every day” department, some poor soul falls for a convincing patter. Check out this story: A crook claiming to be from Apple cons a woman into forking over almost two grand from her bank account, claiming that someone had been trying to hack her phone.

She falls for his tale, follows his instructions — even after she questions his authenticity — and loses $1,980.98. Then, incredibly, her bank refuses to refund the stolen money on the grounds that she willingly paid it to him!

So, one wonders: might her homeowner’s insurance cover the lost funds, since this is a theft not altogether unlike a burglary or a stick-up?

The answer is probably not, unless you’ve already arranged for it. Most standard homeowner’s policies  offer no coverage for cybercrime, and many insurers do not cover it at all. However it is possible to buy such coverage: if you feel you or someone in your home may be vulnerable to a fast-talking hustler, talk to your insurance agent or broker about buying coverage when it’s time to renew your policy.

Meanwhile, the best way to protect yourself from phone hustlers is simply not to answer calls from numbers you don’t recognize. You can install automated assistance in this endeavor: for cell phones, check out this spectacularly delightful call blocking app. If you still use a landline — as some of us do to accommodate a home-based business — an in-line call-blocking device is many times more effective than the phone company’s half-baked efforts.

I use the CPR Call Blocker, which blocks most of the dozen or more nuisance calls that hit my phone number, every day. The hustlers spoof nearby area codes, hoping to trick you into thinking a number is coming from a neighbor, an acquaintance, or a local business. I’ve set the device to intercept numbers from the local area codes where I never do business and where none of my friends live. If for some reason I have to do business with someone in one of those areas, I tell them my phone doesn’t work and they need to email me — this works just fine. A number of such devices are on the market, and some landline phone sets come with built-in call blockers. Check the reviews on Amazon by way of making a choice.

Failing an electronic firewall, though, there’s a much simpler and infinitely better strategy: HANG UP.

The victim of the scam in question today believed the crook when he introduced himself as an Apple representative. Despite her initial skepticism, he fast-talked her into buying his story.

The obvious response to this? Hang up.

In this case, our victim’s next steps would have been pretty intuitive:

  1. Hang up on the caller. If you think it may be a genuine call, say something like Oh dear! The dog is peeing on the carpet! or Eeek! The baby just fell in the pool! Can I call you back? Then get the phone number the caller says will reach him or her.
  2. Call the bank. Tell a customer service rep what the caller claimed and ask a) is it likely to be true; and b) one way or the other, what can done to prevent hacking? Follow the customer service rep’s advice.
  3. Email a description of the call to abuse@apple.com, a service available to her as an Apple computer user. This won’t help you personally, but it will alert the company to the specific scam.

Even those of us who are pretty wary and wise to phone hustles can fall for a convincing pitch, especially if the caller knows something about you. The best defense is to avoid hustlers altogether — or at least, as well as one can — through the use of an effective call blocker. Second best is never to answer a call from a number you don’t recognize. And never, ever divulge financial or private information over the phone. Period.

Dear Credit Union: What ARE you thinking?

This morning I finally bestirred myself to open the stacks and stacks of not-quite-junk-mail, pesty notices, Important Tax Information, and statements and bills that have to be attended to, sooner or later. And what should pop out of an envelope from the credit union but not one, not two, but THREE negotiable (-looking) blank checks in my name, with my  credit union account number them, along with an invite to hurry right out and cash them.

WTflyingF?????????

Turns out they’re an offer to fork over chunks of cash from my line of credit.

Yes. I have an old, unused line of credit with that august institution, one I took out when I was doing some renovations to my previous house…from which I moved some 16 years ago. I haven’t borrowed on that account in a good 20 years, but apparently it’s still very much alive. And the worthies of the credit union very much wish I would please rack up some more interest on a nice fat loan.

The things looked just like checks for an ordinary checking account. The sales pitch: fill these out in the amount you want, take it in, and cash it. Soooo simple!

HOLY ess-aitch-ai! You sent that to the mail thieves and the trash scavengers, dear Credit Union?

They may not be truly negotiable. But they sure look like they are. All it would take is a smart trash scavenger (or his boss) to engineer some fake ID with my name and address on it, hand it to his girlfriend, and send her in with a five- or ten-thousand-dollar check to manufacture a real nasty surprise for me.

Honest to God. What possesses people?

So I had to take a break from ripping open envelopes, filing, and trashing to send a written request to those chuckleheads: please do not mail me anything that looks even faintly like a negotiable instrument.

Into the shredder the things went. But…what an annoyance!

Life in the Brave New World

It’s not my old age. It’s that the world has changed around us in ways that I don’t like.

When I say “ways I don’t like,” I do NOT mean ways that I can’t adapt to or can’t understand or whateverthepatronizingfuck. I mean that some of the products and ways of doing things that supplant earlier, now outmoded products and ways are objectively inferior to what we had before their advent.

LED light bulbs are way up there in that category, right along with washing machines that don’t do laundry. Personally, I loathe the light emitted by LED bulbs. Not just because the quality of said light is ugly. Because the light actually hurts my eyes. Consequently, when Big Brother announced that real light bulbs would be taken off the market, I stocked up on as many incandescents as I could pack into the house’s storage space. But…I forgot one small detail.

The kitchen in this house is illuminated by seven recessed can lights, each of which holds a 45-watt incandescent(!) floodlight. These lights have amazing longevity. I’ve lived in the house 15 years and have replaced only three of them. Because of that, the need to stockpile incandescent floodlights escaped me.

So the other day, one of those lights went out. Then forthwith another died.

Sh!t.

I only had a couple of real lights in the floodlight form. This meant I would have to replace them, and I absolutely positively did not want to replace them with ugly LEDs or, worse yet, fluorescent lights.

When I surfaced at Home Depot and collared a guy in an orange apron, he produced a box of floodlights that he claimed were incandescents. The only evidence to that effect was that the box was not proudly marked “LED.” So I bought a box of three and tried two of them in the bereft fixtures. Lo! They worked, and the quality of light they emitted matched the other lights’.

So, knowing where these could be had, I realized I’d better stockpile a bunch of them, too. So: back up to the Depot. Bought 15 of them. I may go back and buy a few more, too.

Given that most of these bulbs have lasted nigh unto 15 years and that there are 7 cans up there, a stockpile of 15 bulbs should in theory last as long as I’m likely to last. However, products are such junk these days — just about all products, it sometimes seems — that it would be foolish to assume these things will survive more than a few months, even at the minimalist rate I use them.

You understand: there’s a big skylight in the kitchen and two skylights and two Arcadia doors in the adjacent family room/dining room, so as a practical matter I hardly ever turn those kitchen lights on. Typically, they’re on for a few minutes after dark, long enough to let the dog out to pee and load the dishes in the washer, and sometimes for a few minutes on a winter morning, when it’s too early to navigate by sunlight. That explains the length of time the things have lasted.

Still. Given the quality of the sh!t we find on the market these days… Pyrex measuring cups, for example: reviewers at Amazon report that the painted-on markings wash off in the dishwasher! Mine are 30 or 40 years old and have never lost so much as a fleck of their enamel markings. Given the quality of the products available to us, it makes no sense to imagine these floodlights will last as long as the others, even if they are used only a few minutes a day.

These junk lights, as you’ll recall, were foisted on us by those desperate to save the planet, and to teach us all that we must pinch energy and resources to that end. They are politically correct products whose purpose is to spread a message, and which, quite frankly, are unlikely to alter the progress of the world’s degradation.

Climate change is not a problem that will be solved  by forcing dopey consumers to make do with inferior goods. That is propaganda, intended to make the ordinary Joe and Jane feel they’re sacrificing convenience and quality for the good of the planet and the future generations. We’re DOING something…right?

Bullshit.

The climate problem is to be solved (if it can be solved at all, at this point) by changing the ways that we generate energy — in every country, province, state and city around the world — and by forcing manufacturers to use energy-efficient processes to barf out their products. The same products: just made more efficiently.

Consider all the benefits of the USofA that my generation has lost and that younger generations will never see.

  • They took free TV away from us. All television is essentially pay TV now, in that you must have a cable connection, wireless, or a satellite dish to receive an intelligible signal. And no, streaming is not an adequate substitute, especially not when it foists advertising on you.
  • They took newspapers away from us. Streaming news: not a substitute. On our Sunday afternoon doggywalk, Ruby and I spotted a gigantic fire to the northeast of Outer Richistan. It was pretty close — looked to be on the east side of Meth Central — and it was big. Not a word of it on the news. Not till late Monday afternoon did even a passing mention appear…even though three people were unhomed and the building was destroyed. Local news? A thing of the past.
  • They took Pyrex products away from us. The new ones chip, explode in the oven (or in a cupboard, long after they’ve been in an oven), and lose their measurement marks.
  • They took dishwash detergent that works away from us — and for that matter, most dishwashers that work. The guys at the appliance store where I have the most recourse advise that only two brands  still do a decent job on your dishes: Bosch and a couple of specific models of GE.
  • They took clothes washers that clean clothes away from us.
  • They took toilets that flush away from us.
  • They took kitchen faucets that will fill a spaghetti pot during the cook’s lifetime away from us.
  • They took landline phones away from us, replacing them with expensive, difficult-to-use nuisances.
  • They took our privacy away from us.
  • They took affordable medical care away from us.

One could go on and on and on, right up to the current attempt (which may very well succeed) to take our democratic republic away from us.

Personally, I’m a bit tired of it. If one is going to do without all those little amenities, why spend the money to live in a “First-World” country? Why not live someplace like Panama, where the dollars that you have left will support you much more handsomely than they will here and where medical care can be paid for out of pocket?