“Hello. This is a call from Officer Mitchell of Social Security to let you know that you may lose your Social Security benefits if you do not call this number within 24 hours to update your personal information.”
Sound familiar? These calls usually come when I’m trying to take a nap, watching Lester on NBC at 5:30 on the evening news, or in the middle of a discussion with my better half about why I don’t put the butter back in the “right” place in the fridge. Unfortunately, mildly intimidating calls about my Social Security data are not the only calls I get. Equally worrisome is the one claiming to be from the IRS. Scammers are everywhere, and a sucker is born every minute. It’s just that they can reach out and touch us any time with the phones we carry.
So what are some strategies for handling these Bozos? One way is to not answer the phone in the first place. Or, if you are unfamiliar with the number and get duped into a conversation with Karen, hang up when it’s a robocall voice, or heaven forbid, an actual human being trying to take advantage of your good nature.
There are, of course, a variety of ways to defeat the invasions. How about this?
“Hi Doug. You’re a hard person to reach. (Insert chuckle here) I’d like to talk to you about your health insurance plan.”
“What about my plan?”
There are several approaches to take as Bert or Janelle give the pitch. One I use is to put the phone down and start the coffee grinder for a mid-day latte. Or I start the table saw in the shop to finally make the picture frame my wife has been patiently requesting for the past six months. Another one is when I fake intense interest by asking a multitude of enthusiastic questions about whatever the product is and then hang up. This last strategy works well when I’m bored watching paint dry.
When I’ve googled ways of eliminating unwanted phone calls, there are a variety of apps suggested by the experts to stop the annoyance. Unfortunately, for a person who is marginally tech savvy and challenged about how to get around his phone, these have little value. It would be nice if I knew how to block unwanted phone calls. I suppose a trip to my nearest cellphone vendor might help, but all they want me to do is buy a new one.
As for the standard advice about complaining to the Federal Communications Commission? Seriously, are they going to listen to me? Or how about getting on the Do Not Call Registry? Whatever happened to stopping the calls when I tried that route before? Ah — didn’t work. Of course I could PAY for a blocking service — the American solution.
Short of retreating to the wilderness, living off the grid and ignoring spam, Twitter and Facebook, I hope there’s a middle ground without having to put in too much effort. Maybe a nice quiet walk out to the point at Tettegouche would go a long way toward regaining peace and quiet after I leave the phone in the car.
Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.