The other day, mid-story-writing, my phone rings for the third time in three hours, displaying a ‘Johannesburg’ number.
I have a friend over there, who is dealing with some hectic stuff at the moment, so I break from what I’m doing to answer. Instead of an update on the situation, my ears are assaulted by an overly cheery, loud voice announcing “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’VE BEEN SELEC-“.
I cut it off and resist the urge to throw the phone across the room.
Like everyone else in the office, I’ve been affronted by a seemingly endless stream of robocalls lately, claiming that I’ve won something or have been selected for something or need to buy something.
VICE reports that this is happening worldwide, and it’s having some serious knock-on effects.
While both Canada and the United States offer advice on how to spot spam phone calls and report them, it’s almost impossible to stop getting them. According to a 2018 report by global communications platform First Orion, spam phone calls accounted for 29.2 percent of all mobile phone calls in the U.S. in 2018, up from just 3.7 percent in 2017, and the trend is continuing.
Because the calls are often spoofed (meaning the information on your caller ID is changed), the same group can call you multiple times. Another issue is that plenty of these calls are placed using VoIP (voice over IP), so it’s difficult for anti-fraud groups and telecom regulatory boards to know exactly where they’re coming from.
Essentially, the only way to protect yourself is to just pick up your phone and hope for the best, or to just stop picking up your phone at all.
On the other hand, not answering could mean missing vital information like the test results from a recent doctor’s appointment or important information about a friend or family member.
Speaking to so many people, it struck me how resigned everyone was to this fact: that this is seemingly just the way things are now, with no hope of it getting better, only worse. And while many believe millennials killed talking on the phone because we fear real connection, maybe it’s because we are too scared of getting scammed.
There are ways that you can limit the number of spam calls that you get. Seth swears by the app Truecaller, although even then some calls still get through the net.
We could all use a little less spam in our lives, but it looks like we’re fighting a losing battle.
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