Who’s on the Phone?

Recommending “Tip-Offs to Rip-Offs” next Wed., online

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I have long had a love/hate relationship with telephones. When I was a kid, we had a three-digit phone number, an operator to whom we repeated the number we wanted to call and she made the connection happen.

In our home we also had a party line – neighbors who shared our phone line – and you counted the rings to see if the call was for you or someone else in the neighborhood.

If you were a sneaky kid or just bored and your parents weren’t around you could listen in on the party line and gather gossip.

By the time I was a teenager, we had “Princess” telephones that came in colors, with a rotary dial that lit up and a little book we kept important numbers in.

Then came the best phone of all, in my opinion; the one that was attached to the wall with a 20-foot cord. You could cook, clean, wander throughout the room or sit at the kitchen table and drink coffee or wine while you chatted with friends and family. Because that’s who called you. People you knew – and wanted to keep in touch with.

Loved it.

Fast forward to the 21st century and you enter my “hate phase” with the telephone.

First of all, everyone now has one – little kids, teenagers, adults and oldsters. They bring them to the dinner table, restaurants, movie theaters, meetings and social gatherings. And when we aren’t talking on them, we are watching videos, playing games or commenting on a social app.

And if that isn’t bad enough, anybody can call us. Strangers, salesmen and worst of all: scammers.

I received one scam call that wanted to alert me to the fact one of my grandkids was in jail in Mexico and needed bail money. Unfortunately for them, they hit up the grandparent that had already heard about this particular one.

Most of my “scam calls” come in the form of messages on my phone. I have lost track of how many times I’ve won the lottery (although I never play it) or how many long-lost relatives have left me a fortune which will quickly be on the way if I only pay the transfer fee for the money to arrive in my bank account.

Now for the good news – help is on the way in the form of a company called Nomorobo. Founded in 2013, Nomorobo has stopped over 2 billion unwanted robocalls from reaching us. Robocalls are those that keep coming after you have blocked the caller on your phone. They simply switch to another number you don’t recognize and call again and again and again.

The con artists are getting smarter too. I learned a while back to check the spelling and language in the messages I receive but they have improved on that front also.

To help Washington consumers better spot and stop emerging robocall scams, AARP, the Olympia Police Department and Nomorobo have joined forces to present a live (online) 90-minute workshop to educate us on how to identify new scams.

This presentation will also provide ongoing access to that Top-5 list, which will continuously be updated, so consumers can keep on top of new scams as they emerge. 

The list will include access to the actual audio of each call so that consumers can hear firsthand what the calls sound like. The aim is to provide these and other early warning tools, since the better we’re all able to recognize a scam pitch before we're in the con-artist's sights, the better we’ll be able to protect ourselves and our money.

This is an interactive event, and participants will have a chance to ask their own questions of the consumer fraud experts.

The event is free, but pre-registration is required. You do not need to be an AARP member to join in. The event will be help on Wednesday, July 28, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  Click here to register. 

Kathleen Anderson writes this column each week from her home in Olympia.  Contact her at  kathleen@theJOLTnews.com or post your comment below. 

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