To the Editor:
When I was a kid, the telephone was my friend. We had a “party line” and could not pick up the receiver until the third ring. All outgoing calls began with a female voice asking, “Number, please?”
I was only allowed to make calls beginning with either Little Falls 4 or Mountain View 8 and four more digits.
That covered about three miles south and three miles north of my home. This was in the late 1940s and early 1950s. My median age was about 10 years old.
For the most part, telephone calls in private homes were enjoyable breaks in the daily routine. Calls from friends or family with some news or pleasantry or event planning was normal.
No one shopped by phone, banked by phone, researched by phone, or scammed by phone, except for the occasional jokester who did it out of humor (example: “Is your refrigerator running? Well go catch it!” or “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Well, let him out, silly!”)
The telephone was an enjoyable addition to most homes. Only long-distance or late-night calls were initially viewed as potential bad news or dread.
Fast forward to the 1960s and on through to Y2K. The telephone grew in importance for most families. Dates, football games, homework and high school gossip filled the phone lines for most teenagers until their parents interfered with the fun. Parents were now using the phone for making or confirming appointments of various kinds, arranging air and ground transportation, and conducting the nation’s business. The telephone was still a vital piece of American family life.
Not so today! The phone rings in my house, and the first thing we do is check “caller ID” on our TV screen to determine initial “friend or foe?” If it is a recognized friend’s number, we answer. If not, we let the voice recorder deal with the intruder. Nine out of 10 phone calls to my home are unwanted and unsolicited. Out-of-control telemarketers and scammers have ruined telephone communication for me. I have missed some important calls because of the vile nuisance of robocalls.
I learned that I am not alone in my disdain for robocalls!
The May 2019 edition of Consumer Reports Magazine (CRM) cover asks, “MAD ABOUT ROBOCALLS?- so are we!” CRM reports that 50 billion robocalls were made last year in the U.S. alone.Yet our government and our phone carriers have done little to protect consumers.You may recall that one of the published methods used by our enemies to hurt American (or any modern society) is to “overwhelm their systems” to the point that system is no longer useful or trusted.
While we all gripe and moan among ourselves, nothing is getting done. If this continues unchecked the business of our Nation will not get done. Precisely what our enemies desire.
CRM goes on to say that help is on the way. They claim that Eric Burger, the FCC’s chief technology officer, has said consumers can expect major phone carriers to roll out a game changing new system called STIR/SHAKEN this year.
This system will help identify spoof callers and track down the real caller and allow users to better trust their “Caller ID” service. Not great, but it is a start.
CRM also suggest that a good first step is to contact your phone company and see what apps and devices are available to reduce robocalls.
For detailed information on the future of robocalls, I suggest the May 2019 issue of CRM, page 23 as cited above. Many local libraries have a subscription to CRM.
George Van Riper