The story of a sad little phone number

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright August 2011


When I returned from Korea in 2008 I had to reconnect to the US in many ways. One of those ways was getting a cell phone. The process took a surprising amount of hoop-jumping -- which I blame on America's phone regulatory environment. The Curse of Being Important is strong here.

One factor that strongly influenced my choice was that upon returning I discovered that the cell phone account which I had closed properly years earlier had been turned over to a collection agency. Umm... cheap shots had been taken. OK... no more contracts for me! I tried month-to-month for a while, but I use my cell phone so little that that plan seemed expensive.

I went back to pre-pay, and found that if I paid $100 my first year, I could refill that pool each year with whatever I wanted to... typically about $20. Cell phone service for $20/year... it matched my cell phone usage well.

The cost was right, but what was bad was three previous owners of this phone number had been deadbeats. I got a stream of voice, robo calls and even faxes from collection agencies trying to contact those previous owners. I learned about collection agency tactics. <sigh> The most annoying being: They would sell around their lists. I would get an agency to stop bothering me, then they would sell their list to another agency and the bothering would start up again. It took about two years to get each and every list holder to not only stop calling me, but to not pass on my number when they sold it on.

... Or so I thought.

In the summer of 2011 I got hit with a new technology twist: the Phish Phone Call. I got a robo call claiming to be from my bank saying that my credit card limit had been dropped. The first time I got the call it was spooky... and I followed the first instruction to get it straightened out. Fortunately, just the first. When more was asked for I caught the strong whiff of scam and hung up.

Bad... Even worse, I got the same robo call two weeks later, and again a couple weeks after that! Umm... it was a new scheme, but the perpetrators were no smarter than other scam artists.

Still, the more I thought about this the more discouraged I became. I was getting these calls only on my cell phone number. This meant that some collection agency had sold their list to these phishers. And, since these phishers weren't about to listen when I asked to be removed from their list... <sigh>

Further, the fact that I was getting these monotonous calls regularly over a six week period meant that in spite of their monotony the perpetrators weren't getting caught. This meant my bank, the phone company and law enforcement were spending mill..., no thou..., no tens of dollars trying to catch these people. <sigh again> And, it meant that making these calls was as dirt cheap to do as sending e-mail scam was. And... there was no reason why these people would not sell their list on and on as the collection agencies had.

So, my crystal ball told me this was not a problem that was going to fix quickly. It was time to change my number, and I have.

The moral of this story is that cell phone feature technology has some catching up to do. Now that there are phish scammers who will become as profligate as e-mail scammers, there needs to be a quick way to identify and report robo caller fraud. And there should be quicker and easier ways for end users, such as me, to block unwanted calls.


--The End--