Pull the plug on robocalls

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“I’m mad as hell, and not going to take this anymore!”

That’s part of a speech from the 1976 movie “Network.” It pretty much sums up how almost everyone feels about the epidemic of robocalls we all are subjected to — every day.

In 2017, experts and government officials (I doubt that they’re the same) estimated we were subjected to 31 billion calls and that 25 percent of those calls are pure scam calls. The question is, how do we best combat this tidal wave of crooks?

I believe The Do Not Call Registry is a feeble attempt by government and politicians to pacify us. There’s nothing wrong with registering your number. If you want to sign up, call (888) 382-1222. Go ahead and do it, but I doubt you’ll see much of a result. One of the few things registering may do is make you eligible for future small settlements when the government wins a case against some entity that has been calling you. That’s about all the Do Not Call registry is good for. The bad guys just ignore the list. Why? Enforcement is almost non-existent and prosecution is rarer.

The only real way to combat robocalls is on an individual basis. Government is not able to protect you. I’ve found a good solution for most (not all) of your robocall blues, including calls to many cell phones. It’s called Nomorrobo. Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RywvAtwAqIo

It cost less than $20 a year and it works for cell phones AND landlines.

There is also a device that costs about $80 but, in my opinion, if it works, it’s worth it. It’s called the “CPR 5000 Call Blocker” and the company says it “Blocks All Robocalls, Political Calls, Scam Calls and Unwanted Calls on Landline Phones. It also blocks all nuisance calls at the touch of a button using Caller ID.”

The Amazon review also says: There are 5,000 Scam Numbers Pre-programmed plus the ability to block another 1,500 numbers or area codes. You can use the “#2 blocking function” and block any number by entering #2 on any handset connected to the telephone base.

It has an international blocking function: This will reject all calls shown as “International.”

It also blocks all calls shown as “UNAVAILABLE or OUT OF AREA.”

It has a Private Blocking Function: This will reject all calls shown as PRIVATE.

This device has over 3,800 mostly positive reviews on Amazon. If you don’t like it, within 30 days you can return it for a full refund.

Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQXKEjpZglk

I apologize that this segment on robocalls is so long, but it seems to be the biggest problem consumers have. In addition to being a nuisance, when you answer a robocall, you open yourself up to some very serious crooks and scammers.

• • •

IF YOU WANT TO GET SCAMMED: I can almost guarantee at least a couple of immediate attempts to scam you if you try to sell a big ticket item on Craigslist. If you’re selling a used mattress, the scammers will usually leave you alone. Usually. If you’re selling almost anything of value, even an old set of golf clubs, you’ll probably get contacted by a would-be scammer, usually by email or text, sometimes by a live person on the phone.

The latest evolution of this routine goes like this:

The “buyer” (read “scammer”) will contact you and in great detail and with boundless enthusiasm tell you he (or she) wants to buy your items for the full price. He will want assurances that you’re an “honest person” and will wait until he can get a certified check in the mail to you, usually delivered by an express service early the next day. He will include a generous amount so that you can immediately express ship the item to him. The scammers often claim they are in the military and about to be shipped overseas.

The sad ending to this tale is this: You deposit the cashier’s check (always a counterfeit) into your account, pay for the shipping, wave bye-bye to your expensive item and a few days later are informed by your bank that the cashier’s check was bogus and you are on the hook for some pretty hefty bounced check charges.

MY ADVICE: Don’t use Craigslist. It may be the most expensive way ever to use a “free” online service. Buy and sell locally — face to face and always verify funds BEFORE signing over any property. If you’re buying or selling using cash, suggest that you make the transaction in the lobby of the local police department (that suggestion itself usually scares off most scammers).

• • •

PROTECT YOURSELF WITH A GREEN CARD: I’m not talking about a green card like those sought by visitors to our country. I’m talking about good old United States Postal Office PS Form 3811 and the accompanying PS Form 3800. These are the official documents used to show receipt of a piece of mail sent to the addressee. It is most often used by legal types, collection agencies, demand letters for payment or action or in a worst-case scenario, by the Internal Revenue Service.

Remember, the IRS never calls with bad news. They send it by certified mail so they can prove to a court that you got the message. When you send a letter using a “green card,” be sure to include at the top of the letter the phrase — “Sent Via Certified Mail/Return Receipt Requested #1234 2000 0007 6046 2233.” This shows that the letter received is linked to the green card receipt you sent.

As an aside, whenever I send a Return Receipt Letter, I also send a copy to the recipient by regular mail. Important note: If you refuse to pick up a piece of certified mail, most courts and agencies, once the mail is returned as not delivered, will deem the recipient to have received the mail and to be aware of the letter’s contents. Using Certified Mail can be a powerful tool in the consumer’s arsenal against fraud and scammers.

If you have a question about using Certified Mail, call me. It costs just under $6 for a First Class letter to be certified, but it often saves a lot of time and trouble.

• • •

QUICK HINT: While out of town and traveling by cab, always write down the cab driver’s name, number and the number or license plate of the cab. It’s the easiest protection against scams and recovering lost items or luggage left in a cab.

• • •

REMEMBER BILL BROOKS: “He’s On Your Side”

• • •

I have many more tips and interesting cases that I’m working on. Call me at (208) 699-0506 or you can email me at brooks@tarex.com. I am available to speak about consumerism to schools, and local and civic groups. Bill Brooks is a consumer advocate and the Broker and Owner of Bill Brooks Real Estate in Coeur d’Alene.

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