Caller ID: Who’s on the Line?

There are a number of joys about being in Hilton Head this time of the year. The temps are mild, the beaches are nearly empty, and I can enjoy happy hour every day from a balcony that provides an unobstructed view of the ocean.

Gee, in this setting it’s tough to get my shorts in a knot over the super fail of the congressional supercommittee — or fret about the next exercise in government gridlock as our federal elected officials begin the navel-gazing this week about whether to extend the “payroll holiday” that cuts the amount of Social Security tax.

According to a NYT article: “A one-year extension would cost more than $110 billion, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. Senate Democrats want to offset the cost by increasing the tax on income over $1 million a year.”

Well, good luck with that.

So, back to happy hour. Another joy of being in Hilton Head is that I am able to escape the daily flood of annoying calls from telemarketers and other miscreants. I know. I should just end the service for my land line at home. Hey, I don’t receive any personal phone calls (or snail mail letters) these days? Does anyone?  But I haven’t been able to pull the plug as yet.

Yet I might, especially since telemarketers are becoming more unethical in how they get people to actually pick up the phone. Anytime my phone rings I first check the caller ID. But that might not be all that helpful these days.

Here’s from a NYT article “Who’s on the Line? Increasingly Caller ID Is Duped“:

Caller ID has been celebrated as a defense against unwelcome phone pitches. But it is backfiring.

Telemarketers increasingly are disguising their real identities and phone numbers to provoke people to pick up the phone. “Humane Soc.” may not be the Humane Society. And think the I.R.S. is on the line? Think again.

Caller ID, in other words, is becoming fake ID.

“You don’t know who is on the other end of the line, no matter what your caller ID might say,” said Sandy Chalmers, a division manager at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection in Wisconsin.

Starting this summer, she said, the state has been warning consumers: “Do not trust your caller ID. And if you pick up the phone and someone asks for your personal information, hang up.”

Regulators in Wisconsin and many other states are hearing a significant jump in complaints about what is often called “caller ID spoofing” or “call laundering.”

The rise of such tactics has prompted the Federal Trade Commission, which already prohibits telemarketers from masking their identity, to consider new rules. And last year, the Federal Communications Commission introduced rules to strengthen enforcement against the practice, and law enforcement officials in many states are working on other ways to combat it.

OK. The sun is coming up over the ocean and I’m about to head out the door for my daily five-mile run.

Then I’ll look forward to happy hour — without any distracting phone calls.

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