Smile Politely

‘Tis the season to be robo-ed

If you’re getting more than the usual number of annoying robocalls of late, you’re not alone. The Champaign-Urbana area seems to be a hotbed for folks who grew weary of being hung up on, so they turned to recorded messages, put our phone numbers out for sale, and as this year’s holidays approach, we’re getting more calls from strangers than we get from our kids.

As perhaps the only person in Champaign County who doesn’t mind getting these calls (because I like to see how far marketers are willing to go to get my attention), it’s hard not to notice the increase in robocalls. They have increased dramatically, with no end in sight. Even getting on “do not call” lists is no guarantee that you will be left in peace, awaiting calls from your kids rather than robots.

Recently, my slew of robocalls appear to be gifts that keeps giving. A few of my favorites are:

  1. A very polite Chinese woman wants me to transfer my service to AT&T. I don’t speak Mandarin, but that “AT&T” is a giveaway that requires no translation. She has been in touch three times within a week’s timeframe. I couldn’t feel lonely if I tried.
  2. Do I want to be a clinical trial participant and help put an end to COVID-19? Well, yes I would. But when I checked with Carle, Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, and a couple of Illinois state websites that keep tabs on these trials, there are no research studies going on in C-U at the moment. I sulked because this would have been the first robocall I ever got that enticed me to take action.
  3. Chase wants me to know that my credit card has been pirated and I really need to call them so they can help me resolve this issue. Ditto Wells Fargo Bank. Since I don’t have cards from either grantor, I nevertheless contacted the institutions issuing my real cards to make sure that I hadn’t bought another six theater-sized televisions. That issue had been resolved a few months ago via email. Still waiting for those TVs to arrive.
  4. Social Security rang to inform me that an arrest warrant had been issued in my name due to fraudulent activities surrounding my social security number. Right. Makes me miss the communications I used to get from Mrs. Marshall, my favorite Nigerian benefactor, who only needed a few hundred bucks so I could get in on deals of a lifetime.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m not alone. Everyone I know in the area has been experiencing an uptick in these annoying communications, despite Illinois States Attorney Kwame Raoul’s reassuring words posted on the government’s website. He says:

Since 2018, Illinois has been a member of a coalition of states working with the telecom industry to attack the scourge of robocalls in a comprehensive way by implementing commonsense business practices to minimize illegal robocalls and trace these calls back to their source.

I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t seem to have made a difference in the number of bogus calls I receive.

“The 217 area code, which covers central Illinois from the Mississippi River to Indiana, has received more than 40 million robocalls this year, with about seven million in April, according to the Robocall Index, a site tracking the data,” reports Kade Heather for The State Journal Register. That number was published in May, long before the holiday rush to drive the people of central Illinois crazy by upping the ante of around 10,000 calls per hour.

I’m writing this both for entertainment and because a friend’s mom, living in a C-U nursing home, just received and responded to a “call” from Social Security requesting more information in order to help her straighten out issues associated with her card number’s theft. It took some doing to unravel the damage done.

If you’ve been inundated with robocalls of late, you have recourse. You can:

  1. Stop answering the phone.
  2. Dump your land line (as another friend did when she couldn’t take it any more) or
  3. Contact the state’s Attorney General’s office.

That may not stop the calls, but at least you know that you took action — and in this day and age of uncertainty, that step alone can make you feel powerful.

Top image from Illinois Attorney General’s website.

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