Category: Telephone

Do Not Harass a Phone Scammer

I just saw some really bad advice on Reddit. Someone suggested that when you take a call from a scammer, you should spend some time complaining, to waste their time and convince them to not call anymore. Please do not do this.

The chance of you convincing a scammer to change their deceitful ways is fairly close to zero. No one will remove you from their scammer call list, and in fact, they may deliberately pass your info around to other scam-call companies. There is no version of this phone call where you gain anything of value from it, but also, there is a small risk of danger.

In rare instances, a scammer may swat their victim. Swatting is when someone reports a fake emergency to the police, that targets a victim and their residence. The swatter may lie about a bomb threat or a domestic situation, leading police to speed to the scene. I will state the obvious here: You do not want the police coming to your door, weapons at ready, prepared to deal with violence.

Swatting is rare, but it does happen. Some scammers are just that evil, and secure in the thought that they cannot be tracked down. So the safest thing to do in the face of a scam phone call is to simply hang up, without further comment.

Preserving a Voicemail Message

Let’s say you have a special voicemail message. Maybe it’s critical to a lawsuit you’re involved with. Or perhaps it’s a precious memory from a long-lost friend. If it’s important to you, then it needs to be protected! Don’t take your voicemail for granted, as it can be deleted or lost, like computer data.

If you have a valuable voicemail on your smartphone, please know that you can copy it to other locations, and then back it up. Here are some possibilities:

iPhone users: Tap on a voicemail, and then look for the Share button (looks like a box with an arrow pointing out of it). Tap that Share button to find a wealth of options. You should be able to copy the voicemail to Notes, Voice memos, or even attach it to an email message.

Android users: Tap on a voicemail and look down low for a Send To… option. Tap this to reveal choices for saving the recording to Google Drive, attaching it to a text message or sending it along in an email.

If you don’t see a Send To… option on your Android device, play the voicemail all the way through to the end, and then check again. If your phone still doesn’t offer that option, tap or tap-and-hold on the voicemail and look for pop-up options like Save or Save to Phone.

My preference is to email the audio message as an attachment. Creating an email is an easily-saved item, but also, the attachment is usually a universal MP3 file, which can later be downloaded, saved to a computer, backed up to another drive or shared with any other computer user.

Safeguarding a voicemail sent to a landline is a different ball of wax. Every telephone company is different from the next. Comcast, for example, allows for voicemail web access if you are an Xfinity Voice customer, and you can download/save voicemail files from their website. Shentel, on the other hand, offers no voicemail backup tools. If this becomes important to you, contact your specific provider to ask what is possible with their phone service.

Gift Card Scams

If a stranger asks you to pay using a Gift Card, I need your next thought to be SCAM! Program yourself to mistrust anyone asking you to go buy a gift card. Gift cards are just like cash and should only be used as gifts, with people you know, love and trust.

  • If someone on the phone says they’ll fix your computer and you can pay them using a Walmart Gift Card, s/he is a scammer.
  • If someone on Facebook asks you to buy them Google Play Gift Cards so you can participate in a Bitcoin-Generating investment operation, that is also a scam.
  • If the IRS contacts you regarding tax arrears, and says you can avoid jailtime by buying them several Amazon Gift Cards, the whole thing is one big lie and scam!

And so on. Gift cards are sought after by scammers because the funds on those are largely untraceable and unrecoverable. Those guys know that scammy credit card charges can be disputed and removed, fairly quickly. But if they can get the number from a gift card, they will instantly syphon off that money, with no chance of reversal.

So please: Let the mere mention of a gift card be a red flag to you that you have encountered a scam. Legitimate companies will never run you to the store to buy such things. If you encounter a gift card scam, disconnect the call or delete the messages and move on!

DSL Troubleshooting

An ISP in Wales recently solved their town-wide DSL problem by locating and disconnecting a resident’s old TV. It’s an extreme example of a common problem with DSL service: DSL signal is very touchy and vulnerable to interference. And that interference can be caused by so many different things along your phonelines. If you have persistent DSL problems, here’s some troubleshooting info for you:

  • Connect your DSL modem’s phoneline directly to the wall jack. Only use the phone cable provided with the modem by your ISP. That phone cable from the dollar store or that line that came with your fax machine may not be an adequate replacement.
  • Do NOT route the modem’s phoneline through a surge protector. Avoid connecting the modem’s phoneline to duplexers or splitters or couplers, unless directed by your ISP. If possible, eliminate splitters and couplers elsewhere in the house.
  • Disconnect old fax machines, answering machines and rotary telephones elsewhere in your house. Really, anything attached to a phone jack in your home could be offending your DSL modem. If your DSL behaves better after detaching some of these devices, you can reconnect them one at a time to figure out which is to blame.
  • All other devices connected to your phonelines must run through DSL filters. These filters are typically supplied by your ISP — call them if you need some! An unfiltered device can upset your DSL modem, even from across the house. Your DSL modem should not be filtered, unless your ISP supplied you with a special duplexer for attaching both a modem and a phone to the same jack. That sort of dongle is actually filtered on one side (for a phone) and unfiltered on the other (for your modem).

Also, make sure not to stack your DSL modem on top of your router or any other electronics. Stacking can lead to overheating, which causes frequent outages until the modem is totally cooked!

Each time you make a change or improvement to your wiring, reboot your modem. But do NOT use any hard-to-reach Reset button, unless directed by your ISP. If you use the Reset button (usually by inserting a toothpick into a hole on the rear of the modem), you may erase important settings and make your situation worse.

If all else fails, it may be time get a new modem. Besides normal wear and tear, DSL modems degrade due to power surges that travel over the phone lines. I recommend you go to your ISP for your replacement modem, to ensure that they support you with any future issues.

The Thank-You-for-Your-Purchase Scam

A common scam starts with an email, stating you made a purchase, when you truly didn’t. Here’s a recent example:

$500 for “Microsoft Windows Defender Firewall Online”? Many people will miss that that doesn’t make much sense, nor does the From: address. The panic from an unwanted $500 credit card charge often causes people to jump for the phone, but please don’t call or respond to this message! Remain calm and recognize this for the ploy that it is.

The bad guys want you to pick up the phone and dial that shady number. They want you to ask for a refund, because once you ask for anything, they’ll try to manipulate and feed you more false info. Even if a caller wises up and refuses to fork over a credit card number, they’ll still have his phone number, and that leads to more scam calls down the road.

It’s best to disregard this email, if you get it. Just delete it. If you need further peace of mind, simply call your credit card company and talk to them about it. Review your statements and you’ll see that this charge never happened.

AT&T Notifying Some Users to Buy New Phones

Some AT&T users are receiving emails and texts this week, telling them to upgrade their phones or lose service. Some people are asking if the messages are scams (because of the grammar and spelling). And others are getting annoyed because their phones are not that old.

These messages are legitimate. And yet, they are not clear on all the details. Here’s what AT&T cellular customers need to know:

In February 2022, AT&T will kill off their 3G network. After that, older 3G-reliant phones will stop working. Phones that are 4G-compatible (and support HD voice) will continue to work.

So, you don’t really need to do anything until February 2022. Don’t rush out to buy a new phone, if your current one is working just fine.

AT&T has put together a list of phones that will work on their 4G service here: https://www.att.com/ecms/dam/att/consumer/help/pdf/Devices-Working-on-ATT-Network.pdf If you don’t see your make and model of phone on the list, and you think it should be (because it’s a newer phone), contact AT&T to press them on the issue. And if you don’t like what you hear, then you have plenty of time to shop around for a new cellular provider!

The Big iPhone Throttling Settlement

In 2017, Apple got in hot water for slowing down some of their iPhones. They did this for legitimate technology reasons, but because they didn’t disclose it properly, it looked really bad. Their lack of transparency made it seem like they were deliberately slowing their older phones, and many suspected it was done to drive new iPhone sales.

A class action lawsuit ensued, and it has finally come to a head. If you were affected by this iPhone issue (iPhones 6’s and 7’s with specific iOSes), you can stake your claim to your share of the settlement. Check out:

https://www.smartphoneperformancesettlement.com/

To sign up for your payment, you’ll probably use the Claim Form Online link to submit your info. Please know that you’ll either need your iPhone serial number, or you’ll have to use their special Search Tool, submitting your AppleID and other personal info. If you did not own a relevant iPhone, then you will probably not succeed in signing up for a payment!

It looks like claims must be submitted by 10/6/2020 so that they can wrap things up by December and start mailing out checks for the new year. If all goes well, you’ll get a whopping $25. Per qualifying iPhone.

GetHuman

If you’re looking for the quickest way to contact a large company, check out https://gethuman.com/ .

You do NOT want to Google for a support number, unless you really know what you’re doing. That’s how a lot of people find and call fake companies and scammers. But GetHuman is trustworthy, and will only show legitimate contact numbers.

GetHuman goes further, though — it will tell you what numbers to mash on your phone, to quickly navigate/bypass the robot menus and speak to a living being at that particular business. If a company has a callback feature, it may also reveal a button to quickly use that!

And if the company you’re trying to reach has no support number? GetHuman will tell you and advise on the next best way to get a hold of them.

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