back to article Pai guy not too privacy shy, says your caller ID can't block IP, so anons go bye

FCC boss Ajit Pai has put forward a new set of changes to the rules it will use to govern US telcos, potentially reducing privacy protections and local government rights in the process. The US comms chairman said on Thursday that the rules will help to improve competition among broadband providers and make it easier for police …

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  1. Charles 9 Silver badge

    Instead of anonymous callers, what about "false ID" callers who use VoIP technology to misdirect caller recipients? Should be a way to force callers to reveal either their true source number or (with a legally-binding document) the number of their main office or (in the case of calling agents) the firm the caller represents.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      @Charles 9, re: fake info.

      Exactly.

      The Caller ID (CID) data is easily & legally changeable, austentatiously so places like a Women's shelter or a privacy rights advocacy group can make calls without revealing whom they are to the called party. Unfortunately this ALSO means that we get calls that the CID claims is from ficticious people, business' or locations that don't exist, or impossible numbers.

      We can theoreticly set a CID unit to refuse to ring our phones if the CID data is blocked, but that's not enough to stop the fake calls.

      What we need is a way to filter on not the CID data but the billing data, not whom the call purports to be from but the party that pays for the call to be rung through. Then it wouldn't matter if the CID claims the call is from "Anne Noni Mouse" at a 0-000-000-0000 number, the fact that the billed agent is actually "TelemarketingScumCorp" means we could filter from calls made from that company.

      But the phone company refuses to allow us such abilities, usually citing some bullshit misinterpretation of the TCPA or the federal laws requiring them to place emergency calls from any device even if the calling party is fifty years behind in their bills. This ignores the fact that the TCPA doesn't prevent them from enacting such services & WE are not the Emergency Services the calling party is trying to reach.

      We need to be able to set our call interception filters on Billed Party, Blocked Calls, International calls, or VOIP calls. If we're sick of getting calls from the same telemarketing company that's using a bazillion different numbers to call from, if they're blocking the CID so it can't report the caller, if the call originates from a country where we have no known contacts, or the call is from a VOIP client rather than a land line or cellphone, then we should be able to block those calls or send them directly to VM. "We're sorry but the party you've called doesn't accept the call you're trying to make. Please leave a message & perhaps they'll call you back?"

      Since the phone company collects money to complete the call, they are in NO hurry to enable folks to block their profit stream. But telemarketing would wither & die if we could enable such blocks, for they'd get sick & fekkin' tired of leaving VM all the time & never getting any returned calls. "Hi, this is Tom at Windows Tech Support. Please call me back so I can swindle you out of your money." or "Hi this is Rebecca at Card Holder Services. We've been monitoring your credit payment history..." Uh huh, No. Not gonna call you back. In fact I'd delete the message within the first ten words. The phone company would still get to charge them for connecting the call, just our phones would never ring from such sources.

      *Sigh*

      It'll never happen, it's Logical, Ethical, & Makes Sense therefore corporations will strangle it in the crib & claim it was a natural death...

      Bastards.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: @Charles 9, re: fake info.

        ""We're sorry but the party you've called doesn't accept the call you're trying to make. Please leave a message & perhaps they'll call you back?""

        Tried that. The lousiest of the lousy simply take advantage and fill your answering machine/voicemail with a lengthy ad message. And since some of the callers are international, they can sometimes use foreign sovereignty to avoid getting caught.

      2. fnj

        Re: @Charles 9, re: fake info.

        @Shadow Systems: ah, "ostentatious" and "ostensible" are completely different words.

  2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

    This is why phones will eventually be replaced by the next version of Whatsit or Skipe or Lyne or Doesanyonecare. It seems only businesses answer calls that aren't in the phone's address book these days anyway so my bet is that the traditional phone will be officially dead before email.

  3. Boohoo4u

    I read this article all prepared to be outraged about the next dumb thing Pai was doing...

    I even read it twice.

    My conclusion: Does anyone really care?

    Regarding "Blue Alerts" probably 99% of the time cops would probably want the public to stay out and away from whatever is occurring, so they don't confuse the situation. Who requested this expansion of emergency services? It wasn't likely the cops. I assume there is already some kind of Alert for terrorist threats...

    Regarding "undercutting the basic principles of anonymous call services". If I'm calling to report a crime, why wouldn't I want to talk to the police? It seems like we are discussing the basic responsibilities of citizens. Law enforcement needs witnesses to actually do anything. I have no problem getting rid of anonymous call services.

    Maybe they're talking about protecting the anonymity of Whistleblowers? A whistleblower unsophisticated enough to use their phone is going to get unveiled anyways.

    1. Orv Silver badge

      The "blue alerts" idea is almost certainly a political move to further the "Blue Lives Matter" movement, which appeared in opposition to Black Lives Matter.

      Realistically it seems likely to be even more useless than Amber Alerts, which I ended up turning off on my phone because they were so frequent.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        It is based on the false premise that police lives somehow matter more than the lives of the rest of us. Enhanced penalties for killing cops, now special alerts when they are threatened - but no special alerts when a domestic abuse victim is threatened. There's this myth that being a police officer is particularly dangerous, and thus they must have special protection. However, if you look at the stats, there are plenty of jobs that are more dangerous, including jobs like road construction and roofing.

        Not that I support special alerts for either - like the above poster I disabled amber alerts and in fact all emergency alerts on my phone because they are too frequent, especially the weather alerts. If I only could disable them on my TV!

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge

          It is based on the false premise that police lives somehow matter more than the lives of the rest of us.

          As such I agree with you, but as police and first responders have a certain responsibility towards the safety and wellbeing of the community (putting aside the question of whether that responsibility is always carried out correctly), they should be able to expect the community taking responsibility for them being able to perform their duties.

          And I don't think 'Blue Alerts' are the right way to express that responsibility.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            That was the ideal - unfortunately the partnership between police and community has gone.

            Even if you aren't in a black community that see "accidental" police shootings as a major risk to your life.

            As a reg reader you are likely to see the police as an extra tax for speeding / parking / driving with a phone

            If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

            1. JLV Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

              You are familiar with the meaning of "Agent Provocateur"?

              People like you, making extreme statements like yours, are very useful in deflecting valid criticism of the police force.

              It's like the Black Lives Matter folk in Toronto wanting the police banned from their Pride Parade. What starts out as valid criticism of the police's dealings with the black community is disregarded because all the bigots can then quote that local chapter of BLM's extremist views to justify the status quo.

              Most cops do a useful job, in often difficult circumstances. Could it be improved wrt minorities? Yes, at lest in some cases. Should some cops be let go? Yes, after checking individual facts carefully.

              Should they get spit on principle? No. Who would prevent rapes, breakins, investigate murders...?

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

                I grew up Catholic in Belfast in the 70s - I don't have quite the same "Dixon of dock green" view of the police.

                I now live in a N American city where the police in plain clothes pose as window washers / panhandlers to catch drivers at stop lights touching their cell phone / GPS to score the $150 fine.

                1. Kiwi Silver badge
                  WTF?

                  Re: >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

                  I now live in a N American city where the police in plain clothes pose as window washers / panhandlers to catch drivers at stop lights touching their cell phone / GPS to score the $150 fine.

                  Isn't the window washing/pan handling etc in itself a crime? Punishable by higher fines etc?

                  Not sure on GPS but we have laws in NZ about touching your phone even when stopped in traffic. One day I hope someone charged with "careless driving" (iirc the relevant charge) for this would take the case to court, if stopped in traffic at the time and a brief check. Especially if no call originated from the phone or text was sent, and if you know the lights and that you have a couple of minutes before they change again. Some lights here take more than 5 minutes to change. Once I have a couple of cars behind me I'm not going anywhere and if something was going to happen behind me, I have no chance of preventing it anyway. While I understand not checking/altering etc while driving, while stopped at lights is another matter, and probably safer than pulling out of traffic and off the road, then on the road and back into traffic which is the current legal requirement (or using hands free stuff).

                  Anyone who gets done for this should try a challenge. And in the US, if you win (or if not as well), sue the cop who gave the ticket for everything he has, and then go after his bosses (or her as the case may be).

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Phones and cars

                    Using a mobile phone while driving is something that does need to be stopped.

                    But having police posing as Windscreen washers in order to get a conviction is going a bit far.

                    I'd be in a mind to have a dummy phone and give it a good fondle at the lights. If I got charged then I'd sue them right back as the 'device' wasn't a phone.

                    Get the people using the phone while on the move. They are the more of a danger to themselves and other road users.

                    1. DougS Silver badge

                      Re: Phones and cars

                      A lot of the issues with cops serving as revenue collectors would go away if cops acted like firefighters and first responders - stop driving around looking for people to fine and wait until they are called. You don't see firefighters driving around looking for people who have piles of brush next to their garage so they can fine them, or ambulances driving around fining people who are using a rickety ladder to paint the second story of their house.

                      But police unions would be against such a change, because the system could not support nearly as many cops as there are now without all those unnecessary fines.

                      1. Kiwi Silver badge

                        Re: Phones and cars

                        A lot of the issues with cops serving as revenue collectors would go away if cops acted like firefighters and first responders - stop driving around looking for people to fine and wait until they are called.

                        There is some grounds for having them in areas where something is more likely to happen, and stepping in to prevent something from turning bad - see how fire-fighters and ambulance staff are on standby and present at certain events. I visit a friend who for some 20 years the people on his street have been complaining about cars often travelling in excess of 100kph (50kph limit, not a straight road, can have kids in the area) which is something that happens a lot, more than once an hour. Every few months there is a crash, sometimes serious. Yet strangely there is no police presence. It'd be an ideal place for a speed camera, even a camera van - a lot of revenue in the first few days and as word gets around idiots will stop using a street with young children as a race track. But while the cops could be there to make this a safer place they aren't. They're in the poorer neighbourhoods where there's a greater chance of picking up someone who can't pay their car registration fees.

                        But police unions would be against such a change, because the system could not support nearly as many cops as there are now without all those unnecessary fines.

                        Oh I don't know.. They could be put into other work. Like dealing with burglaries and other stuff that is actually a harmful crime. But no, too many traffic tickets to issue.

                        Many years ago one of our National Party "leaders" made an election promise that they would put 1,000 more police officers "on the beat", and people lapped this up expecting things to be better and safer. What was done was to close down the separate road-policing unit (different staff, different cars, basically completely separate from the normal police force) and merge everyone's job so all were road cops and all were beat cops. Still didn't work as only 900 or so came across (the rest left for various reasons). Even worse, it basically meant less cops dealing with crime. But that's Nats (conservatives) for you. Even when they (almost) keep their promise, you're still worse off - unless you're one of their rich friends coz they'll change laws "under urgency" for you (if you're not one of their friends, then even if rich, they'll change laws "under urgency" against you).

                      2. Orv Silver badge

                        Re: Phones and cars

                        You don't see firefighters driving around looking for people who have piles of brush next to their garage so they can fine them...

                        Mostly because we consider that a separate job, "fire inspector." Now it's a government function, but at one time it was done by whatever company you were buying fire insurance from, in a bid to reduce their claim rates.

                        How strict they are varies. In one city I worked in the fire inspector used to come around and make us unplug any power strips that were plugged into other power strips.

                        1. Number6

                          Re: Phones and cars

                          How strict they are varies. In one city I worked in the fire inspector used to come around and make us unplug any power strips that were plugged into other power strips.

                          Having seen how dodgy US electrics can be, I'm not surprised. Having said that, even in the UK they'll pull you up for chaining power strips, which I always thought was overkill given the number of fuses protecting against overload in a UK set-up. Perhaps check the fuse ratings though, too many 13A fuses where they should be 3A or 5A.

                          1. Orv Silver badge

                            Re: Phones and cars

                            Having said that, even in the UK they'll pull you up for chaining power strips

                            Yeah, I don't think he was wrong, exactly. But having worked IT in academic office buildings built in the 1960s, when two duplex outlets was considered plenty for an office, it does get hard to avoid sometimes.

                    2. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

                      Re: Phones and cars

                      "I'd be in a mind to have a dummy phone and give it a good fondle at the lights."

                      Sorry officer. Just adjusting my insulin pump.

                      1. Bill Michaelson

                        Re: Phones and cars

                        "Sorry officer. Just adjusting my insulin pump."

                        Would that be your Bluetooth-connected insulin pump?

                2. JLV Silver badge

                  Re: >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

                  The cops carrying this out aren't necessarily too happy about it either. One big issue raised in Ferguson was that the police department had a history of aggressively giving out fines to black people for trivial offenses. It's a way to get money wo raising tases. But it's wrong if it's because the police chief is grabbing more money for his dept. And doubly wrong if it's because the city council is on the take themselves. But the cops doing this aren't doing it on their own initiative, are they?

                  Police should be there to protect and serve. Not extortionate. On this we both agree. The politicians and higher ups involved in fine-based revenue scams should be turfed out.

                  On your "I don't care if a cop dies" (including the schtums you cite), sorry, you are still a twat.

                  1. Kiwi Silver badge

                    Re: >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

                    But the cops doing this aren't doing it on their own initiative, are they?

                    There are plenty of legal precedents around refusing to obey "illegal orders", following the intent of a law and so on. A cop can choose not to stop a poorer person's car "just because", or sit near a poor neighbourhood trying to catch those who are likely to have a higher need to use their own car but not have the car fitting the current definition of "road legal" .

                    They have the choice to follow orders to the letter of what their boss says, or to follow orders to the spirit (and sometimes even letter) of the law. If they get dismissed for this, they can take said boss for various forms of wrongful dismissal - the public and many lawyers would certainly be on their side.

                    A good cop stands up to corruption by their bosses. A bad one doesn't care, or willingly joins in.

                    1. Adam 52 Silver badge

                      Re: >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

                      'There are plenty of legal precedents around refusing to obey "illegal orders"'

                      I'm not entirely sure that catching criminals can really be called an illegal order.

                      Quite frankly if you're using your mobile phone whilst driving then you are a menace to everyone else and deserve to get fined. If you can't do the time, don't do the crime. Or if you think it shouldn't be a crime, well that's what your democratically elected lawmakers are for.

                  2. Fatman Silver badge
                    WTF?

                    Re: >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

                    <quote>But it's wrong if it's because the police chief is grabbing more money for his dept. And doubly wrong if it's because the city council is on the take themselves. </quote>

                    Here in Flori-dun, we have the Red Traffic Light Scams foisted upon us by bought and paid for city councils and county commissioners.

                    See below:

                    http://www.wtsp.com/news/investigations/two-more-cities-turn-off-red-light-cameras/102082599

                    and

                    http://www.wtsp.com/news/tampa-votes-to-keep-red-light-cameras/319125206

                    Mind you, these cameras are usually installed by for profit entities, and the locality gets a cut of the revenue.

                  3. tom dial Silver badge

                    Re: >If they are simply legalised pirates then I'm not going to cry too much when one of them dies

                    Ticketing for revenue often is not a police department initiative as such, but a use of the police by the city government for revenue production in lieu of taxes. That was probably the case in Ferguson, and the Cleveland suburb of Linndale comes to my mind in the context. About a quarter mile of Interstate 71 passes through Linndale, a municipality of 52 acres with a population of 177 - and a police department. For many years it was reported to patrol that piece of I-71 and derive the overwhelmiing majority of it the municipal operating budget by ticketing those exceeding the speed limit. It is extreme, but certainly not unique.

            2. 's water music Silver badge

              As a reg reader you are likely to see the police as an extra tax for speeding / parking / driving with a phone

              Good. speeding / parking / driving with a phone endangers or inconveniences me almost every day of my life. Burglary, murder and terrorism not so much.

            3. tom dial Silver badge

              There are about a million police officers in the US, out of which a few hundred, perhaps, have proved to be risks to civilians in any given year. In the matter of black lives, police officers are a minor factor compared to all others, and the plainly outrageous cases that cause national uproar are a small fraction of those. Concerned expressions about police misbehavior toward black and other minority citizens have a much firmer basis when referred to Terry stops, traffic tickets for revenue, and similar activities, which are likely to have a lot to do with factors other than race perception, and remedies that go beyond weeding out the bad cops or, better (but probably not possible) removing them from the applicant pool before their hire.

        2. Adam 52 Silver badge

          "There's this myth that being a police officer is particularly dangerous ... if you look at the stats, there are plenty of jobs that are more dangerous, including jobs like road construction and roofing."

          Construction doesn't have to be dangerous. Look at London 2012 or Crossrail Project Zero for examples. It's lax heath and safety standards and a macho culture that make it dangerous.

          Policing, on the other hand, is inherently dangerous. It's the Police job to go to things that are too scary for anyone else. Knowing that if it all goes wrong someone will be there quickly is what makes that possible. For that reason urban policing is substantially different to rural; in a major city you can get badly beaten up before help arrives, in a rural location there's time to do much worse and dispose of the body. And that's ignoring the current bunch who are actively targeting anyone in a uniform.

          There are, of course, other jobs that are inherently risky but very few where the risk is an attack by a person rather than accident.

          Downvote button is just there for the uninformed, rabid anti-Police!

      2. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        "Realistically it seems likely to be even more useless than Amber Alerts, "

        If these were warnings that Amber Rudd was about to appear on television, I wouldn't discount them as useless.

      3. Sporkinum

        The blue alerts would be on constantly, as police always feel threatened whenever they pull over someone with brown skin.

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Phone calls are almost free, like email. The only reason they don't get abused the way email does, is that most people believe they are traceable (by the police or the telephone company, if not the recipient) and so the spammer would get their comeuppance.

      True anonymity for phone calls would, I imagine, result in a flood of nuisance phone calls like email. Email is *far* easier to ignore than a machine in your pocket singing polyphonic ring-tones at you. I imagine that allowing truly anonymous calls would result in pitchforks unless someone also devised a "spam filter" program to do automatic call rejection.

      Actually, I'm worried now. Am I just behind the times? Has all this already been done?

      1. patrickstar

        Especially now with cheap international dialing, it's pretty trivial to anonymize phone calls to the point where noone is going to bother tracing them unless you're making credible threats to kill the President, or something along that line.

        Plus once you've traced them, chances are it's gonna end up being either a pre-paid cell card or via some VoIP provider.

    3. JLV Silver badge
      FAIL

      >If I'm calling to report a crime, why wouldn't I want to talk to the police?

      Let's say you are with a friend and he starts to OD on fentanyl. The obvious thing that should happen is that you should call emergency services. But if you are forced to reveal your identity, you may make entirely the wrong choice (not helped by you being impaired yourself) and dither or not call because you were involved.

      Ditto with someone committing a crime themselves but wanting to report a more grievous crime. A mugger reporting a rape by his accomplice for example.

      Real life example? http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/alleged-prostitute-charged-in-google-execs-yacht-overdose-death/ - skip the alleged though, she got convicted later.

      This is not rocket science to you, is it?

      p.s. I do support warrant-based access to caller records, when the severity justifies it, which a judge can easily determine.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: >If I'm calling to report a crime, why wouldn't I want to talk to the police?

        Let's say you are with a friend and he starts to OD on fentanyl. The obvious thing that should happen is that you should call emergency services. But if you are forced to reveal your identity, you may make entirely the wrong choice

        In fact some states have laws granting some form of immunity to people who call to report drug overdoses, for exactly that reason.

        1. Bill Michaelson

          Re: >If I'm calling to report a crime, why wouldn't I want to talk to the police?

          Yes, they do, and it's not enough. You excised the comment about diminished capacity, or disregarded it. Perception of the actor is key. A person in such a situation does not consult a lawyer to inquire about local laws. They want to be anonymous, and we want them to report the emergency without delay.

          Those who only consider the pitfalls but do not understand the value of anonymous speech need to think harder.

    4. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

      "Regarding "Blue Alerts" probably 99% of the time cops would probably want the public to stay out and away from whatever is occurring,"

      You see a car described in an Amber Alert and call it in. It's probably some jerk violating his child custody visitation rights.

      You see a car described in a Blue Alert. It's someone crazy enough to kill a cop. And he sees you behind him phoning in his location. No thanks.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    To anyone outside the US this seems pretty strange

    People block their outgoing phone numbers as a matter of course (hence the shrinkage in the size of phone books in countries that still use them).

    If subscribers (note that word, as in "it's a service") report nuisance calls then their originating number can usually be unblocked and I'd always assumed the police could do this.

    Kevin Mittnicks books "The Art of Deception" mentions that call spoofing has been available to anyone with a PBX certainly in the US for decades. I'm not sure if these used VoIP already to support 30+ lines or under another protocol.

    1. Number6

      Re: To anyone outside the US this seems pretty strange

      At least BT would validate your claimed CLI and default to something valid if you tried to spoof it. It would also tag on digital lines how much of the presented number it would vouch for. No idea if this is still the case.

      Methinks VoIP gateways should be required to properly validate credentials before putting calls onto the wired telephone system, and perhaps the SIP (and other) protocols need to be updated to have a secure key exchange to allow verification of the caller ID. You can choose to omit the verification if you want, but then you'll come through as withheld. Any gateway with the power to inject CLI would have to meet the standards, and any that didn't would be assigned the default gateway number or at least a number from the valid range assigned to that gateway rather than any number the caller felt like using.

  5. JulieM Silver badge

    Simple Reciprocity

    It's a matter of simple reciprocity. If you want to call me, you have to know my number -- which means I have a right to know your number. Withholding your number is the telephonical equivalent of wearing a mask and pouncing on someone from behind.

    There are good reasons for presenting a calling line ID that is not the one assiciated with the originating line, if you have some fancy phone system. For instance, third-party recording services need to pass on the ID of the calling party, when dialling out on a different line to the called party. Someone who is often on the road can have any of their mobiles (while the others are on charge) identify as their desk number. And sometimes an interchangeable member of a team might want to identify with a number that calls the department, not their own handset directly.

    All this could be policed, since telecommunications companies are in a position to know what numbers each of their subscribers may legitimately identify as. It's just a matter of whether or not this ends up costing more than it saves.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: Simple Reciprocity

      Nice try but it doesn't work - we get spam calls and faxes hourly - reporting them to the FCC (as they suggest) does nothing.

      They can make all the regulations they like but basically, nobody cares if they are broken.

      1. JulieM Silver badge

        Re: Simple Reciprocity

        As I said, policing presented numbers takes an effort. And most people are sensible enough, if they are going to send an ident that is not the default associated with the line, at least to send one that points back to them somehow. (If you're a legitimate business, you probably actually want customers to be able to return missed calls .....)

        The ability to "spoof" CLID is vital for businesses relying on putting people in touch with one another. When you are selling introductions to prospects, you need a way to provide a direct dial-in number that allows the customer to reach either the prospect, or a reminder that they need to pay for your service. It's just an extension of the old system of box numbers on personal advertisements, requiring payment from the advertiser before they get to receive the responses collected by the paper on their behalf.

        Right now, the effort the telecommunications industry would have to expend to ensure once and for all that people only use an ident that they have some business to be using is a greater cost than pretending it is not their problem.

  6. Rustbucket

    Three words -- Prepaid burner phone.

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      If you've got a dual sim phone can you simply have a burner sim? My current phone doesn't have dual capability and I'm wondering if they have a unique IMEI for each sim card or not. If not, it's easy enough and probably cheaper to pick up a cheap mini phone.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Wouldn't work because the IMEI stays with the phone. Also, while dual-SIM phones do have two IMEIs, one for each slot, they're usually numerically consecutive.

  7. DaddyHoggy

    Here in the UK - Unless we know a friend or relative is dialling in at a particular time we don't ever pick up our landline when it rings. When it goes to voicemail most of the spam cuts off immediately, some, annoyingly, stay on the line long enough for the voicemail to record 10s or so of silence. People who actually need to get hold of us - they leave an actual message..

    I don't answer my mobile phone to withheld numbers or non-geograhic numbers - again - figuring people who really want to talk to me will leave a message.

    I've got friends who have ditched their landlines completely and now only have VOIP phones...

    1. Updraft102 Silver badge

      When I moved into my current residence, I got a new phone number (landline) to go with it. I was quickly deluged with calls from bill collectors, looking for people I've never met, and I made the mistake of thinking that it would die down fairly quickly. By the time I realized that it was not going to, I'd already given the number to bunches of people I want to have it, and I didn't want to have to go through the trouble of changing it.

      Along with my service bundle from the telco, I get my choice of x "calling features," so I went for call blocking. It works, but the blocklist has a maximum of 25 phone numbers, and I need far, far more than that. It also doesn't let me completely block numbers that don't have a valid ID ("unavailable" or "out of area" or "unknown" or "blocked" or "private"...)

      So, I pressed an old XP era laptop into service being a call blocker. I put some call blocking software on it (PhoneTray, if you wanted to know; no affiliation with them other than being a one-time customer) and plugged a phone cord into its modem. It has caller ID capability on the modem, so it can screen my calls quite well, and it has an unlimited blocklist, not to mention the ability to block any of the "unavailable" numbers. It doesn't need to be connected to the internet to do this, so its XPness is of no concern, and while it won't block calls if I let it go to sleep mode (it wakes up on the call, but the caller ID string has already been sent, so it can't act on it. I forget what it does do, but the bottom line is that it did not work). Fortunately, being a laptop, it uses little energy idling with the LCD backlight and HDD off.

      Now that years have elapsed, the bill collectors have finally stopped (or mostly have; they could be among the 25 blocked at the telco level, so I never see them logged). In their place is a barrage of calls from telemarketers and scammers. I would not be surprised if the bottom-feeder bill collectors that ended up with the unknown deadbeat's accounts didn't give my number to scammers as a form of revenge for me not paying someone else's bills.

      Even with that gauntlet, I still don't answer unless I expect and want the call. Otherwise, I let it go to the answering machine (digital, built into the cordless phone base) and call back if I want to. If they don't leave their identity and reason for calling, and that information is not in the caller ID log, I don't call back (everyone knows the drill by now, don't they? If they only leave a number, I assume they are a scammer or bill collector).

      I only answer my cell phone (a nearly ten year old feature phone) if I am expecting a specific prearranged call. I never read texts or get any voice mail on it. Everyone who I would actually want to talk to knows I am not a cell phone person, so they know to use my landline.

      There should be some way I can flag my phone line to only accept calls from callers using a legitimate, unspoofed caller ID. I know the limitations and the caveats-- I'm just saying I wish it were not so.

      1. Blofeld's Cat
        Devil

        "I only answer my cell phone (a nearly ten year old feature phone) if I am expecting a specific prearranged call. I never read texts or get any voice mail on it. Everyone who I would actually want to talk to knows I am not a cell phone person, so they know to use my landline."

        I have gone for a different approach to tackling the problem.

        My main ring tone on my Android phone is "5s_silence.mp3". Anyone I wish to have call me has their own entry in the address book - with a different ring tone set.

        I have simply turned off voicemail; and texts are not generally a problem as, like email, I check them when it is convenient.

        I occasionally get people complaining that I'm hard to get hold of, but these are usually people I would rather NOT got hold of me in the first place.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I use a VIP system ... if, when the answering service picks up, the caller dials 1990, then the phone rings. The message, if you listen long enough, actually tells you then PIN, but before doing so says that use of the PIN is exclusively for friends, relatives and colleagues of members of the household and any other use will be prosecuted under the Computer Misuse Act.

          In the last decade only one cold caller has dared use it, and the company in question gave me a £20 voucher as an apology when I complained.

      2. Kiwi Silver badge

        In their place is a barrage of calls from telemarketers and scammers.

        Can you have those receiving a recording with you doing several variations on "Can you speak up please", then after a bit a "hang on let me turn the computer on", start some general chit-chat asking about weather, then "oh computer's up, what do you want me to do" and basically have fun from there.

        How long do you think you could string some of the "Microsoft security internet services" types along with that? And if you get some telemarketers, and you actually know which is which for the numbers (so can decide if telemarketer or other scam) you can also string them along somewhat. Bonus points for making a purchase using the credit card info of a competing telemarketer firm's CEO. More bonus points for their CSO's card.

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