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Who's calling me now?
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Who's calling me now?

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Bill Perkins

I phoned a former co-worker a couple of weeks ago out of the blue, and he didn’t answer the phone. A moment or two later, he was phoning me back.

“Who is this?” he demanded when I answered.

“It’s Perkins,” I said, “and I want to talk to you about your extended warranty.”

We laughed and laughed. But it was only funny because there’s no escape. If you have a phone, you’ll get that call, or something similar.

One would think there’d be an effort to stop those annoying calls. After all, I’m sure spam or robocalls hastened the death of the residential landline market, and with it, the telephone book. In recent years I have heard often from those hanging on to their home phone that the only calls they get are robocalls and scam calls. Those who disconnected early enjoyed a few years of peace until the telephone pests figured out how to reach cellular customers.

What’s really troubling is that the technology that is supposed to make life easier for us has been co-opted by people who are up to no good. Bad guys have figured out how to bamboozle some elderly people to send them money through untraceable means with convincing stories. They hijack social media accounts for purposes I still don’t understand. Worse, they break into the computer networks of businesses, schools and government entities, encrypt sensitive data and hold it for ransom. Or they disrupt an oil pipeline or municipal water supply and wreak havoc with the economy. Or they attempt to manipulate democratic elections. And no one wants to think about the possibilities of hacking into military servers.

Through the internet years, our newspaper has been owned by several companies, each with its own corporate IT team, and the safety protocols to keep bad guys out. But it’s a game of whack-a-mole in that a system that blocks today’s potential threats may well miss tomorrow’s threats.

Last weekend, I received a notification on my phone that a woman I’ve known for years had sent me a Facebook friend request, and I knew right away that someone somewhere had hijacked her account. We were already Facebook friends and had been for at least a decade until her death more than a year ago.

I followed the instructions to report the incident, and the options were limited. I chose “Pretending to be someone else.” None of the other options seemed to fit. Facebook responded that the matter would be taken up with my friend who was being impersonated.

Good luck with that. They’ll swat at flies in the kitchen that have flown in from outdoors, but they’re not concerned enough to put screens on the windows.

So we take matters into our own hands, which, in my case, means I don’t answer calls from anyone who isn’t in my contacts. I have missed scores of calls from people warning me that my social security number has been suspended, that the police are looking for me, that the IRS is about to seize everything I own and, yes, that my extended warranty needs attention. But I’ve also missed reminders for doctor appointments, calls from repairmen and pharmacies, and who knows what all.

I may well have missed an out-of-the-blue call from an old pal I haven’t talked to in 30 years. I’ll never know; I don’t return any of those unidentified random calls.

That’s how they getcha.

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at bperkins@dothaneagle.com or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

Bill Perkins is editorial page editor of the Dothan Eagle and can be reached at bperkins@dothaneagle.com or 334-712-7901. Support the work of Eagle journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at dothaneagle.com.

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