Spamming and scamming


If you’re of a certain age (like I am), you’ll remember a black phone on the wall or on a table with a rotary dial for calling out. The “ring tone” was a bell that went off when someone called. Some of you may even remember the party line concept where two or more households shared the same phone line and a different ring patterns was assigned per household.

In my house, it was the one thing that interrupted everything. Dinner, playing cards, watching television, etc. – when that phone rang you stopped whatever you were doing and answered the phone.

Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash

At university, there were four of us living in an apartment and we had one phone line for us. Whoever was closest would answer it and hand the receiver to whoever the call was intended for. It was there that I had my first experience with spamming/scamming phone calls. It used to start with “Hello Mr. Peterson, how are you today?”. Well, nobody calls me that so it was a dead giveaway, much less care about my well-being. My response was just to hang up. One of my roommates was less polite and had an air horn next to the phone and would give the caller a blast. Don’t mess with engineering majors; they have access to a bunch of things that they would use for good purposes.

The other day, I was sitting in an office waiting and the radio station was turned to CKLW Talk Radio and the talk was about how to handle these types of call these days. I was actually quite surprised that the callers that made it to the air shared their stories of engaging with the caller for long periods of time doing bizarre things. It was entertaining but certainly not what I do.

Long gone is the rotary phone and, around here, we have smartphones and they show the number that is calling. If it’s in your address book, it even pops up with the name of the caller to make identification easy. Either Google, Samsung, or Virgin has even gone so far as to give the message “Suspected Spam” to some calls.

I’m never in a hurry to answer the phone unless I’m waiting for a call. My first superintendent did a PD session once about the importance of your time. We had caller id on the phones and access to a voicemail system and his advice was to let calls go to voice mail and then schedule a block of time to go through and return calls as an efficient use of our time. The only exception was if the caller was family or him! It’s a habit that I continue to this day so if you’re calling, expect to leave a message. Or better yet, just text me.

This long winded intro takes me to an article that I read today.

‘Lost package’ scam targeting residents in Mississauga and Brampton

Regular readers know that periodically I look at the spam log on the blog and have fun with some of the nonsense that gets dropped off. I just checked and there are 277 messages there since I last emptied it on the weekend. Time for another post?

Those types of messages are easy to ignore since they get caught in the spam filter and I have to actually make an effort to go and take a look.

Text messages are a different breed. Yes, there is a section where Google, Samsung, or Virgin recognizes that some messages are potentially harmful and tuck them away in an area called “Spam and Blocked”. Others just sit out in the open among the other legitimate text messages that I’ve received. The one thing that always stands out to me is that they always contain a link that would take me to somewhere on the internet if I clicked it.

I understand how I might get the messages on this blog since it’s publically available on the web. I’d like to think that my smartphone would be a bit more difficult to track down since I’m more careful about who I give the number to. But, the computer science teacher in me know that it would be relatively simple to write a program to generate millions of phone numbers sequentially and then program a device to go through that list and see if it’s valid. Valid would be if someone answer the phone or followed the link.

The advice in the article is good for everyone. At times, it makes you realize how good we had it with our rotary phones when the scammer would ask you to press “1” on the phone for further information.

OTR Links 11/23/2021


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.