Tag Archives: spam

Is indignation worth the risk?

We don’t typically answer the phone unless we recognize the number, but this particular time Andrew picked it up. Then he said, “Microsoft Operating System Service Center? You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” and hung up.

I was surprised. Speaking his mind when what he has to say is less than charitable is completely out of character for him. But that was only the first surprise.

A moment later, the phone rang again. Caller ID displayed the same number. Andrew picked up the handset and replaced it to end the call without engaging. Within moments, it rang again, so he picked up the handset and replaced it, again.

At first, I was amused that the bogus telemarketer had the nerve to call back. By the third or fourth call, I was getting nervous, wondering when he would give up. After half a dozen calls, Andrew unplugged the land line. That stopped the phone from ringing, but it didn’t stop the answering machine from picking up. This is what it captured.

“Hey you motherfucker, are you afraid of me? You son of bitch.”

My answer to that question was decidedly yes. Despite the fact that the background noise and his accent indicated that the caller was in an overseas call center, I was scared. (I could be wrong about the call coming from overseas, but you’ll note that “son of bitch” is not a typo. He did not say “son of a bitch,” as I would have.)

After that, Andrew unplugged the answering machine, too, effectively disconnecting us from the repeated assault on my nerves. When we plugged everything back in, about an hour later, the phone was quiet.

Andrew clearly scolded the caller (for which I lovingly applaud him), but the response was more than excessive.

I had a similar situation in the bank the other day when I suggested to an employee that he shouldn’t be discussing politics with a customer in front of other, potentially not-like-minded, customers. I was chastised in turn by another customer for not respecting the employee’s freedom of speech. (If we’re friended on Facebook you can read all about that.)

Fortunately, my public admission of discomfort (okay, annoyance) did not result in a threat to my well-being, as it clearly did in the case of the bogus telemarketer. But I did feel uncomfortably exposed.

It has become painfully clear how easy it can be to silence dissent.

For now, we will go back to our policy of not answering the phone if Caller ID leaves any question as to who is calling. So if you want to discuss this with me, you’re probably better off writing.

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Spam, spam, spam and spam

Back in the day, we got oodles of spam in our email inboxes. Thanks to a robust spam filter and a husband who knows how to use it, those days are behind us. Also behind us is guaranteed delivery of email from friends and online communities that I want to hear from. Every day, our spam filter provides us with a single email with the subject, Quarantine Summary, that includes a list of all the email the filter has stopped short of delivering. In among the obvious spam (Check out this hot babe and Hard to resist bonus offers at Lucky Cash Club) will be a message from someone in my critique group (Submission for next group) or one from the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (NESCBWI 2012 Conference).

The most expeditious way to retrieve an email from quarantine is to click the link that says deliver. However, that does not prevent the filter from snagging the next email that comes in from that same address. To teach the filter to let through email from a particular address, I have to log in to the spam filter, select the email in question, click deliver, then, on the next page, reselect the email and click approve sender. One step or five steps, what would you do? Before long the only email I’m going to get is the one called Quarantine Summary.

Meanwhile, caller ID has also become a double-edged sword. In the beginning it was thrilling; the phone rang and you knew who it was. I thought that was beyond cool, protection from phone spam! You knew when to ignore it, and when to pick it up; NRA, no, HRC, yes. Then I found out that you could block your name from showing when you made a call. Now when I see Private Name, Private Number on the caller ID, I don’t know what to do. It could be a friend who’s a privacy freak, or it could be a telemarketer. I answer and it’s a robo-call! You know, an automated system that dials numbers. If a call goes through, it takes the human who is paid to bother me at dinner a few seconds to clue in, which is just enough time for me to figure it out and hang up.

But the most upsetting form of spam is Skype spam. Skype is the Internet phone service. My clients use it for IM as well as voice so I leave it open on my computer. When a Skype call comes in it makes a neat space-age, boopy kind of noise. If, however, it’s ten at night and I’m downstairs watching something spooky on TV, it’s a scary-movie-don’t-open-the-door kind of noise. I rush upstairs and see yet another call from Autocall! Attention Required; translation, spam. I click block and then Report Abuse. As far as I can tell, it does no good whatsoever. Notification, Urgent Online Update and Online Help have been calling me regularly for months.

I don’t know if there’s a spam filter for Skype, but I’m going to have my husband look into that. I’m a little afraid that if he finds one, I’m never going to hear from any of my clients again. I may get so lonely that I’ll have to take phone calls from the NRA.