BY LEN WELLS

It’s getting to the point where I’m about half afraid to answer my phone anymore. Last Thursday morning, my cell phone rang and it came up as a caller from Fairfield. Well, I have lots of friends and even some relatives that live in Fairfield, so I answered the call without hesitation. Let’s just say that particular call was a first for me.

First of all, it was a recorded message. The caller identified herself as an official with the Federal Reserve System notifying me that a warrant had been issued for my arrest. “The warrant was issued  based upon criminal activity detected from your bank account,” the caller stated. “This is a federal warrant for your immediate arrest. You must press #1 immediately for further information.” Guess what?  I did not press #1. Instead I pressed “disconnect”. The caller was persistent and after hanging up repeatedly, they finally stopped calling. Believe it or not, I am not worried about any armed federal agents swooping in to arrest me. Without question, it was just another scam.

What is so sad about this particular call, and many others like it, is that not everyone has the ability to spot the scam and simply hang up. Not a week goes by without one law enforcement agency or another warning residents about new scams circulating around the area. Most seem to target the elderly and are designed specifically to separate the victim from their hard earned savings.

In recent months, I’ve heard of all sorts of scams. One of the most sinister scams involves a caller posing as a relative in need of bond money to get out of jail. The caller seems desperate, and is very convincing that he or she is actually your grandson, niece or nephew. Creating a fog of confusion, the victim is often tricked into sending a money order to the scammer for their “release” from jail. Sadly, if the trick worked once, they often call back needing even more money for various fines, fees and court costs. When it’s all over, the victim is often too embarrassed to tell anyone that they were just scammed out of hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

I’m no communications expert, but I firmly believe there could be a way to compel callers to correctly identify where they are calling from and who they represent. For example, I recently received a series of calls that came up as coming from Raleigh, Illinois. Turns out it was a recorded message wanting to sell me life insurance. The same sales outfit later called with the same message from a number in Decatur, then Marion and eventually Sims. These outfits are doing nothing but trying to manipulate you into answering your phone. In the immortal words of Colonel Henry T. Potter from the television series MASH – Bull Hockey! I’ve had just about enough of this nonsense.

Now, I’ve tried downloading various spam blocking software on my phone, but nothing seems to be effective.  Some apps are free while others aren’t. I’m pretty sure the scammers are a lot smarter than the developers of the call blocking technology and manage to always stay a step ahead.

So here’s my dilemma. I cannot simply ignore all calls coming from a number or location I do not recognize. Just this morning, I answered a call from an unknown caller and it was the mayor of Norris City with some important information about an upcoming meeting.  I have a number of law enforcement friends whose number comes up as either unavailable or unknown. I certainly don’t want to miss their calls.

I personally like the calls that come up with a photo of the caller. Our son John in Newburgh, Indiana and some of our grandchildren have added that feature to their outgoing calls. Something tells me that it will be just a matter of time before some scam artist is able to hijack their photo and trick me into answering their scam calls. (Actually, they probably already have that ability)

In the meantime, I think it would be a smart idea to call or write your friendly lawmaker and beg them to direct the Federal Communications Commission to get a handle on this scourge. Surely to goodness the United States has the ability to put a stop to all this nonsense.

Until something is done, I suppose I will keep answering my phone every time it rings. Hang on...I just got another call. Holy cow!  I had no idea the warranty on the 2004 Oldsmobile Bravada we owned 12 years ago had expired.  I’ll get back with you on that extended warranty offer. Sounds like a great deal!