In that quiet time of the year between developer conferences and the back-to-school sales, product announcements are scarce — but the hazy, lazy days of summer are no vacation for the legal world! As El Kaiser and J.D. discover on this week’s episode, court rulings and decisions by lawmakers dominated the news this week, with a few bug revivals thrown in for good measure. J.D. also explores the new Windows 10 Timeline feature in Microsoft’s latest operating-system update, so beat the heat and find a cool place to settle in with Episode 279!
After a two-week summer vacation, El Kaiser and J.D. return to the studio to catch up on the week’s technology news: Facebook ‘fesses up to a chunk of Russian ad buys during the election, Amazon looks to expand its corporate footprint, researchers have discovered a way to hack most of the popular voice-activated assistant programs by sonic frequency — and the headlines just keep on coming. El Kaiser also previews two new pieces of gear from OWC and Anker for ultrabookers who need to pack their own USB ports and J.D. reports on a couple of scams gaining steam around the Internet. Summer’s over, folks! We’re back to work here on Episode 246!
Between the 2016 political elections, tax season and the usual robocall/telemarketer harassment, being anywhere near a telephone these days can be a major pain. True, you can screen unfamiliar numbers and let them go through to voicemail or the answering machine, but there are other ways to deal with them. Signing up for the National Do Not Call Registry is one step, but a lot of sleazy robomarketers ignore it. You can also block numbers from unwanted callers, but those unwanted callers keep coming up with new numbers. What to do, what to do…
Another winner from a previous year: A free service called Nomorobo, which works by using a feature known as “simultaneous ring.” When simultaneous ring is enabled, your phone will ring on more than one number at the same time. When the Nomorobo number is set as a simultaneous-ring number, it grabas the call first. If it’s legitimate, the call goes through to your number. But if Nomorobo detects the telltale signs of a robocall, it hangs up for you.
The FTC’s robocall challenge also generated a collection of tips and tricks a few years ago that reportedly cut down on automated calls for some people. Some suggestions include investing in call-blocker hardware or services, or even putting the three-note “disconnect” tone at the beginning of your greeting to trick some systems to automatically hanging up.
So what about telemarketers, those humans whose mission is to talk you into giving them money for something. As with the members of almost any civilization, some members are professional and well-behaved, and some are vile scum. A former telemarketer told the Lifehacker site that if you do happen to pick up an unwanted call, say “Please put me on your do not call list” and the well-behaved telemarketers will honor your request.
As for the autodialers and vile scum, you could always try a product like the TeleZapper, (which has been around for years and you can still find on Amazon), that simulates the disconnect tones when it senses the handoff from automatic dialer to telemarketer and dumps the call. Just look for a “call blocker” in your shopping searches.
But there’s also a newer approach emerging, one that takes a piece out of the person trying to waste your time by wasting their time by making them talk to a bot. These bots use a set of pre-recorded vocal responses to react to what the telemarketer is pitching and keeps them in an endless loop of pointless conversation — so telemarketers have less time to bother other people.
So here’s to all the creative types who fight telephone abuse! And since this is March already, don’t let your guard down against the annual surge of scammers pretending to be from the IRS either by phone or phish. And if you get a live fake IRS call — just give ’em a free cruise on the Jolly Roger.
Let me be perfectly clear from the outset, I am not condoning illegal activity nor am I suggesting that those folks who make a parasitic living by cheating hardworking people out of their money should be admired or presented as role models in any way. Furthermore, I am certainly not looking to be controversial with this particularly embarrassing admission: I’ve always had a grudging respect for scammers.
Connivers, tricksters, you know the type. The sociopaths that dedicate their lives to finding new and inventive ways to sell suckers a box full of rocks. I can’t help but be impressed by their complete lack of scruples. I guess that speaks volumes about me but hey, I’m just keeping it real.
The charges are often for non-basic services such as Caller ID or Voice Mail but more recently text message cramming has become popular on mobile devices. Slick SMS services will text you with an offer for their product but buried in the message will be an opt-out option. You will be billed for the service unless you respond to the text.
Obviously an excellent way to protect yourself from getting crammed is by going over your phone bills every month and immediately disputing any suspicious charges. If you’ve been the victim of cramming you can file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission or the Federal Trade Commission if you see suspect non-telephone services on your telephone bill.
Cramming, your Pop Tech Jam tech term of the week.