Posts Tagged ‘spam’

Phone Spam – From India Coffeeshops

September 8, 2012

Telemarketers are bypassing the Do NOT CALL list – legally, and there is little we can do about it. Here’s how they are doing it, and I hope there is a way to stop it…

My phone rings several times a day everyday with “phone spam”, dog gone it, even though I am on the DO NOT CALL list. Some of these latest calls are a new kind of telemarketer calling me, though – these are Skype calls by cellphone from India to my home phone. When most of these calls ring my phone, the Caller ID shows a local number. I see a different number each time. The Caller ID frequently shows: 1 (972) 0 followed by six more digits and UNKNOWN CALLER. If I answer the call, about half the time, there is no one on the other end, and the line drops after a few seconds. When there is someone on the other end, they explain that they are representing local companies to (fill in the blank) repair my roof, fix my plumbing, add new outlets and light fixtures, etc. If I call the number back from the Caller ID record, a recording usually informs me that the number is not in service for the majority.

One time, I engaged the person on the other end in an interesting conversation. The caller was in India in a tea house doing telemarketing before his normal job started – they use a cellphone to call every number on a weekly e-mail from “the boss” through a Skype gateway. The bosses e-mail goes to more than a hundred addressees. If someone answers and the call duration is more than a minute, the employer pays him a fee based upon the detail in his monthly phone bill. If he gets a “lead” with a name and address for the phone number, he gets a bigger fee. He sends the lead information by e-mail to someone else who has an account with a US Internet home services company that pays the referrer (the Indian telemarketer) a fee for every referral.  This US Internet home services company represents a number of local businesses near my home such as roofing companies that pay them for every referral.

Pressing even further, the caller explained that his cellphone number (in India) is 972-045-7852 (yup, that’s what my caller ID shows) – you can look this number up on the Internet at, and this particular caller is apparently somewhere in Uttar Pradesh. Skype passes the cellphone number as the local caller ID information, and this particular caller explained that they request their cellphone number to start with the same area code in the US that their e-mail assignment refers to. He has another cellphone with a local number that starts 7130, and he calls Houston homeowners from another e-mail assignment. He says that the boss has boxes of cellphones that he passes out whenever there is a new client in a new city.

He confirmed that the recipient of his calls would see a local number on their Caller ID, and they were more likely to answer the call. Yes, that is why I answered the phone the first time… He has an Android robot caller app that reads his e-mail for phone numbers and invokes Skype to dial the numbers. The robot caller app dials the numbers in one after another until one number answers; his local Skype gateway drops all ringing calls in progress, of which there may be several, as soon as a number is answered.

Just an aside, Indian cellphone numbers are all ten digit numbers that start with 7, 8 or 9. So, that leaves a lot of cities they can call in the US that will reflect local numbers! And another aside, there are no exchanges that start with a 0 or 1 in the US, and an initial 0 or 1 initiate an operator service or a long distance call. And a final aside, the Do Not Call list we are on, now, doesn’t apply to the Indian caller – FTC and FCC oversight of this problem simply does not exist for the Indian telemarketer.

So, AT&T Uverse and I have been working to find a way to block these incoming calls, and time will tell if the strategy I employed was actually put in place successfully. Some years ago – many, in fact, I helped to define the generic requirements for a VoIP call blocking feature (for AT&T, coincidently), so I understand exactly what they can potentially do for me. Their rollout of call blocking allows a residential customer to only block up to 20 numbers – far too limiting for this new nuisance.

AT&T’s rollout of call blocking for commercial customers is quite different – the intended extension of this feature for a business customer allows for a longer list of blocked callers, but it also allows the business to block all toll-free numbers. The “behind the scenes” feature is simply completing a list and using wild cards for all digits that follow 800, 866, 877 and 888. When Tech Support completes the call blocking request on behalf of a commercial customer, they simply fill in a form – a different form from what the customer would see in their own account management window online, and the tech support staff will simply stop with the toll free 800, 866, 877 and 888 and go no further to finish the number. I asked, “what of you type in one more digit – will the system wildcard the next six digits like it did for seven digits following 800?” “Well, I have never tried it, and no one here knows what  will happen…” “So, try it!” I said to the business account tech support person I eventually managed to get on my side, and they did, and it appeared to work correctly when they received a confirmation of the change back.

So, time will tell whether this strategy is actually allowed by the current AT&T management systems. And all bets are off when the Indian cellphones that this company uses have numbers starting 9722…

10 Crazy Ideas – one is likely to be BIG!

June 12, 2011

I have ten crazy ideas. One of these will be a big life-changing or work-changing idea – maybe just for me, but perhaps for many, many people. Here they are:

  1. A spam filter for my phone. If your number is “Unavailable” or “Telemarketer” or “Insufficient Data”, my phone will never ring, and we won’t talk! Optionally, if your company is unknown to me, we won’t talk, either. And optionally, if you are on my “black list”, we won’t talk – ever – we do the black list today, but that’s the extent of a spam filter for the phone.
  2. Streaming media that follows me wherever I go. When I leave the kitchen where CNN is on the TV and step into the breakfast room, CNN will automatically stream to the family room TV when I get there. When I leave my house and get into my car, CNN will stream to my car through my car speakers. When I get to my home office upstairs, CNN will stream to my desktop there. CNN – or whatever I am watching or listening to – will stream to the media system of my choice wherever I go – the best media system wherever I am. Automatically. Without missing a beat.
  3. A universal media license for my own content. If I own a DVD, I should be able to stream it from any source for a data fee if there is one without paying another license fee. Apple is doing this to some degree with iTunes that will stream your music library to any iTunes-compatible device you own without uploading your media to Apple. Sweet. They beat me to this one… We’ll see how this works.
  4. Free education. I am certain that information creation and discovery will happen at an ever increasing pace in the future – hold on to your seat, because this will be a wild ride. How do you manage this? Keep current in your career? Learn new ideas that shape your life and the lives of those around you? Ideas that could be key to a long and happy life? You consume education, that’s how. The pace of change will become so fast that comfortable survival will demand continuous education of everyone. If education costs money, a great many who’s priorities or finances don’t support a learning mission will be left behind. Unless education is free for the taking, that is, and then anyone who wants to learns things of importance – for their entire lives. On our present course, though, a smaller and smaller portion of the population will be able to afford an ongoing education for their entire lives.
  5. A shower and an aerobic exercise machine like a StairMaster on commercial airplanes that cross an ocean. Charge extra for that? Sure, why not. I’d pay.
  6. Virtual movie actors that members of the audience become. What? If you are one of the first in line for a movie, you choose a character in the movie to direct – to become – to act. In a sense, you become one of the characters. You make decisions about the actions of that character within certain bounds, and so do a number of other people in the audience for other characters. Every running of the movie would be a unique experience.
  7. An instant, real-time language translator. Not really so crazy. People are working on this – maybe my good friends at Google… When I phone my good friend in Japan and talk (in English), he should hear MY voice speaking Japanese. And I should hear HIS voice speaking English. Effortlessly.
  8. Local environmental control in the home. Huh? When I am in bed at night, why control the temperature of the rest of the house to the same temperature like we do today? When I am in my home-office, why control the temperature of the bedroom to the same temp? There is so much opportunity to make improvements in energy usage patterns in the home… Someday, we’ll catch on to this. Environmental control should follow people. We do this with lights in some homes today, but anything more extensive demands new construction techniques to isolate spaces. control airflow, and facilitate control from more locations than just one or two thermostats.
  9. A new focus on mental health. Treat the homeless and criminals for their mental illnesses that presently destroy their lives (and the lives of others around them) and diminish their future value in society. Everyone has potential – everyone has unmet potential. Between 15% and 25% of the population suffers from untreated mental illness that impacts their lives, limits what they do with their lives, and often adds a burden to society where these people live. That’s a lot of lost productivity, expense, and a lot of misery we simply allow to persist by being passive with regard to these ill people.
  10. Flush cancer cells from the body. One day, nanomachines will scour the body entangling themselves in cancer cells they have an affinity for and eliminating these cells from the body. Everyone is walking around with cancer cells in their body. Rather than killing these cells and many more in the body to fight cancer after a few of these cells become active and tumor-producing, just “round ’em up and head ’em out!”
  11. A bonus, since several ideas aren’t so crazy or so far “out there”. A motion-based battery charger that you wear to charge a cellphone or an iPod while you walk. How far to fully charge a cellphone? A couple of miles? I could get rid of my “wall warts” and never need to plug in again… Do that for my iPad, too. If I can carry it, it should recharge when I move about.

Well, there are eleven  crazy ideas. Time for smart people to “git crackin'” on some of these. And for a few dedicated people to promote these ideas – oh, that would be me… Write back with a crazy idea of your own!

Context – Essential – the Best “Delivery”…

May 28, 2009

There can be a fine line between insufficient information and too much. Having said something previously about insufficient information, and for now reserving the issue of too much information or TMI for sometime in the future, I want to dwell a bit on how much information is just enough. Stand by for a few posts on this topic – it is broad enough to write entire books about. This morning though, I have been pondering context and how to deliver it effectively. If one knows the context, it becomes much easier to convey just enough information in a conversation, to make prudent and timely decisions, to impart essential and meaningful facts, or to simply tell a good story.

So, context – the classical Who, What, When and Where come to my brain. These elements provide a point of reference that sheds light on the relevance and intrigue of the Why and How. The Why and How is the “story”, and context is essential to “set the stage” and establish the importance of the story before it is told – to “suck you in”.

Comedians are masters at communicating context. Too little and you don’t get the joke, and too much and you lose interest in the joke before you have heard it to the end. Comedians “craft” the context to expose if concisely, and they personalize it to capture your attention and keep your focus. When you know just enough context, they unload the story on you – the “punch line”. If the context was sufficient and concise, and it resonated with your own experiences, you erupt in riotous laughter!

E-mail is also highly efficient at delivering context. The From, Subject and Date information in the header can lay out the context remarkably well. If the sender thoughtfully composes the Subject line, the recipient knows the entire context – all that is necessary to assess the priority of the communication and perhaps even a summary of it – in one line. Some E-mail spammers are becoming highly skilled at crafting context in the subject line to entice you to open up the e-mail. I think that we have to do something very innovative to battle the spammers – I have some novel ideas – more on that later…

Yes, today I have two new role models to study and emulate: comedians and e-mail spammers… With their help, I will improve my skills for delivering context that is sufficiently complete, enticingly personal, and yet concise lest I lose your rapt attention!