By Trudy Wischemann
I got one of those “gramma?” calls this weekend. You know, someone pretending to be your grandson in trouble, in need of money sent to Caracas or Istanbul to bail him out. I don’t know if these calls come in both genders or only male. For us old folks, it’s just so much easier to imagine boys in trouble, I think they’re playing us with every weakness we’ve got.
First there was the delay in pickup, no one there when I said “Hello?” There was the sound of distant shores, which I always imagine to be the sound of the ocean over Transatlantic phone cables, which now, of course, is more likely the ocean of space.
Then a male voice, with ever so slight a tinge of accent, came on the line and said “uh, I… uh, gramma?” In one nanosecond exactly, I processed what was going on, firmly said “no,” and the voice disappeared with a click.
No one’s ever called me grandma before. I have no grandchildren, so it’s no surprise. And it wasn’t “grandma,” it was “gramma,” the intimate word young children use, still innocent of phonetics, not sounding every letter in the word. But there was nothing innocent about this call. It’s simply another battle in the ongoing class warfare being waged on the lower rungs of our social system.
My mother got one of these calls not long ago. She’s very motherly, especially to her granddaughter and great-grandchildren. Being there for her offspring and theirs is top priority. She’s also 93, with not the best hearing, and in resistance to becoming jaded with the world. She’s so resistant that she’s had to stop listening to the news just to protect her willingness to interact. So she wasn’t up to speed on these scams.
The only male person she could imagine calling her and saying “gramma?” was her great-grandson, who lives halfway across the ocean and has seen her maybe 5 or 6 times in their entire lives. And despite the fact that he doesn’t call her “grandma” – she’s “G-Maw” to him, always has been, always will be – she fell for it. The thought of him in trouble had her digging for a pencil so she could write down the information and get that money to him as fast as possible. The only saving grace was that she couldn’t find her purse at that moment.
After my gramma call, I remembered a resource produced by the Victim/Witness Assistance Division of the Tulare County District Attorney. It’s a booklet called “Protect Yourself from Scams,” in both English and Spanish. It describes eight broad categories of scams, tells how to check out each one before responding, and how to contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the attempt (call 1-877-382-4357 or go online to ftc.gov/complaint.) You can also sign up for scam alerts at www.ftc.gov/subscribe.
The booklet also includes the phone number/web site information for the Do Not Call registry. Getting your phone number(s) into this registry should reduce the number of unwanted calls we receive daily. Unwanted calls that get through the filter can be reported at 1-888-382-1222 or www.donotcall.gov.
I realize that technology keeps advancing faster than our regulatory systems; many of the unwanted calls I’ve been getting are “no longer in service” when I try to call them back a few seconds later. But I can still push back and report the numbers, indicating to the FTC the extent of the problem. For more information about the booklet and anti-scam workshops, contact the Victim/Witness Assistance program at 559-636-5471.
Trudy Wischemann is a writer who sees the glass both half-full and half-empty. You can send her your thoughts on the primaries c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.
PHONE PHISHING SCAMS
As has been reported in The Sun-Gazette, the Better Business Bureau recommends not answering your personal phone line at all; let the call go to voicemail for further review.
Any legitimate person or business will leave a message, but even if the scammer decides to leave you a voicemail, you will have time to think about what is being asked by them, instead of being pressured on the spot to give up your personal information.
Do not trust Caller ID, even for known companies and government institutions. Today, scammers can easily, and often do, spoof these numbers to make it look like a legitimate entity is calling you, when in reality they are not.