Call-blocking system keeps scammers away

By James Johnson

I haven’t heard from Rachel lately. She called me almost daily up until a short time ago, trying her hardest to reduce my credit card debt. She was very concerned, almost obsessed, with the possibility that I might be paying too much for the use of credit cards.

The phone calls came at all hours. If we were away, Rachel would leave a message on the answering machine. I tried in vain to let her know that my credit card debt was quite under control, but the calls continued.

Rachel wasn’t our only frequent caller. There was the man with a thick accent who said he worked for Microsoft. He, again, had only our best interests in mind. He was concerned that our computer had been hacked and harbored dangerous viruses that he could kindly remove, if only we allowed him access to our system.

He hasn’t called lately, either. Nor has the man from the IRS who rang me sometimes twice a day to warn that there was a warrant for my arrest. He suggested that the police were on the way and would be pounding on the door at any instant.

That wasn’t the only warrant that had my name on it. More than once I heard from someone who accused me of not reporting for jury duty. As I wracked my memory trying to remember a recent jury summons, I would be given to understand that, here again, I was going to get a free ride to jail in the very near future.

I also have not heard from those folks who would breathlessly inform me that I had won a contest I had not even entered. I also lost track of how many free vacations I have been offered over the phone these past few years.

Nope. The calls have stopped.

They were all scams, of course. Nearly everyone has heard from these frequent callers. I understand they use a system called “robocalling.” Computers dial thousands of numbers and the messages go out to all who dare to pick up the phone.

Well, our phone has quieted considerably in the past weeks. We discovered something called “call blocking” offered by our landline provider, Xfinity. Other phone companies probably offer similar services.

In our case, we can use the caller-ID feature to see the numbers the scammers are calling from. We can then program the phone to ignore them. They will be rejected before the bell can even jingle.

We are also taking advantage of a broader system called Nomorobo. This is a service which has compiled a huge list of phone numbers of known spammers, crooks and con artists.

Any call coming into our home will be quickly compared to the list. If the number does not make the cut, our phone will ring once, but just once.

Our home is so much quieter these days. Nearly all of our personal correspondence with friends and family is now through e-mail. Phone calls have gone the way of telegrams and postcards.

Many people we know have disconnected their landlines altogether. But we are not quite ready to pull the plug. We have had the same telephone number for more than 40 years and it’s hard to let go.

At any rate, we don’t answer the phone these days until it rings twice. That indicates some lucky caller has maneuvered a way through the electronic mine field that leads to our house.

Life is easier now. No more threats of arrest, no more hassles about imaginary computer viruses. No more scam artists. There is a tint of sadness, though. We no longer hear from Rachel. She had such a nice voice.

The last time she called, I quickly hung up. Feeling inquisitive, I used caller-ID to ring her back. A computer voice told me the number was not available. Who knew? Rachel has call-blocking, too.

James Johnson is a retired teacher who lives in Greenwood. Send comments to