Lynn Ashby

MY PC – Good morning. Let’s see what emails I have received overnight. “?60.0 has been added to your Dream11 account! Your Order ID is etc. etc.” Huh? That little squiggly before the 60.00 certainly isn’t a dollar sign. Maybe pounds or Bitcoins. Whatever it is, I don’t use it. What else did I receive? “Your 25 incoming mails were placed on pending status due to the recent upgrade to our Terms. In order to receive the messages Re-validate to un-hold your pending messages.” Another one: “To validate your cancellation, go to Cancel Request. Please do not reply to this message. Your security is our top priority.”

I strongly suspect my security is not their top priority, because again and again I am getting emails that are clearly either spam or scams. Maybe you, too, Dear Occupant, are daily if not hourly on the receiving end of this unsolicited junk, and if you are like me, you have to keep deleting them. Sometimes it takes up half my morning. I keep hitting “junk” and “block sender” but somehow these sneaks get around the block. “Our records show that you requested to shut down your email. If you did not authorized this request kindly cancel the request by clicking the link below.” We all want to receive our emails – except these -- the ones that show we won the Lotto or that our rich uncle died and left us controlling interest in Tuesdays.

When it comes to phones, we have ways of blocking robocalls. For $59.99 to $79 you can buy a little gizmo that screens them. And as of June 30th, major U.S. phone providers -- including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Comcast -- were required by the FCC to start using technology known as STIR/SHAKEN (James Bond strikes again) to prevent rampant spam calls. A bill authorizing the action passed 429 to 3 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. President Trump signed it. Boy, do need that. Over the first five months of this year, Americans have received about 22 billion robocalls and are on pace to see 52 billion by the end of the year, according to robocall blocker YouMail. With the new technology, illegal scammers (are there any other kind?) are no longer allowed to pretend they are the IRS, telemarketing, or a well-known company. For example, an elderly Cleveland, Ohio, man lost $124,000 last month to a robocaller who pretended to be from Amazon. (I keep getting emails from “Amazon” and don’t have an account with them, but my wife has Jeff Bezos on Speed Dial.)

The problem with blocking robocalls is trying to keep one step ahead of them. FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr told CNET recently that spammers are constantly coming up with new ways to get around robocall prevention methods, making it difficult to eliminate them entirely. "It ends up being a game of Whack-A-Mole," he said. "So the long-term solution is still difficult. We'll have to see how much progress we can make." Commissioner Carr better hurry. A company called SMS Marketing is selling its services at “1 cent per dial,” and specializes in political candidates. Stand by.

Here’s another email: “Dear Subscriber, You are required to Check (capitalized?) in our new Server Upgrade, to avoid the loss of your Account!” And its cousin: “Your XfiConnect Version is outdated and has expired in the database. Login in your account to keep your account safe in our database.” And: “We will be rolling in new features, and you may be logged out of your account if your recovery details are not up to date. Visit your account now.”

“V©ICEMAIL -- You've got 2 voicemail Sent date: July 1 ‘View' the file.” I don’t do voicemail. Never have, but someone keeps telling me I have some voice messages. “Dear User, Thank you for order.” (No “the” or “your” order.) To pay for “order,” my annual fee of $399.99 was “successfully deducted from your account.” In a similar mode, it seems I ordered a guitar from eBay for $600. All I need to do is confirm the purchase with my credit card number. The Number One rule in scams is to play on the victim’s own greed. Thus I received: “It is important that beneficiaries who have an ongoing payment update their Bank of America Debit Card profile to avoid delayed payment. Update below and follow the instructions. Kindly fill the form correctly.” I might get a “payment” from Bank of America, which I don’t use. Some emails have a little line reading: “To unsubscribe, click here. Allow 10 business days.” Usually that doesn’t work.

At this point I must ask a few questions. How did I get on the stupid list? In my various emails and transactions and subscriptions, somehow the entire scam industry picked me up. What did I do to qualify? It must not cost much to send out a million phony emails in hopes that even .001 percent will reply and thus get hooked, cheated and/or have their bank account cleaned out. “The United States Postal Service” says it tried to deliver a package, but I wasn’t home. When will I not be home again? They will probably ask how to turn off the burglar alarm. Here’s an email from “Chase Bank.” I have a Chase account, but I think they know their spelling and punctuation. And this one: “We notice some distrust activity in your Mailbox to afford disconnection of your incoming Mail.” Distrust activity? Years ago I used PayPal once. It turned out to be more trouble than it was worth, but now I owe them $599.99.

Clearly what America needs is the email equivalent of stopping robocalls so we don’t have to spend each morning deleting these obvious come-ons and scams. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to send $300 to a Nigerian prince who promised me half of his frozen London bank account. I’ll pay in Bitcoins.

Ashby deletes at ashby2@comcast.net

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