The landline phone rings and no one moves to answer it. There was a time when that sound would immediately trigger a stampede as everyone would race to grab the receiver in the hopes that the call was for them. Ahh, the good old days. Well today, no one under the age of fifty has a landline and those twenty-five years and younger don’t even know what a phone jack is. In days gone by, the phone was attached in some way or another to the wall, today the cell phone is attached permanently to one’s hand.


So why does no one run to answer the plugged-in house phone any more. In three words, “telemarketers or scammers.” Modern technology now enables us to see or hear who is calling before we even pick up the handset but this doesn’t always work as you cannot possibly store in the phone’s memory, the names and numbers of everyone you know. Chuck has completely given up on answering the phone, no matter who is calling. Many times, he will be sitting right beside this communication device, it will be ringing and I will come flying out of the bathroom, pants down at my knees hoping I can grab the call before the person hangs up. Let me tell you, it is extremely irritating if it is a telemarketer. “Good morning, Ma’am. I’m Andrew.” Well, the minute he uttered the word ma’am, poor Andrew lost my interest. For me, the term ma’am summons up a picture of a very old person and who the hell is old here, certainly not me!


There has been a learning curve for me in my dealings with “these” people. In my younger days, having more patience and being Canadian, I would politely listen to their spiel and then give them reasons why I was not interested in what they had to offer. I would then respectively hang up. As age crept up and the calls became more frequent, my patience diminished and I was not so nice. I moved to Stage 2.


When the “ma’am” was asked, “How are you feeling today?” I would reply by saying, “So glad you asked. I’m not at all well.” and then I would go into great detail describing all the terrible symptoms and hardships my imagination could conjure up. Andrew or whoever, would say, “I’m sorry,” and he would be the one to hang up first. But this approach took energy and I resented the time these calls took out of my life, so very quickly, I moved on to stage 3.


At this phase, I was becoming a little smarter in the way I handled these types of calls. After saying “Hello” there would be a pregnant pause, a dead giveaway that it was a cold call, so I would just hang up. Today, I am finally at the last stage of dealing with these annoying calls. I check out the call display number before lifting the receiver and as the old saying goes, “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck.” In other words, if it looks like a telemarketer number, chances are it is a telemarketer. The phone is not answered.


These unwanted intrusions are now finding their way to cell phones, text messages and emails. The internet scams scare me the most. Scammers are becoming more sophisticated with their schemes so we all have to be extra careful even when dealing with what looks like legitimate businesses. Notifications sent out from Canada Post, Netflix, Amazon etc. are all very authentic looking but they are often not from these companies. Any time a corporation or person asks for money or informs you that your payment did not go through or requests information on how to deposit a refund you supposedly are owed, etc., BEWARE! The main goal of these scams is to get as much of your personal information as possible which can then lead to identity theft. I cannot tell you how often I have been threatened by legal action by the CRA, been informed that my credit card has had some unusual activity on it, or been told in no uncertain terms that my SIN has been compromised and corrective measures need to be taken immediately. And the list goes on.


How can you protect yourself from these telemarketers and con artists? There are many ways suggested by experts, some work and some don’t. Blocking their numbers on both landline and cell phones does not work. Adding their numbers to the “Do Not Call” registry is a joke. The trick is to try to protect yourself before it becomes an issue. Prevention vs. Promotion. When you receive these calls don’t be chatty. Don’t push any buttons on your phone for further information or to talk to a representative. Just hang up. For internet scams, if you inadvertently opened a suspicious message don’t reply to it, don’t click on links and don’t open attachments. Malicious emails may contain typos or bad grammar, have formatting errors, offer unsolicited freebies or ask recipients to disclose their financial information or passwords. The action to take is to delete them from your device.


We try to have the most secure internet security on our computers and cell phones, but there is always the possibility of being directly hacked. Companies we deal with may notify us that their data on us has been compromised by a security violation. When you become aware of this, act immediately. It may simply require changing passwords or cancelling credit cards or it may require more involved action such as notifying banks, credit card companies, government agencies, credit bureau, etc. that a security incident has occurred.


It is almost impossible to imagine life without Google, Apple, Facebook or Amazon. For every need you have, for any information you may require, the internet has it. It is our job to use wi-fi wisely, install security tools and software on our devices, use strong passwords, use common sense when sharing information and to manage and monitor our accounts. By being ever vigilant, we can keep these scammers away and still enjoy all the benefits the internet has to offer.