Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Phone Bullies and Evil Telemarketers

I submitted a story to the FCC. Yeah, I know, they seem like unlikely storyboard contenders. When you try to file a complaint, they ask that you submit your story. So I did. I also sent my the story to the MO Attorney General's Office. Maybe one of these offices will have a superhero ready and willing to take on the telemarketing evil tyrants who seek to defraud you and me.
For the past two weeks (possibly longer), I have been the victim of phone bullying or as the industry has labeled it "Spoofing." This phone bullying is part of a telemarketing campaign aimed at scamming unsuspecting people into releasing personal information. I am not the only victim. In fact, I am simply being annoyed by the nefarious practice at this point. My personal phone number has been hijacked and is being used against my permission to scam unsuspecting people. I consider this a breach of privacy, an attempt to defraud Missourians, and a violation of the law regarding NO CALL regulations.

I am submitting this complaint to the MO Attorney General's office and the FCC with the hope that both offices are interested in trying to stop PHONE BULLYING and telemarketers from scamming Missourians.

What is phone bullying? Those who are familiar with the concept of SPOOFING may recognize the common thread in my story. Spoofing sounds fun, like a little joke we play on a friend that does no damage. But no one thinks this is funny, except maybe people with a juvenile sense of humor. And, I hasten to add, people who act out of a malicious, greedy, and sleazy mentality.

We must put a stop to Phone Bullying, first, by naming it as criminal activity and not some fluffy word like Spoofing.

Basically, a nefarious person uses a phone number (in this case mine) to call unsuspecting people (in this case with numbers starting with the same 308 as mine). If they answer, they are likely to be asked for personal info—also called scamming which is not okay. If they don't answer they get my voice message and they leave a message; or they may just see my number in "missed calls" on their phone and call me back. I've received voice mail and calls from these unsuspecting people.

There is NOTHING the phone companies can do to stop “spoofing,” according to AT&T.  Usually, I'm told, the number gets old and the spoofer/scammer moves on to use someone else's number.

The phone company rep did suggest that the nefarious callers randomly "select" numbers to use as bogus numbers. Or that they may use numbers of people who have answered those bogus calls. They don't really know. They are sorry for the inconvenience.

All day long my phone rings or buzzes as people return calls to the number they see on their phone screen as a missed call. And they see my number. People actually call back a number they do not recognize. (Who does that!!!? Do they think it's Ed McMahon with the winning jackpot? He's dead.) They all have the same prefix three numbers as I do. They presume they may know the caller or that the caller is a potential client, for those who own businesses. Because the area code and prefix matches their own, I guess they feel safe in returning the call.

I changed my voice mail greeting to explain to the callers that my number is being used without my permission to call others with the same prefix. I warn them not to answer calls from unknown numbers and not to call it back. Most respect my message and maybe have been saved from a scammer. The phone bully WILL continue to call them until they answer.

One of the callers left me a voicemail cursing like a sailor. Woman ranted for a full minute and a half. She even gave me her name. She sounds drunk. I'm not sure why she is angry at me. In the last thirty seconds of her message she says, "Well, lady you know, well S***…. Somebody, I know it's not you, called but someone who stole your number. I'm just sayin' this thing the a*****e is doing is just S*** and I am trying to find out who the a****** is.” She tells me that her phone is a prepaid cell phone, which I presume is meant to inform me that she has a limited number of minutes—of which she just spent 1 1/2 minutes ranting and raving about something I didn’t do and cannot assist her with.

One of the callers was clever and texted me. A nice text explaining that Channel Four did a piece on spoofing. I looked it up and sure enough they did. It explains the problem but offers no answers.

Keep in mind that my "Recents" list does NOT show any call being made to any of these people. AT&T thinks maybe the robo-call software randomly generates numbers and this week it is my number. People see my number instead of the real dirtbag's number who has the malicious spoof software.

Phone Bullying or Spoofing shows telemarketing at its very height of greed. If they are smart enough to design this software why don't they spend their talents on world peace?

To give this nefarious practice the label “spoofing” makes light of a very dangerous action. In fact, there is an app or software available for purchase by ANY group wanting to hide its number from Caller ID on phones. As you are no doubt aware, telemarketers use this to disguise themselves and their sleazy tactics for intruding into people’s privacy and scam them out of personal info or sell them something they know they don’t want which is why the sellers must hide their identity. Not just telemarketers but bullies and pranksters have this technology available to them.

Say, for example, you want to call someone who won't answer the phone if your number shows up in caller ID. You can just get SpoofCard and fool them into answering. Or you could call lots of people and make your worst enemy's number show up in caller ID. The program allows the bullies to change their voices to avoid recognition.

THIS is NOT okay. And SALE of such software must be stopped to protect privacy. It's juvenile humor at best. Isn't this bullying? And aren’t we trying to minimize bullying?

My number begins with 308, and all the people getting calls showing my 308-number in caller ID have 308-numbers. The software allows the user to call numbers "similar” to the hijacked number.

I have filed a report with the FCC online, and I am hoping for some response, some action taken for the protection of consumers, and some attempt to protect privacy. I am hoping the MO Attorney General's Office and the FCC want to limit bullying of all kinds, along with nefarious telecommunications.

Meanwhile, my phone is on perpetual "do not disturb"; so I am not bothered by all the people who actually return missed calls to numbers they see on their caller ID and have NO idea who called them because they hope they’ve’ won the lottery. When the unsuspecting people leave me a message, they first hear my greeting that explains I have not called them and their number is in jeopardy, otherwise they call me again and again and again.

The draw back is that only people who are in my contacts can “disturb” me. If an emergency call comes in, I will not receive it unless and until I actually look at my phone. This means I may not know that someone needs my help, someone in my family is taken to hospital, someone has died, etc.

Meanwhile, I ask that the MO Attorney General's Office and the FCC take action to stop phone bullies from preying on unsuspecting telecommunications costumers. Work with the telephone companies to find smarter technology experts who can take down the “SPOOFCARD” industry.

Reassure me that the FCC has smarter people than those who create these nefarious products. If the spoof/bullying software can be created, it can be defeated. Maybe it can be outlawed. That would be happy ending for this story.

I look forward to discussing this further with the MO Attorney General's Office. What can be done to stop telemarketers and other bullies from preying on innocent people?

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Abstract Art Mirrors a Frightened World

I accepted the "art challenge" from Margherta Lahrman to help fill Facebook pages with art instead of fractured facts and ugly politics. My post included a photo of one of Wassily Kandinsky's paintings.

“I applied streaks and blobs of color onto the canvas with a palette knife and I made them sing with all the intensity I could...”
--Wassily Kandinsky
My favorite classes in college were art history classes. No surprise, since I hoped to major in art and design. Art history classes back then involved projecting loads of slides on a screen for the students to ponder while being enlightened by the professor expounding on the artists, the themes of the paintings, the techniques, and the conceptual meaning below the surface.

When it came time to write my final paper, I chose Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian artist from the early half of the 20th century. In particular, I focused my thesis on one of the paintings in the Composition series, which he painted over between 1910 and 1934. I’ve forgotten exactly which one, so I’ve selected VI for my example of his work. He had no formal objects; he led the thinking for abstract art of his day; he used color and line and space in ways that made most people say, “What is THAT?”

And I loved it all. Still do.

I have no idea how I figured out what to write in the paper. It was the first paper I had written outside of an English composition class. This paper involved hours of research. My small condo, shared with three other women, filled up with art books. I fell in love with writing about art, I relished every minute studying the artist, and realized I had more of a knack for writing about art than expressing myself on the canvas.

Kandinsky challenged me to explore and discover the meaning in abstract images. I was led, of course, by the hundreds of art critiques and historians who followed his lead in interpreting the meaning based on the emotions arising from the dramatic color and strong lines.

He remains today my favorite artist. I have met his paintings face to face in museums wherever I have traveled. I spent a week in Moscow walking the city from museum to museum determined to see them all. His Winter Landscape can be viewed at the St. Louis Art Museum, and I visit frequently.
“The more frightening the world becomes ... the more art becomes abstract. ”
- -Wassily Kandinsky

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Watercolor class #1

Time for watercolor practice. The artist instructing us for this workshop hung up Chinese lanterns for our first lesson in applying the techniques she shared with us.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Birds of a Feather

These birds are of the colored pencil feather variety. I used Prisma Color pencils.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In the Company of Great Artists

Check out the WAMcollective from Weisman Art Museum for a look at some outstanding artists, one of whom I highly favor and admire.
"Kelley Meister is an interdisciplinary artist that creates work combining sculpture, printmaking and drawing with time-based media such as film and performance. Meister’s work explores concepts of home, belonging and personal history. Recently ze has been exploring the Mississippi River Valley as a site of history, conflict and production." 

Weisman Museum link for more artists...
"In honor of June being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, the WAM Collective has pulled together a list of 15 LGBTQ artists we are proud to have in the Weisman Art Museum’s collection. The artists and works ranging from the mid 19th century to today, covering a unique range of subjects and mediums. Some of the featured works can be seen on a visit to the galleries today"

Friday, June 24, 2016

The Colors of the Harvest

One of my favorite outings while traveling takes me to fresh produce markets. The colors and variety never cease to amaze me.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Patterns of St. Mathias in Budapest

Just when every cathedral begins to look like the one before and the one after, I discover St. Mathias in Budapest. Grand architecture, ornate carvings, just like the rest. What really struck me, though, were the pillars, specifically that each pillar was painted with a different pattern. A bit like the doodling hobby that is all the rage in the 21st century.

I overheard visitors commenting that they didn't care for the decor. I loved it. The pure creativity in painting such a variety of patterns astonished me. Such a change from the gold gilded statues and representational paintings is most other cathedrals. The simplicity in the complexity of St. Mathias' interior offers tribute to the constant changing patterns in life, designed by the greatest Creator of all.