WARNING MILLIONS OF CONAVIRUS ROBOCALLS ARE SPAMMING OUR PHONES

Offering everything from fake cures to hard-to-get masks, fraudsters have upped their game, and their gall, during the coronavirus crisis.

Millions of coronavirus robocalls are spamming our phones every day

BY MARK SULLIVAN

The average American already receives about 325 unwanted robocalls a year, research says. And now, many of those robocalls aim to capitalize on people’s coronavirus fears.

The phone-spam-blocking app YouMail recently told The Washington Post’s Tony Romm that a million coronavirus robocalls have been going out daily for the past few weeks. Many of these robocalls are highly suspect, as scammers try to scare the people on the other end of the line into parting with personal information or money. It’s yet another way that bad actorsare trying to take advantage of people during the international crisis.

Transaction Network Services told Politico that one scammer sent out half a million robocalls about how coronavirus could impact student loans. Another robocall, which went out to people in the Los Angeles area, was offering “safety and medical kits.”

Nomorobo, which sells a robocall blocking app, says it has detected calls that claim to be from the “United States Department of Health,” the “E.P.A.’s Emerging Viral Pathogen Program,” and the “medical administrator.” The company intercepted a recent robocall that said: “Thank you for calling coronavirus hotline. Because of the limited testing we are first taking Medicare members. Will the free at-home test be just for you or for you and your spouse?”

Another robocall blocking app, RoboKiller, discovered a spam text message that reads, “R you and your family prepared for Covid-19? This mask could b ur life line.” The text message contains a suspicious-looking web link, RoboKiller says.

Other robocalls offer dodgy health insurance or loans to cover coronavirus treatment costs. Still others propose housecleaning services to get rid of the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration says any company that offers a food item or dietary supplement that can protect against COVID-19, a test you can take at home, a prophylactic drug to ward off the virus, or any kind of vaccine, is likely to be a scammer. “Some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus,” the agency said .

Senators John Thune (a Republican from South Dakota) and Ed Markey (a Democrat from Massachusetts) have been pushing the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Justice to use the new powers afforded them in the TRACED Act, which became law last December, to go after robocallers. The law also requires service providers to track the origin of robocalls and allow subscribers to block them at no extra charge.

According to YouMail’s data, the number of robocalls have been increasing. In December 2019, the company says there were 4.56 million calls. By February, that number had risen to 4.82 million. But YouMail CEO Alex Qulici says that the volume of coronavirus robocalls may have slowed down slightly in March. Why? The shutdown orders in India mean that call centers that are used for both scams and legitimate robocall campaigns are now closed, Qulici points out. And all the people working from home in the U.S. have hiked up traffic on cellular networks by 40% to 50%, which may have made it harder for robocalls to reach their target phones. But the slowdown, he says, isn’t likely to last.

Tracking down robocallers isn’t easy, because technology is on their side. They often send their calls via internet telephony services, the operators of which are often based overseas.

Posing as a potential customer, I phoned the sales rep of Message Communications.com (the first robocalling platform that came up in a Google search) for some information. I learned that you can send out any kind of message to as many people as you want as long as you’re willing to pay for the calls. Under an $865 plan, the rep said, each robocall costs seven-tenths of a penny. The whole process of recording a robocall, targeting it, and paying for the service is automated on the web platform.

The rep said they don’t listen to the robocall messages customers create and send over the platform. I learned that coronavirus calls aren’t a problem as long as they aren’t unlawful (they don’t misrepresent the caller, the product, or the price, for example) and don’t offer any kind of coronavirus cure. He added, however, that his company has already canceled the accounts of several customers after they were found to be placing coronavirus scam calls. MessageCommunications.com’s management did not respond to a request for comment.

Robocallers typically are able to generate bogus phone numbers to display to the receiver when they call. They can also spoof the numbers of local people who might actually have a reason to call the recipient. Companies such as RoboKiller and Nomorobo maintain databases of all the robocalls placed to phones running their apps, then block those numbers for all users.

How can you stay safe from coronavirus robocalls? It’s a good idea to always ignore calls from numbers you don’t recognize. And you should never “press 1” when prompted to do so by a robocall.

Robocall volume typically increases around events such as the tax filing deadline and the period for changing health plans. During normal times—remember those?—robocalls are little more than an annoyance for most people. But for roboscammers to rally around something as serious as coronavirus is particularly galling.

THE POWER OF SEX

Pepper Schwartz Ph.D.

Pepper Schwartz PH.D

Senator John Enseign and Governor Mark Sanford have joined the ranks of sexually straying political husbands…a pretty crowded category. Both men have been caught with their pants down, even as they have pontificated about sexual morality to the rest of us.

It may be why watching them get busted is a guilty pleasure.

Of course none of us can afford to be sanctimonious. We all know that there is no one who is pure in all categories, even if we can pass muster in a few. Maybe stepping outside the marriage isn’t our temptation-but what about private drinking, a little random shop lifting, or binging on food? Most of us know what it’s like to do something we don’t approve of, or struggle with a backstage life that has nothing to do with what is happening in front of the curtain.

Somehow though, we come down hardest on someone who has sinned sexually. Even though we know the nature of human beings is to fall in love or lust unwisely, we don’t like to admit it- and we are afraid of condoning it. We don’t want to be the perpetrator or the victim. Denial of it as a common human fragility is usually our way of denying our own vulnerability to temptation, flattery or an impulsive and compelling crush.

We know the rules- and we respect them. But we also know that those rules are harder to keep than we pretend they are. The fact is that even if most men and women are monogamous, a huge percentage are not-and that percentage grows when you allow for the fact that ambitious, hard driving, fame seeking people are not too likely to be laid back and uninterested in their sexual appetites and emotional connections. They are, let’s face it, a high risk group.

So, here’s where I stand on this situation. I actually felt sorry for Governor Sanford- it was clear to me that he had deeply loved his Argentinean lady, that he felt he had sinned against God, himself, his wife and his family, and he was miserable about everything that had happened. He wanted punishment, and his frankness and openness about his behavior was testament to his desire for full disclosure and censure. 

Well, if you watched his news conference, you know he got his full measure of humiliation. And his withdrawal from GOP leadership will be part of his fall not only from grace but from power. Still, we might consider a measure of forgiveness, no matter what his wife and family decide to do (since their pain is much great than ours). We could acknowledge that the power of sex is great, the flesh is weak-and the discovery of the marital betrayal has its own agonizing consequences. That should be enough pain for those who want to exact it.

One thing, however, I would like to see from our famous miscreants: a little less sanctimoniousness about sexual issues and a lot more compassion when it comes to relevant social policy. The heart has its own urgencies, and our brain is sometimes no match for our  endocrine system. Let’s just acknowledge that fact and be a bit more understanding and compassionate when the next person -or sexuality related social issue-becomes a headline

STOP MARKETERS, PHONE HACKERS, AND UNKNOWN CALLS

How to Check If a Phone Number Is Real

How to Check If a Phone Number Is Real

Sarah Li Cain
March 19, 2020
Ever receive a phone call from an unknown number and wonder whether you should answer it? With number spoofing and robocalls on the rise, it’s getting harder for consumers to know when a call is from a legitimate person or business. This means learning how to check if a phone number is real may help you better figure out whether to answer your phone the next time you get a call from an unknown caller.

The rise of ‘fake’ phone numbers
More telemarketers and fraudsters use techniques such as caller ID spoofing to mask their number. That way, it appears as though the call is from a local number, making it all the more likely you might be tempted to pick up.

“The goal is for you to listen to their scam with the hope you’ll become their next victim,” said Mark McCoy, director or Reverd, a spam call complaint app. “Sadly, the scammer is able to earn a decent wage this way.”

Unfortunately, robocallers and nuisance phone calls are already a major problem in the U.S. First Orion, a network enterprise company, estimates that consumers and businesses get more than 100 billion unwanted calls from scammers every year. That doesn’t include an additional 30 billion calls from telemarketers. In fact, the company predicts nearly 50% of phone calls consumers receive this year will be fraudulent.

In many cases, nuisance phone calls waste a few minutes of your time, but for others it can result in a loss of money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losses totaling $1.48 billion in 2018 to fraud (though not all were attributed to robocallers).

In one recent case, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Florida resident Adrian Abramovich $120 million for making nearly 100 million robocalls to advertise fraudulent vacations and timeshares.

But there is little the FCC can do to combat international robocallers and scammers who target U.S. consumers.

How to try and find out if a phone number is from a real person
Stopping scam calls may not be possible, but you can lessen the number of unwanted calls by not answering calls from unknown numbers. There are also ways you can check to try to see if the phone number is real before deciding whether to return the call.

Look it up on social media. Many businesses will have an active social media profile. For example, a company’s Facebook page will likely include an address and phone number. At the very least, you should be able to see the business’s website to better determine whether it looks legitimate.
Use an online search engine. Sometimes an online search may yield the results you’re looking for. If it’s a legitimate phone number, the name of the business will usually show up as the first result in a Google search.
Conduct a reverse phone lookup. When you enter an unknown phone number into a reverse phone lookup tool, the service will try to find the person and any other details associated with that number. If no results turn up, that could be a sign the number is spoofed.
Download an app. There are legitimate apps for both Android and iPhone you can use to help reveal an incoming phone number. Unlike caller ID, these apps usually display the type of phone number (landline or cellphone) and whether the number is likely from a spam caller.
Use a phone validator. This tool allows you to type in a phone number to see how likely it is a spam caller. In some cases, you may be able to see additional details, such as the location and name that’s associated with the phone number.
The bottom line
While robocallers and phone scammers aren’t going away anytime soon, there are tools and services you can use to better combat nuisance callers. And if you do find yourself on the receiving end of a suspicious call asking for money or personal information, simply hang up and don’t give the caller any details.

March 19, 2020

Ever receive a phone call from an unknown number and wonder whether you should answer it? With number spoofing and robocalls on the rise, it’s getting harder for consumers to know when a call is from a legitimate person or business. This means learning how to check if a phone number is real may help you better figure out whether to answer your phone the next time you get a call from an unknown caller.

The rise of ‘fake’ phone numbers

More telemarketers and fraudsters use techniques such as caller ID spoofing to mask their number. That way, it appears as though the call is from a local number, making it all the more likely you might be tempted to pick up.

“The goal is for you to listen to their scam with the hope you’ll become their next victim,” said Mark McCoy, director or Reverd, a spam call complaint app. “Sadly, the scammer is able to earn a decent wage this way.”

Unfortunately, robocallersand nuisance phone calls are already a major problem in the U.S. First Orion, a network enterprise company, estimates that consumers and businesses get more than 100 billion unwanted calls from scammers every year. That doesn’t include an additional 30 billion calls from telemarketers. In fact, the company predicts nearly 50% of phone calls consumers receive this year will be fraudulent.

In many cases, nuisance phone calls waste a few minutes of your time, but for others it can result in a loss of money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers reported losses totaling $1.48 billion in 2018 to fraud (though not all were attributed to robocallers).

In one recent case, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) fined Florida resident Adrian Abramovich $120 million for making nearly 100 million robocalls to advertise fraudulent vacations and timeshares.

But there is little the FCC can do to combat international robocallers and scammers who target U.S. consumers.

How to try and find out if a phone number is from a real person

Stopping scam calls may not be possible, but you can lessen the number of unwanted calls by not answering calls from unknown numbers. There are also ways you can check to try to see if the phone number is real before deciding whether to return the call.

  • Look it up on social media. Many businesses will have an active social media profile. For example, a company’s Facebook page will likely include an address and phone number. At the very least, you should be able to see the business’s website to better determine whether it looks legitimate.
  • Use an online search engine. Sometimes an online search may yield the results you’re looking for. If it’s a legitimate phone number, the name of the business will usually show up as the first result in a Google search.
  • Conduct a reverse phone lookup. When you enter an unknown phone number into a reverse phone lookup tool, the service will try to find the person and any other details associated with that number. If no results turn up, that could be a sign the number is spoofed.
  • Download an app. There are legitimate apps for both Android and iPhone you can use to help reveal an incoming phone number. Unlike caller ID, these apps usually display the type of phone number (landline or cellphone) and whether the number is likely from a spam caller.
  • Use a **phone validator**. This tool allows you to type in a phone number to see how likely it is a spam caller. In some cases, you may be able to see additional details, such as the location and name that’s associated with the phone number.

The bottom line

While robocallers and phone scammers aren’t going away anytime soon, there are tools and services you can use to better combat nuisance callers. And if you do find yourself on the receiving end of a suspicious call asking for money or personal information, simply hang up and don’t give the caller any details.

CAR INSURERS ARE GIVING BILLONS BACK TO DRIVERS

CNN· 4/10/2020

With most of the country operating under stay-at-home orders, drivers are spending less time on the road — which means fewer accidents and insurance claims.

Now the top 10 insurers, who together own 72% of the market, have all aannounced programs to return more than $7.5 billion to their customers in coming weeks.

But some watchdog groups say insurers could — and should — be doing more. The industry is saving tens of billions of dollars during the pandemic, they say, even after subtracting the payments being made to policy holders.

“It’s good the industry is broadly participating in these credits,” said Dan Karr, the CEO of Valchoice, a data analytics company that acts as an insurance industry watchdog. “However, all of these discounts, rebates and credits are still dimes on the dollar compared to how much profit Covid-19 is likely to deliver to auto insurance companies.”

The top 10 insurers collect annual premiums of $178 billion, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Claims data isn’t yet available for the weeks since the pandemic caused roads and highways to empty out — but given the historical data for the relationship between accidents and traffic, it’s likely the amount being returned to policyholders will be only a fraction of what the insurers might save from reduced claims, said Karr.

The amounts being returned range from about 15% to 25% of premiums, for periods as short as a month at Farmers Insurance Group of Companies to as long as six months at  Geico.

State Farm, the industry leader, announced Thursday night it would return 25% of premiums for a period of 10 weeks, from March 20 through the end of May. That amounts to an estimated $2 billion in reduced premiums for customers. State Farm, a mutual insurance company owned by its policyholders, refers to the payment as a dividend.

“We insure more cars than anyone and we see from our claims activity people are driving less,” said State Farm CEO Michael L. Tipsord in a statement. “This dividend is one of the ways we’re working to help our customers during this unprecedented situation.”

No. 2 Geico is giving back even more: a total of $2.5 billion through credits on six months of insurance coverage when current policyholders renew their policies or new policyholders sign up.

Most of those granting relief to their clients are basing the payout on the premiums paid in the April and May period. Allstate, the fourth largest insurer, which on Monday became the first to announce payments to its policyholders, is basing the payments on the the April and May period, and Progressive, USAA and Liberty Mutual all followed suit.

Most of the insurers also announced other programs to help policyholders, including allowing them to defer premium payments and a moratorium on canceling policies for nonpayments.

Insurance are saving billions of dollars. Cars’s owners are staying at home.
Almost no traffic in many cities in the USA