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Telemarketers targeting mobile phones are annoying and sometimes scary

Getting telemarketing calls on a mobile phone at work can make anybody angry. (Thinkstock)
Getting telemarketing calls on a mobile phone at work can make anybody angry. (Thinkstock)

A few years ago, I got rid of my home's landline, as many others have done.

I was paying $40 a month to receive robo calls from Congressman Charlie Dent, the occasional message from my mother and a ridiculous number of telemarketing calls that always seemed to come as I was about to sit down to dinner or grab a quick nap.

Most people who wanted to reach me used my mobile number, and it really was the most convenient way to get ahold of me – since I wasn’t lugging around my home phone all day.

In retrospect, it wasn’t about the cost savings. Rather, I wanted to stop the unwanted calls.

Nothing against our local congressman, but I really didn’t need the entire five-minute spiel about his upcoming town hall meeting blasting out of my answering machine while I’m trying to catch a couple of z’s on the couch. Neither did I want to disrupt my rest by getting up to hang up on the call.

The volume of calls was becoming annoying.

One of the joys of having only a mobile phone is telemarketers and political supporters don’t have the number.

At least, they didn’t.

Telemarketing companies – and even worse, scammers – are harder to keep down than a 3-month-old puppy.

Now that I no longer have a home phone number to give out when filling out a form or applying for a credit card or store bonus program, I have to give them my mobile number.

Most say on the form that they “don’t share your number with third parties” or “will only use your number to contact you if there’s a problem with your order/application.”

But, some of them must be lying because telemarketers are now reaching out to me on my cellphone.

This is bad news on multiple fronts.

Telemarketing calls on a home phone were bad enough, but mobile telephone calls are definitely worse.

First, they’re using my minutes to make their sales pitch.

Honestly, I’ve never used all of my minutes, but if it ever happened, it certainly isn’t going to be because someone is trying to sell me a timeshare in Florida.

Second, since my phone is always with me, I get calls at all times of the day. Most of the telemarketing calls I’ve received recently have been during working hours.

That’s interrupting my work and that’s not OK. My company is paying me to talk with sources, not salespeople.

Underneath the annoyance of sales pitches is the very real personal-information security threat of such calls.

There are scammers and hackers calling you not to sell magazines, but to get personal information or hack data from your mobile phone.

In some cases, it’s a random dial just trying to verify which are “good numbers” so they can sell them on a list to other telemarketers – meaning even more calls to you.

But some could cost you.

One apparent scam has an “unknown” number call a mobile phone and then hang up as soon as the person answers. Curiosity then gets the best of the caller, who calls back only to be directed to a toll line that keeps you on the phone while charges rack up.

I can’t confirm that is true because I’ve never been suckered into calling back. Not because I’m so savvy, just because I don’t really care.

Luckily, I’m not the only one bothered by this, and there are resources that let you use technology to snoop on the people who may be trying to swindle you.

Got a call from an out-of-area number that you don’t recognize and they hang up or don’t leave a message? Here’s what you do and it’s ridiculously easy:

First, don’t call back the number. You don’t know what’s on the other end.

Instead, type that number – starting with the area code – into your computer’s web browser.

There are now a number of websites that people use to report suspicious calls. If that number corresponds to a number that others have complained about, you’ll find information on experiences other people have had with the number.

One site is Mr. Number, which also has a call blocking and spam protection app. On that site, people can report problem numbers and say what happened. Comments range from the benign, such as “tried to sell me health/life insurance” to stranger complaints of robo calls urging a person to “hold for an unfinished survey” that he had never started.

Some people have reported calls that are downright frightening. One said the number he was reporting claimed to be the Internal Revenue Service collecting a debt; another said a call was threatening unspecified legal action.

PPL even put out a recent warning about scammers claiming to be from the Allentown-based utility demanding immediate payment of a late bill or their electricity would be cut off.

There are real threats out there, and information is a weapon.

So, make sure you know who is calling you before you call them back and open yourself up to more annoying calls – or worse.

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