Monday, July 29, 2013

I just got an automated call, but I missed hearing the first few words of the message. The message kept asking me to identify myself, and kept repeating. The FBI (2013) recommends never giving personal information over the telephone unless YOU make the call. I never identify myself to anyone who calls me, and no one should, because it is impossible to know with any certainty WHO is asking for identification. Any phone system that makes an outgoing call and demands personal identification should be illegal, with criminal penalties, because people who are called are put at risk of identity theft JUST BECAUSE some such calls could possibly be legitimate!

Since these calls expose innocent people to a greater risk of identity theft, they are automatically malicious, endangering calls.

I let the unknown automated call run it's course, as I recorded the call. With each loop it continued to fail to identify itself (not that that would have made a difference, since anyone can impersonate anyone else over a telephone.)

When the system finally hung up, even though caller ID was apparently blocked, I was able to use automatic call-back. The caller was NIPSCO. Their automated voice mail system did not provide any choices that remotely resembled "why did you call me?" I looped through the system twice, as it automatically restarted when I did not pick a choice. Through both iterations, I hit zero repeatedly as the robotic voice continued speaking. Eventually, after repeatedly saying my response was not understood, it finally connected me to a real person who had no idea why NIPSCO might have called me. My account is up to date. There are no special situations going on related to my account. I am annoyed. I only have so much useful awake time each day, and they just stole ten minutes of it, for no apparent reason. (Plus whatever time it is going to take me to respond with this tirade).

I am going to write to my congress-people, including the recording of the ridiculous experience, and I will be demanding that automated voice mail systems MUST provide an opportunity to speak with a real person at EVERY LEVEL, with a significant fine imposed for each call that violates this principle, at each level at which the automated script fails to provide a clear way out. Such a fine should be larger if the system makes the call. I urge my friends to all do the same.

To review:

1) Demand criminal penalties for callers that ask for personal identification information.
2) Demand financial penalties for every instance in which an automated call system offers a list of options that does not include "speak with a live representative."
3) Penalties for failing to provide an opportunity to speak with a live representative should be greater when the company operating the voice mail system initiates the call.

Can you remember to mention these three points? This US Government website will help you find your representative, and will provide tips about how to write an effective letter. Start writing!


FBI. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), (2013). Common fraud schemes: 
          Tips for avoiding telemarketing fraud. Retrieved from an official site
          of the U.S. government, U.S. Department of Justice website: