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Something I Happened to Notice

This here is a fairly random observation–but I’m hoping somebody out there can explain things to me. What I did:

  • I forwarded all calls for my cell phone to a different number, purchased for one dollar/month from an online service.
  • I set up a phone book with that service, with numbers divided into various categories (always ring through, sometimes ring through, send to voicemail, always reject, and everybody else).
  • For the “always reject” group (a.k.a. scammers), and at least at the moment for the “everybody else” group as well, I have the service play these callers a “this number has been disconnected” message.

Why did I do this? It was either that or get rid of the damned phone. I don’t like being on call. Simultaneously, I have an autoresponder set up to reply to texts with a message that says I won’t see them. Because I won’t.

So far, this is just me being an introvert. Maybe a pushy introvert. I noticed two things.

  • First, my battery life was drastically extended on my phone.
  • Second, and far more interesting, prior to making this change I used to get a metric shit-ton of scam calls from caller ID fakers pretending to be in my local area code. ALL of these calls immediately stopped.

So okay, it turns out that SMS (text messages) use a different channel from voice callsthe same channel the phone uses to make sure the phone company always knows your physical location, about which I might say more if I hadn’t already written that book–so maybe that first part makes sense. Or maybe there’s something else involved. If you know, please tell me. In case this wasn’t clear, I use some form of data connection (often from my laptop actually) to receive calls via a SIP client (Linphone, generally). But I don’t receive standard calls via my cell phone’s normal network at all. And battery life is better? Hmm.

But as for that second point…I can still see all of the numbers that have tried to call me. If I see a number I recognize, and realize I accidentally gave someone a “disconnected” message, I can add that person to the phone book. And even call back to explain. But I have no good explanation for the lack of pseudo-local calls from scammers.

Of course these people are spoofing caller ID. But why aren’t the calls being forwarded?

I am reminded of my experience in Las Vegas nearly 30 years ago. I got a phone, a landline of course because it was 30 years ago, and I paid extra for an “unlisted” number. The next day, I started getting sales calls to that number from people who knew my name. So “unlisted” meant that people couldn’t find my name in a phone book, for which service the phone company charged me extra, but they nonetheless sold my information immediately. (I had given the number out to precisely no one, and ended up just turning off the ringer–at which point the phone worked perfectly for me.)

So I wonder: how do scammers know that the phone is being forwarded? Or do they? Is there something about the method of caller ID spoofing they are using that doesn’t work on a forwarded call? Or does the fact that these calls stopped mean that someone has access to the phone company’s data? But even if that last is true, why would the scammers care that the number was forwarded?

A minor curiosity here. Obviously I got what I wanted out of this setup. But there’s something I don’t know, and it’s bugging me a bit. One further thought: I remember there used to be an app you could use to unmask Caller ID. The trick was to forward calls to an 800 number, then forward them back to your own line. Apparently the phone folks figure the paying customer at an 800-type number is the one who gets to decide whether Caller ID info is displayed. So if you ever thought you were successfully blocking Caller ID while calling one of weren’t. Maybe this is relevant? Maybe the “real” Caller ID would be unmasked via forwarding, at least sometimes? And scammers don’t like that idea, and have some neato spiffy kewl way to prevent following call forwarding? I dunno. It’s interesting, though. To me, yeah, but. This is my blog!

Meanwhile? There ought to be some new stuff coming out, strangely enough via the “New Releases” email list, but not today–and I’ll talk about that elsewhere anyway. So, I hope this was at least somewhat interesting, and I also hope somebody out there can enlighten me. Thanks in advance?

Have fun out there!

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