Friday, March 24, 2023 | Ramadan 1, 1444 H
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Spammers play tricks: watch out... !


Sonia Ambrosio - -

Spam phone calls are a nuisance. It is time-consuming, it is annoying and it is a massive threat to privacy.

Besides, it can be dangerous.

Why do we fall for scams?

Day and night unwanted phone calls kept coming for weeks, and I am not talking about robocalls or telemarketing calls. A real person was on the other side of the line. A mellow male voice asked ‘min aimti’, roughly translated ‘who are you’. Humm, was there an intention to develop a phone call relationship? His attempt was ignored.

The offender started using different mobile numbers. He became more abusive and insistent.

Politely, he was asked to stop calling, otherwise, the harassment would be reported to the authorities — that is when things got vicious.

The person on the other side of the line did not like the warning or the rejection.

The fraudster would call every minute for a half-hour, or he would keep the phone ringing for minutes and then call again almost immediately. He would phone until late at night and then start again on early morning.

Strategies on how not to answer the phone, to block, or to reject have all failed. In fact, these actions just made the situation worse.

The offender was no longer aiming to develop a phone relationship or to annoy; he was off to a psychological impact of aggression and distress.

The local phone company operator was not ready to help, though the harassing situation was reported twice.

Despite the advancement of information communication technology, providers seem to be not prepared to deal with ‘scamming’ situations.

Representatives of the phone company suggested I should buy a new SIM card. Hold on there, I want to keep my number.

I needed an ‘annoyance desk complains’ to formally register the case — not a new mobile number!

In a desperate move, I posted online screenshots of the offender’s mobile numbers with the many times he called.

In a few seconds, there were reactions and interactions on social media asking if I was OK, and more specifically, messages from family members on the other side of the globe telling me ‘to be careful’. I brought worries to people thousands of kilometres away. Then, in a flash of clarity, I realised that though a victim, I was about to become an offender as well just by publishing the mobile numbers.

I felt hopelessly alone.

Going to the authorities was an option. However, what the authorities can do? Certainly, it is difficult for the law enforcement agencies to police spam calls. While I ruminated about the situation, I was also questioning how somebody could be so nasty. Is this person dangerous? How could I know? Does this person know me? Is this person checking on me online? What does this person want?

Illegal spam calls are typically from a real person who aims to steal one’s money or personal identity.

They are far more dangerous than they are a nuisance because the person on the other side of the line has no regard for government laws.

Very few research studies exist on phone frauds from real persons.

Then, I considered, scams are big business, and women are a much easier prey to fall to intimidations.

One of the main types of a hoax is the romance fraud when the offender lures victims into virtual relationships. The criminal uses the façade of a romantic friendship to cultivate trust and empathy with the victims. Women can succumb to it and be blackmailed.

However, it doesn’t mean that men aren’t at risk.

General understanding about scams need to be addressed; though, awareness is only one way of tackling this problem.

Phone company operators should also be able to do more.

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