Droid - Do Not Disturb - Scammers and Solicitors

The Ubiquitous Telephone – It is claimed that the first phone call was placed on March 10th, 1876.

The first words ever spoken on the telephone were said to have been spoken by Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, when he made the first call to his assistant, Thomas Watson: "Mr. Watson--come here. I want to see you."

Subsequently, the phone has connected most of human kind in ways that are incalculable. It has also been a source of annoyances and even terror. Prior to the 1970s, it was impossible to turn the phone off short of pulling the wires out of the wall. Today, we just unplug the thing or put the cell phone into airplane mode.

For a lot of people, telephone communications has become the bane of their existence. They want to receive communications from valid callers, yet even after extensive legislation, most still receive unwanted solicitations.

My solution to block telemarketers on my landline was to hopefully seek out a device that would only allow calls from people on my phone list which would be entered into this device. But at the time, none such existed. So in frustration, I would end up screaming at them which made things worse. This was before do not call lists. I ended up changing my phone number - a lot.

At the time, the first three digits (the exchange prefix) of my phone number was in an area of town that indicated a certain class of people who did fall prey to purchasing from solicitors. I tried on many occasions to get an exchange from, shall we say, a more affluent part of town. But my city still had antiquated phone equipment - and the phone company wouldn't do it. In the end, I modified the phone such that a timer would turn off the bell at certain times. The calls would go to the answering machine.

But then there was the proliferation of mobile telephone devices. At first no solicitors would dare call cell phones. Later on, however - within the last ten years...

I sought filtering software in an attempt to filter out unwanted calls. However, every Android app I’ve tried has failed.

Why?

First of all – why are there even people soliciting? Answer, it is profitable. These phone banks wouldn’t exist if few if any people bought what the solicitor was selling. There are a lot of morons who are spending money they in-reality can ill-afford to spend. Solicitors know this.

The numbers they use to call are often generated from a variety of sources including random calling, numbers from other agencies, and numbers from many sources where people have left their phone numbers.

Another thing: when a solicitor calls and the person receiving the call cusses out the solicitor, they will most likely not call again. The problem is, that phone number has a live person and it will be added to a list the solicitation agency will wish to sell – to many other agencies.

Then - there are the scammers.  These are the unscrupulous who prey on the less informed.  They come via the Internet voice over IP in all nationalities from all countries.  They spoof numbers, they - basically do whatever they can to steel money. They do this because it is quite lucrative. 

The laws – You can just forget about the law. These problems are so widespread that it’s just impossible for law enforcement agencies and phone companies to keep up with violations. Like the many and varied ineptitudes of the US government including the Department of Education, people here in the US have grown accustomed to the annoyances of solicitations.

So, to answer the question as to why these filtering apps fail… Could it be the bloatware that is built into these apps to counter the legal liabilities associated with the possibility of missed important lifesaving calls? Or could it be because of extensive under the table payments paid by solicitation agencies to app developers as well as Android based phone makers?  I don't know.  All I know is it just does not work.

You would think there would be some developer who could develop a configurable app that would filter out unwanted calls – and work every time. But there’s always some bug somewhere in the app or it stops working when an update is installed.

On all Android phones, all third party apps rely on the built-in Do Not Disturb functionality of the particular brand of smartphone.

Mobile phones are hideously expensive devices. Most users don’t grasp the overall cost of owning one of these things. Along with the initial cost, there are the steep monthly charges as well as the device’s three year life expectancy. Then there is the addictive time consuming aspect of these little devices. Finally, the displays on these things are stupidly small. It’s really difficult to efficiently do any serious work with them.

Then we throw into the mix, telephone solicitors, scammers, junk text messages, and junk or fishing emails – not to mention, other ways solicitations/scams can creep into the device.

For me as a creative maker type, this is no fun. I just want to use the device for communicating, navigating, or while away from my home base, looking something up on the web. I just don’t want people calling me to try and sell me shit I absolutely have no use for. If I need it, I’m smart enough, I’ll find it.

So, go look and see how vague, complicated, non-intuitive, undocumented, and non-functional the Do Not Disturb feature is on your smart phone. It’s as if this was a last minute hack Android developers added to their phones.

Note.  I have no real experience with more recent iOS Apple iPhones. 

S - November 13th, 2019

An email to Samsung dated November 14th, 2019

Dear Samsung,

There is seemingly an issue with all Samsung galaxy phones with the “Do Not Disturb” feature built into the android operating system.

If the Do Not Disturb function is set to on, the ringtone on the phone is suppressed if none of the exception conditions are met. This does work.

However, if the phone is connected via Bluetooth to a car speaker phone, the car itself, a Dock-N-Talk mobile phone docking station, a Bluetooth headset, or any other Bluetooth accessory for receiving calls, the Do Not Disturb function is ignored and the ringtones are heard through the connected Bluetooth device.

The only way to remedy this is to disable the Phone Ringtone Sync feature of the Bluetooth device altogether. However, this disables all ringtones through all potentially connected Bluetooth devices.

There a number of us who have these smart phone adapters that allow us to connect standard desk phones to our smart phones via Bluetooth. This functionality has worked for us for many years. However, when it comes to telephone solicitations, we would like to use the Do Not Disturb feature and have it work for Bluetooth the same way as it does on the phone itself.

This is also true for a great many people who connect their smart phones to their cars, trucks, and 18 wheeler rigs. They too want the Do Not Disturb function to work the same as it does on their phone. Then when the phone is buried in a purse, a bag, or a phone pouch and it rings in a noisy vehicle full of kids or loud music is playing, they can be assured that the phone is ringing through the Bluetooth device when they want it to.

Samsung, Please fix this.

Sincerely St...

Samsung’s response on November 15th, 2019

 

Dear St...

Thank you for contacting Samsung Electronics.

We appreciate your insight in relation to the Do Not Disturb functionality of your phone when connected to other Bluetooth devices. Rest assured that we will forward your feedback to the relevant department for review.

Due to the nature of how Bluetooth protocols were implemented on Android devices, Do Not Disturb mode will usually work as you mentioned. To rectify this, there is an available customization to each Bluetooth device that you connect with your device. To access the option, please follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Settings app.
  2. Select Connections and tap on Bluetooth.
  3. Select the Preferred device connection name.
  4. You will see 4 options, Call, Audio, Contact Access and Message Access.
  5. Customize your desired setting to enable or disable the notification sound of the functions mentioned above.

With regard to ignoring the solicitations you are receiving,

You mentioned that you want to ignore the solicitations that you are receiving, as an alternative option, I recommend contacting your network provider to seek assistance on blocking those types of calls.

We appreciate and value your business with us. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us…

...

Kind Regards,

Erwin A.

Samsung Customer Care

Note.  In all the fiddling by Samsung, my second-hand Galaxy S8+ decided to get real hot and the battery blew the back off the phone.

To further diagnose the problem, The Samsung tech asked if they could access my phone via the internet. After I entered a code, they went in and - well they evidently couldn't fix the problem,  They just turned off the Bluetooth connection to my car.  I then called them back and they had me back up my phone to the cloud and do a factory reset on the phone.  After that when I tested it, it still didn't fix the problem.  Of course, I later had to reinstall everything including all my apps and data.  Overnight while it was doing this, the phone got hot and the battery developed a huge air bubble which pushed the glass back off the phone.  I called Samsung and they told me to take it to one of their certified repair centers.

I took it to a Samsung repair shop where for $99 they put a new battery in the phone.  After I got home, I found that the battery wouldn't charge.  Because the phone was an international phone, this repair shop wouldn't fix it.  I then had to send the phone to Samsung. They said because it is an international phone, I would have to pay an additional $274.96 to have it fixed. 

UPDATE:  I got out my son's old 2012 iPhone 4s.  To my surprise, it has a Do Not Disturb function.  I installed the SIM from my dead Samsung Galaxy S8+ into the old iPhone, synced my contacts with the phone and - it works!  Peace and quiet.  Thus far this week, a dozen or so solicitors tried to call but were immediately sent to voice mail.  Neither the phone, the car, or the docking station rang.  However, when my wife called from work, she got through. 

Halleluiah!!!

It's off to the Apple Store. 

Home from the Apple Store. They said that the Do Not Disturb function remains the same as it was on the iPhone 4s.

A day or so later, I then went onto the Apple factory reconditioned website and - there were no late model iPhones. Several minutes later, I press F5 and low and behold, there was an iPhone 11 that appeared. I immediately ordered this less expensive reconditioned iPhone 11. A day or so later, it arrived. And yes, the Do Not Disturb does work including with all connected devices. If you're not on my contact list, sorry, it's to the voicemail with you.

I do have to make a comment about expensive iPhones.  The 4S is 8 years old and is still going.  My son kept it in his hip pocket banging around against whatever else he carried with him.  Also in his obsession with software, he didn't find anything quirky about iOS. The phone basically worked. As for the galaxy class phone, there were definitely bugs, all-be-it minor annoyances, never-the-less they were there.

S - November 20th, 2019

   

It's A Beautiful Thing

This whole thing with cell phones, mobile phones, mobile devices – or whatever one wants to call them is a bit scary. They cost so much and the monthly service to use them is not cheap. If the device is damaged or stolen, then it is a major expense to replace. Also, many have lost valuable data and pictures, and recovering them can be difficult if not impossible.

Yes, here we are plunking down hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year for mobile service and the device to use this service. Then after signing up, we are accosted with – well strangeness, weirdness and complications. The experience is sometimes not hassle free as it was when we would order up phone service from good ole Ma Bell.

We walk into a mobile phone service provider store and are enticed by the new beautiful all diamond glass phones. After a wonderful sales pitch from a “specialist,” we sign away significant amounts of our money for a device and mobile service for two to three years. During that time the average person will pay an average of from 60 to $200 a month. Then In our hand is this wonder of human communications. But, is it really worth it?

Is the old saying, “You get what you pay for…” applicable to mobile devices?

Well, stupid me, I was tired of the hassles of used, outdated or inexpensive mobile phones, so I went for the best – or so I thought. Turns out, they’re just as convoluted as the rest. All I wanted was a phone that worked and will last at least three years – just like my eight year old no-longer compatible hand-me-down 2012 iPhone 4S. That’s all I wanted.

The two main players: Apple Corporation and Samsung seem to be run by kids – these conglomerates have that feel about them. A hint of this is the profound lack of adequate documentation both for their phones as well as their constantly changing supporting webpages. The manual? It’s the various internet blogs and forums. There’s no actual reference manual with everything specified. I guess these thousands of kids in these mega-corporations don’t have time for that.

There I am, phone in hand…

The moment I took the phone from its box and tried to do something with it, it came up with a message. I then had to contact customer support that inevitably involved someone on the other side of the earth with broken English – who in the end was not able to fix the problem.

Oh yes, the cost of fixing a damaged phone? – half the cost of the phone – unless I plunked down another $200 for two years of insurance. Oh wow, then it’s only 10% of the cost of the phone to get it fixed. Isn’t that extortion?

Also, the industry as a whole has decided that these devices cannot be fixed, rather they are disposable. They have also made it impossible to access the schematics and internal software allowing third parties to fix or repair the damaged devices. This includes the lack of available replacement components. The industry has also gotten to the point of encoding key components including batteries, screens and connectors such that if a non OEM component is installed, the device stops working.

Yes, this is unfair trade practices begging for government intervention.

As for my new phone, fortunately, I understood the subtleties of computer technologies – and could find my way around the many and varied forums and blogs. Sooo finally, after jumping through hoops, everything works. After all the initial hassles of ordering the thing, buying the insurance, setting up the phone, installing apps and importing all my data, the thing actually works. I mean, everything works as it should. I can’t believe it.

So, why’d I do it?    It’s a beautiful thing!

I can see why people are enamored with these things. It feels good in my hand. One can easily connect and do whatever one wishes – all while on the go, at work, in the doctor’s waiting room, shopping, visiting or whatever.

For billions of people around the world, it’s a way of life. But for me, it’s just another device which I occasionally use while I’m away.

My life is primarily a home based life of being a maker, a builder. So, carrying the phone around with me here at home is an inconvenience. Most of the time, it sits on the desk.

But, you ask, what if someone telephones me? Well, I have this old 1990s docking station connected to the old landline phones that is linked to the mobile device via Bluetooth. Any person or business in my contacts list will ring through to the house phones. As for robo calls, solicitors, scammers and people I don’t have their number, they are immediately sent to voicemail. How cool, how peaceful, how nice! If someone texts me, I won’t know it until I sit at the desk and look at the thing. To me, texting is akin to emailing.

So, what about the internet, apps and all that other stuff?

If I want to look something up or cruse the web, I have a PC for that. As I’ve said before, the screens on these mobile devices are so hideously small; it’s hard for me to do any serious work on them. Then there is typing. I have a full sized bulletproof 1980s Model M IBM keyboard connected to my tiny PC that is marvelous to peck out what it is I want to say. I do have a Bluetooth keyboard that could easily be linked to the phone, but this keyboard is not pocket sized.

Originally, mobile phone keyboards were just meant for those times when one was out and about and needed to immediately respond to a text or look something up on the web. But now everyone uses these devices as their daily driver. This can easily be recognized by the poor quality composition, grammar and spelling. Gone are the days when correspondents were thought out and worded such that they clearly conveyed ideas. Now letters seem to be mere short reactionary blurbs.

Another thing about these mobile devices that has been recognized is, they have replaced interpersonal contact with people. These little things have given people excuses to not personally connect with others. They have been around long enough such that many people have become unable to personally interact with others in person including their phone friends.

These devices will no doubt evolve to the point they will be able to sense our mood, and attempt to fulfill our every need. But in the meantime, they will continue to suckle on our money supply until governments step in and regulate the hell out of these companies. Also, like the PC, the phone will eventually get to the point where people will keep them for much longer than two years. Currently, Billions of these devices end up in landfills.

My PC is now 8 years old and still quite viable for what I and most other people need it for. I suspect the same will happen for the phone where people will get tired of paying hundreds if not thousands for a new phone every two years. Then these fragile things will stop needing to be upgraded and will become much more robust and durable as well as useable. They will also be more secure and traceable especially for lost or stolen phones. Also as we head into being a heavily regulated socialized society, service providers will no doubt become a regulated utility.

Until then, I will be able to cruse the web or watch movies in the airport and on the plain using my 4 year old 12-inch Chinese made tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard.

S - December 15th, 2019

   

Telemarketing

In 2018, the US Bureau of Labor stated that there were 164,000 telemarketer employers in the US.

As of December 2019, the average salary for an independent solicitor is said to be $87,000 per year.

Management Review estimates that telemarketing generates about $424.5 billion in annual revenue.

Telemarketing/solicitation is a big business. The recent push by legislators to control cold calling did put a mild dent into this practice. But, it is still quite a lucrative business. There are still quite a few people who are persuaded to purchase the merchandise or service being offered. A skilled telemarketer is far less expensive and more effective than TV, radio, internet or printed advertisements and they have a greater chance of obtaining an order. Telemarketing contact calls can range from heads of corporations to the indigent living on a meager income.

This is why this industry has been willing to break the law in an attempt to contact anyone. This is also why their lobbying efforts with governing bodies have paid off. They have also been successful with efforts at disabling software apps on various manufacturer’s phones. If not disabling it, they have pushed for annoyances such as notifications that constantly pop up on phones indicating the Do Not Disturb function is turned on.

Why the notification? In the iPhone iOS 13, there is no way of disabling this message short of disabling all notification. Why? Every Do Not Disturb function on all US phones have some kind of annoying quirk. The manufacturers all seem to be reluctant to fix these.


iPhone iOS 13 Control Center

Why are there no notifications when the Bluetooth or Wi-Fi are disabled?

It is quite simple for the user to press that moon symbol to enable or disabled the Do Not Disturb function. So, why the message?

You-know, when DND is enabled, I am not charged for a phone call from the many and varied solicitors that call my number – that I’ve had since 1993. Instead, they immediately go to voice mail. I wonder; isn’t that lost revenue for mobile providers?

To avoid solicitations, my wife changed her number and – she got even more unwanted calls and texts.

S - December 30th, 2019

   

Congress Passes Anti-Robocall Bill
December 23rd 2019 — S.151 — 116th Congress (2019-2020)

US phones now get over 200 million robocalls per day. It is said lawmakers hoped that the Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act will put a stop to robocalls.

This bill was introduced in the Senate way back in January 16th, 2019. It did get around to passing a Senate vote in May before going to the House of Representatives where it languished until early December 2019 when it was finally passed with amendments. Of course, that sent it back to the Senate, which did pass it with a final vote, meaning that once the President signed it, it became another law.

What did this Act attempt to stop? It supposedly stops robocallers from polluting US phones with timeshare offers, payday loan scams and other predatory messages? The law enforces a $10,000 penalty per violation that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would be responsible for imposing on violators. It would also force carriers to use a call authentication framework called Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using some kind of tokens.

This new legislation is for stopping robocalls.  It really does noting for telemarketers. Despite the Do-Not-Call list, they will continue to call.

I doubt the FCC will actually enforce the law and stop robocallers. It already imposes stiff penalties, sometimes reaching into the millions of dollars. But it seems they are not all that willing to collect them. A March 2019 Wall Street Journal investigation into the Commission’s follow-through on fines found that it had only collected $6,790 out of the $208,000,000 in penalties that it had imposed on telemarketers starting in 2015.

So, you be the judge. Are they really that interested in fixing this problem?

S January 5th,  2020