Robocalls, email bombs make communicating more dangerous than Chicago's streets

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Every morning, like clockwork, I get a call from a certain state.

It began several months ago. I forget what they wanted or what they said, but it was something like, "Hello, please stay on the line. We have a very important ..."

That's about when I hung up on that one. Now I just hit, "Ignore."

Another robocall that's sucked me into answering a few times is from the 207 area code, which is Maine.

When I answer that call the recorded message is, "Hi, we have some important information about your student loan. Please stay ..."

Since I haven't had a student loan in about 45 years, and that one's paid off, I hung up on that one, too.

When I check my voice mail every couple of days I find that the majority of messages left don't actually have an actual message. What I hear when I click to hear my next message are the names of a string of Medicare supplement insurance providers.

The other day I got an email that said, "Thank you for your pledge of a $30 recurring monthly payment for a particular political party. Click here to review and confirm your pledge."

Alarmed, since I had done no such thing, for a nanosecond I almost considered clicking on the link. Thank goodness, cooler brain cells prevailed and I sent the poison email directly to spam.

I've seen technology in recent days that claims you can delete troubling robocall numbers from your phone with the single push of a button.

But I fear that's a scam, too.

For decades we've been flooded with unsolicited emails from scammers in India, China and who knows, maybe a neighbor kid in a basement down the street.

While in the good old days unwanted emails used to be nothing but a nuisance, now they are tantamount to a cyberesque grim reaper ready to take down your Internet kingdom with a virus or Trojan as swiftly as a Nazi blitzkrieg.

Compounding the problem is the fact that a competent scammer can now construct algorithms that fuel an infinite number of scam emails, robocalls, Facebook posts, Twitter tweets. If only one in a 100,000 click on a link, return a call or, God forbid, send a check, they can make a small fortune.

A few years ago I got an email at least twice a week that said they were someone in some exotic land who had been left millions of dollars and needed to have it deposited in a U.S. bank. But alas, their country's banking laws didn't allow such. But if I sent them my account and routing number they'd pay me $1,000,000.

I didn't answer it of course. How do you know? If I had, I'd probably be a rich man by now.

About 15 years ago the federal government enacted the Do Not Call list regulations, which allowed folks to ban certain numbers from their phones. But as cellphones displaced land lines, it seems new laws with new teeth are required.

On Saturday The Rochester Voice published a story about 40 states attorney generals who are hard at work to produce such regulations that would curtail this suffocation of wasted time and energy wrought by robocalls.

We've been getting junk mail and unsolicited phone calls it seems like forever. But they didn't have a virus time bomb ticking in them like they can today as in the case of an email link. Or stack up all your voice mail messages like so much garbage.

Despite the best efforts of well-meaning attorney generals and others in the government, I have little hope a fix is out there. There will always be flim flam men, and women, of course.

So like Sgt. Phil Esterhaus always said before he sent his troops out on the streets in "Hill Street Blues," when you go to answer your phone or turn on your computer, remember, "Hey, let's be careful out there."

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