Merritt: Inundated and incensed by robocalls, seeking answer (and finding it hard not to answer)

Merritt: Inundated and incensed by robocalls, seeking answer (and finding it hard not to answer)
Cellphone showing call from Scam Likely. (Picasa / TNS)

“Something’s got a hold on me” (as in the old Etta James song), but “Oh, it WON’T be love.” Every time the phone rings, I’m drawn like a moth to the penetrating flame of a robocall and, after having received about 10 such calls (no exaggeration) today, as I write this, I’m incensed.

As you will probably recall, it goes something like this. The phone rings, I answer, only to hear, “Dorothy (my legal name), you certainly are hard to get hold of,” and then the sales pitch continues. Initially, during the first few seconds, I thought the familiarity of the person’s dialogue was an actual person (silly me), but then soon realized the voice was robotic. Since then, I’ve continued to hang up every time I hear “Dorothy,” which does alert me, each of the 90 times they’ve called, to a stranger on the other end.


I couldn’t believe, a few years ago, coincidentally, after a hospitalization followed by in-home nursing care, my husband and I became inundated with robocalls stating that a walker would be available at no cost — even though there was never a need for one — and that a relative had paid for a free medical alert system. Really?!

And is there anyone who has never heard a robotic voice informing of a deduction in the rate of interest on a credit card, or that they’ve won a vacation to the Caribbean?

I’ve tried ignoring these rings, telling myself that the bona fide caller will leave a message. The problem is, I don’t want to ignore the expected calls from a landscaper, doctor or deck cleaner — with all of whom I need to schedule appointments. If I disregard the calls, there’s a good chance I’ll forget to check the blinking light in my office that indicates phone messages. And then I might have to reschedule our deck cleaning or the planting of shrubs.

These are relatively little things, perhaps, but a more frustrating problem can occur when waiting for the results of a medical test, and in more serious cases, doctors won’t leave a message on the answering service.

Unfortunately, I’ve become a slave to my own phone. I’ve reduced myself to fretting about whether or not to answer; checking the time of day when my landline rings (though “they” seem to call at any time), and even counting the number of rings (usually four) before the automatic cut-off.

Adding to the robocalls and my frustration are the unrelenting charity, scam and sales calls which cause me to hang up before the words, “Dorothy Merritt, how are you today?” are asked. In the past, I would never have hung up on anyone, realizing that these people are only doing their jobs. No more.

Today, I am attempting to release myself from bondage. Thanks to the column, “How seniors can stop frustrating robocalls,” written by Jim Miller for a recent issue of the “Prime” section of the Carroll County Times, I’m hoping to cut down on the nuisance calls. The article included a number of suggestions, two of which I’ve initiated, so far.

First, I registered our home and cellphone numbers with the National Do Not Call Registry ( or call 888-382-1222) to limit some of the calls. The website states that it takes 31 days from the registration date for most sales calls to be blocked. However, illegal robocallers, charities, political organizations, survey conductors, and businesses with whom you have dealt within the last 18 months, will still be able to find their way through. (Darn, but we’ve got to start somewhere.)

I also signed up for Nomorobo (, a free service for landline phones with a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) landline carrier that detects and blocks robocalls that are blacklisted as offender numbers. The price for mobile service is $1.99 per phone, per month. As of this writing, the website stated that the service stopped over 1,025,478,476 calls and, though it isn’t 100 percent effective, it does provide some protection. Note: The service advises users to wait until the second ring to answer because Nomorobo needs the first ring to detect the offensive callers.

Miller’s column also included ways to block unwanted calls and texts from cellphones, more solutions I’ll try as my unwanted calls continue to increase on my device. (I’ve been getting a number of “Westminster” phone calls that are actually people hawking business from wherever.) These calls, known as “neighbor spoofing,” use numbers similar to your own locale that are displayed on your caller ID, hoping the receiver will be more likely to answer.

In the meantime, federal and state legislation, in addition to several agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, continue to work on the problem. Recently, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, signed legislation into state law that upgraded illegal robocalling and spoofing to a felony.

Unfortunately, I believe the process will be a slow one, as I grit my teeth, ignoring right at this very moment — you guessed it — another call.

My prediction is that 100 years from now, perhaps phones — having gone the way of aluminum siding (both non-biodegradable) — will be excavated from the earth and displayed in a museum, with a sign that reads, “Lost society marketed, scammed and spoofed to extinction.”