Terry Zink's Cyber Security Blog

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My behavior has changed when answering my phone due to my suspicious nature of unsolicited email

My behavior has changed when answering my phone due to my suspicious nature of unsolicited email

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Nowadays, whenever I get email from someone I don’t recognize, I am instantly suspicious of it. To be sure, there are people I’ve never heard from that I want to hear from, but I am always wary whenever I see an email address that is unfamiliar to me. I never open any attachments, I don’t click on links, I barely even want to read the message. I am instantly suspicious.

This, of course, has been driven by spammers. The odds of me receiving email from someone I’ve never heard before and their being a spammer are higher than their being a legitimate person. I’m just not that special in real life that all sorts of people want to talk to me.

But also, if I ever get email from someone I do know and the message looks suspicious – all upper case SUBJECT LINE, a short internal message, broken grammar, etc., then I make the leap that the person’s account is compromised. If you’re using poor grammar, then I think you’re a spammer. Hey, that rhymes!

I’m surprised at how this has carried over to my cell phone.

I’m even less special when it comes to phone calls than I am with email. Unknown people contact me by email fairly regularly. But they rarely do on my phone (except for that person who keeps calling up and asking for “Chris”). Therefore, when I get a phone call from a number I don’t recognize, I’m usually content to let it go to voice mail. Afterwards, I check my voice mail and if it’s from a friend of mine, or a service I want to call back (like a Massage Therapist, or the bank, or something not personal but important) I will add them as a contact to my smart phone (as an aside, I am biased but I really like my Windows Phone).

In other words, I treat unknown phone callers as suspected spammers.

It never used to be this way. Way back when I was growing up, every phone call was from an unknown caller. There was no way to predict who was on the other end of the line unless you had a good idea of who was going to call you that day or evening (some of my sister’s friends were so predictable we literally could predict them). But so what? The phone rang, you answered it. That’s how it works.

Many of you reading this can remember when call display was introduced. It wasn’t even that long ago. It would give you the phone number of who was dialing and it was a big deal. We were all like “Hey, this is cool! We now can see who is calling before we pick up the phone!”

Today, in the age of cell phones and smart phones, at least to me, to not have call display is bizarre. Why wouldn’t I want to know who is calling before I answered the phone? (Services like Google Voice, Skype and even the corporate line here at Microsoft mask the caller identity by sending from a general number but you still get a number).

Why do I treat unknown callers like potential spammers?

I know that phone calls are unlikely to be spammers, but sometimes they are. Sometimes I get a call from the Symphony asking me to buy tickets to some symphony because I purchased tickets to the video game symphony two years ago. Ugh. I don’t need to spend 5 minutes arguing with you. I also don’t want to be bothered when the gym I thought about signing up to keeps calling me every day with a special offer. Double ugh.

So I guess it’s all about not wanting to deal with the hassle of marketing.

Just like in email how I am suspicious of unknown senders because they are trying to sell me something, this has translated into phone calls with suspicions that they, too, are trying to sell me something. Because sometimes, they are trying to sell me something! But the cost is higher; whereas with spammers I can hit delete so long as there isn’t too many of their messages, with a phone call I have choose to politely sit and listen to their spiel and it wastes 2-10 minutes of my time.

It’s just easier to screen the call and add them to my address book and then if they call back, intentionally choose to ignore them.

What about any of you? Does anyone else do the same thing?

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  • Everyone I've ever met through TrustSphere has my mobile number, so when subscribe calls the office number asking for me by name, our receptionist knows it's a spammer. She hasn't been wrong yet.

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