Not unlike many thousands of other residents of Maine, to say nothing of the other 49 states and D.C., I have been, day after day, constantly interrupted and annoyed by phone calls from intrusive telemarketers and scum-of-the-earth scammers. (NBC News reported that there were more than 31 billion of these calls in the U.S. during 2017, and the phone-verification service Truecaller claims that more than 25 percent are scammers.)
Finally fed up and determined enough to do something about it, I went online and looked up the number for the Maine Public Advocate’s Office.
At first, the person I reached patiently listened to my plea for help and then proceeded to explain how advanced the telemarketers’ and scammers’ technologies are and why there is very little — read “nothing” — that can be done. I told her I used a technology known as Nomorobo but that the nuisance callers had already figured out how to get around it.
I also told her I had the phone numbers they were using and can’t understand how a telemarketer in California and a scammer presumably on another continent could apply for and receive a phone number with a 207 area code. She said they have little or no trouble accomplishing that using a technology she called “spoofing.” With it, she said, they can access and use the phone number of someone near my physical address.
When I told her that I’d called both of the numbers back and reached the original caller, not a neighbor, she paused and proceeded to explain the spoofing technology to me again.
That’s when I told her I didn’t need to be told why this is happening. I wanted to know how it can be stopped or what was being done to stop it. That’s when she got a little impatient with me.
She didn’t ask me for the phone numbers, and when I inquired as to why she was not interested in them, she said the culprits were people out of state or overseas and well beyond our control. She did not offer to refer me to any other entity that might be of assistance or even interested. When I asked about that, she said she could refer me to the Federal Communications and/or Federal Trade commissions, but she assured me it would amount to little more than an exercise in futility. She essentially offered me absolutely no assistance and very little, if any, hope.
When I got off the phone, I went back to my computer and started researching scam phone calls and discovered there actually is something that can be done beyond the Do Not Call list and Nomorobo: If you’re able to capture the intruder’s phone number, you can block it. If you Google “block calls,” you’ll find a treasure trove of instructions that will help you do exactly that.
Those, like myself, who subscribe to landline service through their Spectrum/Time Warner cable provider can simply go to their account online, click on “Manage Account,” then “My Phone,” “Peace and Quiet” and “Block Unwanted Callers.” Then follow the instructions.
If you subscribe to landline service through Consolidated Communications (formerly FairPoint) and have opted for its call-intercept feature (there is a charge, so your phone bill should tell you if you have it), you can set up the call-blocking feature yourself. Otherwise, you must call and add the feature to your account.
I don’t regularly use a cellphone, though I keep a prepaid one in my vehicle for emergencies, but I understand that most smartphone providers. such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and the like, provide you with access to controls that allow you to block numbers yourself.
It seems to me that the Maine Public Advocate’s Office should be aware of this information and have it written up and ready to send out by mail or email to individuals calling or emailing for assistance or guidance with nuisance phone calls. Many consumers, especially seniors, do not have access to the internet. And all of us are, after all, rather desperate by the time we start seeking help.

Jerry Genesio is a resident of Scarborough.

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