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How scam calls and messages took over our daily lives| GuyWhoKnowsThings

Doctorow noted that just as the Internet has made routine tasks less onerous, it has also made scams much easier to pull off. Imagine an old-school boiler room where fast-talking scammers make hundreds of phone calls in an effort to fleece strangers of their savings, he said. Now we fast forward to 2024, when scammers will be able to send millions of phishing text messages and emails with the help of bots.

“If you can automate some parts,” Doctorow said, “you can cast a much wider net.”

Text message scams fooled Americans $300 million in 2022, the Federal Trade Commission reported. That same year, Americans received 225 billion spam text messages, a 157 percent increase from the previous year. according to a Robokiller reporta company that sells a spam blocking application.

Despite his digital savvy and caution, Mr. Doctorow is not immune to phishing.

In December, while on vacation with his family in New Orleans, he received a call from his bank asking if he had spent $1,000 at an Apple store in New York. In fact, the caller was a scammer who had gotten hold of Mr. Doctorow's phone number and the name of his credit union, perhaps one of many data brokers who collect personal information and sell it to third parties, and then used phishing software to appear as your bank on your caller ID.

During the call, Doctorow provided the last seven digits of his debit card number — enough information for the scammer to rack up charges on his account.

Sophisticated technology makes this type of deception possible. But Doctorow argued that, thanks to outsourcing and automation, the typical communication sent by the customer service departments of many large companies has become “indistinguishable from a phishing scam.”

The prevalence of online scams can also add some unwanted drama to mundane tasks. Recently, Mrs. Rutledge, the psychologist, thought she was being scammed when she received a letter from a government office with “the crappiest letterhead I have ever seen.”

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