‘Can You Hear Me?’ Scam Calls hit MN

can you hear me now phone scam

The ‘can you hear me now’ term isn’t just for cell phone commercials. It’s a part of the latest telephone scam hitting MN. If the first thing you hear is a question similar to this, hang up. (Photo from thebalance.com)

“Can you hear me?” “Are you there?” “Is this you?” Most people have been asked these questions in a phone call. News outlets and organizations across the country report that people are receiving calls from individuals who ask questions designed to get a “yes” answer.  But responding “yes” may leave people on the hook for more nuisance calls and maybe even unauthorized charges.  This new scheme is called the “Can You Hear Me?” Scam. “Chris” received a call while he was eating dinner. He answered the call, and a person asked, “Can you hear me?” Chris replied, “Yes.”  He then heard a recording that claimed he had won a free cruise. Chris realized the call may be part of a scam and hung up.

How the scam works

The details of this scam vary, but it always begins with a call, usually from a telephone number that appears to be local. When the person answers the call, the scam artist tries to get the person to say “yes”—most often by asking, “Can you hear me?” “Is this the lady of the house?” or a similar question. By responding “yes,” people notify robo-callers that their number is an active telephone number that can be sold to other telemarketers for a higher price. This then leads to more unwanted calls.

In some cases, the caller may record the person saying “yes.” Scam artists may be able to use a recorded “yes” to claim that the person authorized charges to his or her credit card or account. How can scammers access your account?  Some companies share their customers’ information with third-party companies or allow third parties to charge customers’ accounts (called “cramming”) in exchange for payment. Scam artists may also obtain financial information from data breaches or leaks or through identity theft.

Whether the “Can you hear me?” calls are simply nuisance calls or something more sinister, there are steps you can take to avoid falling victim to phone scams.

  • Check phone numbers closely. Scam artists spoof calls to make them appear to be from a local telephone number. Even if a number appears to be local, it is best to avoid calls from numbers with which you are not familiar.

 

  • Hang up. If you answer a call that seems suspicious, hang up. Remember, “Minnesota Nice” does not apply to scammers. It is not rude to hang up abruptly on a suspicious caller.

 

  • Carefully review your financial statements and telephone bills. Whether or not you have been targeted by a scam, it is a good idea to review your bills line-by-line for unauthorized or fraudulent activity. The law provides some protection for people to dispute unauthorized charges to their credit cards and bank accounts, but these laws generally impose time limits. It is important to check right away for charges you did not make or approve so you have time to file a dispute.

Reporting unwanted calls

If you receive a call that may be part of a “Can You Hear Me?” scam, you should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). The FTC has the authority to enforce federal laws regulating nuisance calls and interstate fraud over the telephone. Contact the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Response Center, 877-382-4357 or www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.

For more information, or to file a complaint, contact the Office of Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson, 445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400, St. Paul, MN 55101, 651-296-3353 or 800-657-3787, TTY: 651-297-7206 or 800-366-4812

http://www.presspubs.com/quad/opinion/article_3c3888f2-196d-11e7-8b0e-4700503757c6.html

 

Here’s how you handle a phone scammer: If you state obvious falsehoods and they don’t call you on it, they’re scammers. Hang up the phone. Don’t worry about hurting people’s feelings. Yes, I realize it’s a bit of a spoof video, so I’d encourage you to just hang up if you didn’t initiate the phone call.

American politics and compromise: what happened?

American politics.  Guaranteed to raise the stress level in any conversation by at least tenfold.

Political polarization and the resulting inability of people with differing ideologies to compromise have brought progress in the United States to a screeching halt.

The public is bombarded with news stories every day that detail immigration concerns, gun control questions, ISIS, and so many other problems it gets overwhelming at times. So many problems to solve, and so little time. So, why can’t we climb these mountains?

American Politics

Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., where the political divide has never been larger, and the need for compromise and the lost art of the deal has never been more needed. (Photo from the Huffington Post)

Politics and philosophical ideologies have divided this country like never before. Republicans, Democrats, Tea Partiers, Libertarians, and more all have ideas on how to get things done. What they aren’t recognizing is their way might not be the right way. That fact doesn’t seem to matter. It’s “my way or the highway.” My ideology is completely right, and yours is completely wrong because it disagrees with mine.

 

American politics and social media

Facebook, and other forms of social media, offer a platform for sharing political views, but the resulting comments underneath the post offer a whole lot of people you may or may not know a chance for serious rebuttal, if not downright arguments.

Social media may bear part of the blame. Have you read some of the discussion threads on Facebook regarding immigration? How about the threads on ISIS and how to deal with that very real threat? You see behavior on these threads that would put children in daycare timeout immediately. Arguing, name-calling, cursing, lying, and other general misbehavior abound. While we sit and argue in a virtual world, problems don’t get solved in the real one.

What happened to compromise? What happened to “if everyone gives a little bit, we all can gain a lot?” Aren’t we all on the same team here?

Leadership and the art of compromise are compatible terms, aren’t they? You really can’t have one without the other.

Maybe businessmen and women might be the right ones to send to Washington to lead this country? After all, you don’t succeed in business and make deals if you don’t know how to compromise, right? Giving up a little something to the customer can often close a deal, right?

I am in no way endorsing Donald Trump as the next President. Let’s get that out of the way. But I did find something he said more than a little interesting.

The dailybeast.com website detailed a meeting hosted by a group called No Labels, a central-leaning political group that brought together a handful of presidential hopefuls, who each gave a speech before the members.

The website points out, correctly, that divisions in Washington are bigger than ever. Trump was quoted as saying, “Compromise is not a dirty word.” As stubborn as Trump is known to be, that might be a surprise to you, because it was to me.

As an example, Trump offered a story in which he brokered a deal between politicians and unions in New York City to help finish an ice skating rink in Central Park. The project had suffered from mismanagement for years.

Trump said, “It’s (compromise) in all the business schools. They study it. I didn’t learn it – I did it.”

The dailybeast.com writer called Trump “someone who wouldn’t simply untie the Gordian knot, but one who would cut right through it.”

What would life be like if we would just talk to each other. What if we relearned how to compromise?

Does the voting public deserve some blame for the gridlock in Washington? Probably.

Craig Chamberlain made a good point in an article on the University of Illinois website.   He said, for the most part, Americans tell pollsters that they are moderate on most of the important issues and they want the people they send to Washington to compromise and get things done.

Voting and American politics

Are Americans perpetuating the polarization in Washington by sending ideologically extreme candidates to D.C. every two years? (photo from huffingtonpost.com)

But, in the same breath, Chamberlain said American voters help perpetuate polarization in D.C. by continuing to elect ideologically extreme representatives. We don’t seem to learn from our mistakes. How many times have we seen extreme polarization make it difficult, or even impossible, to get things done for the good of our country?

I really thought Jim Totcke hit the nail on the head in a letter to the Editor on the havasunews.com website. He said, “Contrary to what the political parties in Washington might believe, compromise is what reasonable, civil people must do in a civil society.” When did we forget that?

Here is an even better point: Totcke said, “No single political party has a monopoly on good ideas. Why not utilize the best and brightest of both parties?”

Given the current polarization of politics, and the actual dislike that members of one party have for the other, it may be hard to believe we’ve seen genuine efforts to reach across the divide in the past. Believe it nor not, we have.

Dave Spencer is the founder of a group called Practically Republican, and he wrote a piece on the huffingtonpost.com website. He offered up Ronald Reagan, who many in the Republican Party consider a standard bearer for all that’s right in the Party, as an example of just how different things have become.

You’ve heard the term RINO, or Republicans In Name Only, in today’s political vernacular? Spencer said Reagan wouldn’t even qualify as a “real Republican” by today’s standards. He did lower taxes his first year in the Oval Office, but raised them four times during the rest of his tenure. He backed gun control. He was the first President to host an openly gay couple for an overnight stay at the White House.

Most notably, Reagan was noted for talking to the other side of the political aisle on the regular basis. Even though he may not have done precisely what the Democrats wanted, he genuinely listened, and that gave him a lot of credibility.

In a piece titled “Death of Horse-Trading on the Hill,” CNN Chief Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash pointed out that the 2015 Congress contained more than 40 Senators had served 4 years or less. Bash called it a, “Lack of experience in the art of legislating – knowing what it means to give a little to get a little.”

It’s time to act like adults, and not bickering children who have to have everything their way. It’s not too late, yet.

 

 

Farm reporter needs your opinion

I’ve come across an interesting story that would seem to be straight out of an episode of your favorite TV drama.  In this case, it’s not in a big city or major metro area; it’s in a small county in southeast Minnesota.  There are some pretty serious accusations of misdeeds in Wabasha County.

The former county Livestock Permitting Officer, Troy Dankmeyer, is accused of fudging some paperwork, and in the process, many thousands of dollars in grant money has disappeared.  The strange thing is, there doesn’t seem to be any interest from county officials to find Dankmeyer or the missing money.

Now, after a Board of Water and Soil Resources investigation, the County has been fined approximately 120,000 dollars, and who will end up paying that fine?  Plus, 90,000 dollars in grant money is being withheld from farmers in the county while the investigation continues.  Citizens are just now starting to ask questions, but overall, not a lot appears to be known in the county about the situation.

I’m at the tail end of a Master’s in New Media Journalism course, and I’ve chosen this story as my thesis topic.  I need to know which of these story angles grab your attention and would make you have to sit and read the story to find out the juicy details.  Give me your opinion on what would make you want to read this story and why:

Do you have ideas of your own you’d like to share?  Please email me at ChadSmith1@fullsail.edu, or send me a message on Facebook.  I would really appreciate some opinions and feedback from folks like you!

 

Is it beef or Pink Slime

One of the largest defamation lawsuits in American history revolves around something known as “pink slime,” and that term is at the center of a dispute between ABC News and Beef Processors Inc., of Iowa.  Over one billion dollars is at stake, depending on the outcome of the case.   According to examiner.com, the lawsuit is a result of a series of ABC News investigative reports on how one of the nation’s biggest meat producers prepares its products for the marketplace.  What ABC News characterized as pink slime is what the beef processor calls “lean, finely textured beef.”

Beef cattle farmers await a ruling on "Pink Slime"

Beef cattle farmers await a ruling on “Pink Slime” (Photo by Chad Smith)

Carissa Nath is a meat scientist with the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, which specializes in finding new uses for agricultural products and technology, with the goal of expanding business and employment opportunities.  She explained what Lean, Finely Textured Beef is: “When carcasses are fabricated (cut; broken down) into steaks, roasts and other retail cuts there is always some amount trim left over.  This trim is mainly fat, but often times there will be a good amount of lean that could still be salvaged from this trim.  Due to the fact that carcasses are fabricated manually (by human hands), it is impossible to capture all this lean at the time of fabrication.  This trim can then be slightly heated and spun rapidly (think of a large salad spinner) to remove all the fat and retain all the lean.  The resultant product (beef lean tissue) is LFTB, 100% beef. LFTB is then used in the beef industry by adding it back into other trimmings (ground beef) to make varying levels of lean to fat ratios (85/15 (85% lean 15% fat); 90/10 (90% lean 10% fat), etc, to meet consumer demands.”

Mark Malecek is a cattle farmer from Redwood Falls, Minnesota, and said the goal is to “make the nation’s beef supply go farther, and make beef more affordable for the consumer at the grocery store. They’ve been using this process since 1990.”   The controversy arises when the separated beef is processed, heated, and treated with a cloud of gaseous ammonia to kill E. Coli and other bacteria.  In 2001, the Food Safety and Inspection Service okayed the process, and agreed that the ammonia was a “processing agent, and didn’t need to be listed on the ingredient label.”

According to Reuters, Dr. Gerald Zirnstein was a microbiologist at USDA, who sent an email to fellow scientist, first using the term “pink slime.”  In the email, he said he was “disgusted by the process and USDA’s approval of it,” and coined the term pink slime.  He said “USDA undersold it to the public and the meat industry soft-sold it to consumers.”

The issue came back into the public eye thanks to British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, devoted an episode of his television show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” to Pink Slime in 2011.

ABC News then picked up the Pink Slime story and ran a series of reports in 2012 about the product.

 

According to the Pink Slime Wikipedia page, as a result of the series run by ABC News, grocery chains, restaurants, and even school districts announced they would no longer be purchasing beef with the Lean, Finely Textured, beef product.   The beef industry was hit hard by the Pink Slime controversy.

On May 8, 2012, Beef Processors Incorporated announced it would be closing three of its four processing plants in the Midwest.  On April 12, another producer, AFA Foods, a ground-beef processor, announced it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Beef prices on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange hit a three and a half month low.  Malacek said the cattle prices on the Mercantile “went down about three and a half dollars per hundredweight, which is a significant chunk of the local cattlemen’s profit.”  Malecek said prices have returned to where they were before the controversy became news headlines across the country.

Beef prices have rebounded, pending a judge’s decision on “Pink Slime” (photo by Chad Smith)

Beef prices have rebounded, pending a judge’s decision on “Pink Slime” (photo by Chad Smith)

As a result of financial losses, BPI announced on September 13, 2012, that it had filed a 1.2 billion dollar lawsuit against ABC News, claiming damages as a result of the pink slime controversy.  ABC News denied the allegations, and tried to get the case moved from state court to federal court.  In June 2013, a federal judge sent the lawsuit back to state court.   According to Reuters.com, on December 17 of last year, lawyers for ABC News asked South Dakota State Judge Cheryle Gering took under advisement oral arguments from both sides in the case, and will issue ruling in the near future as to whether or not the case will proceed to trial.