telephone

The Perks of Caller ID

Tracey Columns

A few weeks ago I responded to a retiree who wrote “… we seem to be struggling every month to get by. I have always been good with our money, able to stretch it. But lately, I just get so discouraged – I don’t see where I can cut back. What do you say to retirees who are having this trouble?”

Among the suggestions I made was for this understandably frustratedeader to investigate her phone bill to see if she and her husband might eliminate some services and therefore, save money each month. While I did not specify exactly which phone services might be unnecessary, another reader recently recommended maintaining Caller ID. I totally agree!

Here’s how it works. The phone rings, you check out the display and see who is calling. In that split second, you have the opportunity to answer, or not.  It’s that simple.

I think the invention of Caller ID was a giant step forward for all of us, at any age. But as a benefit for Boomers and Seniors, it is worth every penny. It saves our sanity and it can save us money.

Caller ID has virtually eliminated ALL telemarketers from this household. For awhile we were protected because we had an unlisted phone number. But eventually, these numbers somehow went semi-public and we joined millions who have their dinners interrupted by yet another pitch. Then I registered with the Federal “Do Not Call” List yet again, some calls made it through. And then along came Caller ID. All it takes is a quick glance at the phone and life, as we want it, goes on. (Please don’t write to me and tell me just to ignore the phone during dinner. With three children and an 85 year old mother who all live everywhere but here, this just isn’t in my DNA.)

It has made me wish we had had this feature when our children were teens – oh, how much more simple life would have been. During dinner, (before cell phones,) we would let the phone ring … and ring … and ring. Dinner was family time, no exceptions. Of course, having the phone go off every five minutes hardly made for a peaceful meal. Some nights, we’d simply turn off the ringer. (Note to today’s parents – tell your children to leave their cell phones off and in their bedrooms during dinner!)

Of course, there are always those times when you simply might not be in the mood to speak with someone, a choice I believe we all have. Sadly, my mother finds herself dealing with this exact situation, in the worst possible way. One of her deceased husband’s friends calls her virtually every day. The victim of dementia, this 93 year old man, who lives in an assisted living facility, is somehow still able to use the phone. He’s often just lonely and only able to ramble on about the old days. But apparently, he can also be quite inappropriate and it makes my mother terribly uncomfortable. Her solution? She simply avoids answering the phone. (I’m sure I don’t have to explain how difficult it is to live 800 miles away and not have her pick up. Again, please, no emails or letters telling me to convince my mother about the merits of Caller ID. Been there, done that. And no, she won’t let me call the facility where he lives. That would be “rude.”)

But Caller ID has another excellent value – avoiding scam artists who target older Americans. Knowing that many of us in this age group are both polite and kind, and often single women, these criminals have the upper hand. This can result in good people losing their hard earned money, valuable personal information, such as social security numbers or banking information, and even their pride. From bogus fund-raising operations to free travel packages, from advanced fee loan scams, to “jailed grandchildren who need money” scams, sadly, there are simply too many telephone scams out there to mention here.

Caller ID allows you to see the number and then decide if you want to engage. Score one for private citizens, zero for the scam artist!

To be continued …

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