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We didn't build good security into the telecom system because we didn't anticipate that, someday, scammers would be able to call thousands of people per minute, because before computers, that idea was completely ludicrous.

An important thing to remember is that anyone who calls you when your name is on the Do Not Call list is breaking the law. But there is no good way to find them as they can disappear as fast as they appear.

We have had to change a lot of how telecommunications law works to start combatting this, and absolutely it could have happened faster if telecom companies and the government weren't resistant to change. But it's also a hard problem to solve. We've built this system, and it works really well all day long every day...we just made it work too well...so well that it really isn't that hard to set up a robocalling scam...which is why a thousand or so people have done it...thus making all our lives miserable.

But as I say in the video, if you only need 1000 people out of 300,000,000 to ruin something for money...they're gonna do it.

Here are some articles I read:
This one's real long but gives a lot of good background
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/magazine/how-robo-call-moguls-outwitted-the-government-and-completely-wrecked-the-do-not-call-list/2018/01/09/52c769b6-df7a-11e7-bbd0-9dfb2e37492a_story.html

Short and older article/NPR story, but still relevant.
https://www.npr.org/2015/11/18/456355120/why-it-s-hard-to-put-an-end-to-unwanted-robocalls

What Phone companies can do but aren't
https://www.consumerreports.org/consumerist/phone-companies-can-filter-out-robocalls-they-just-arent-doing-it/

This one also has tips on how to stop them if you care enough
https://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-youre-getting-so-many-spam-phone-calls-2018-10-12

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Good morning John!

Speaking of abject nihilistic despair as you did in your last video, I wanna talk about a, a, a milestone that we are approaching in the United States of America.


Some time in 2019, the FTC is predicting that there will be more mobile phone calls attempting to defraud people than there will be mobile phone calls not attempting to defraud people. There will be more robocalls than calls.


I'm visiting my in-laws in Florida right now, it's beautiful, I've had five slices of key lime pie in the last five days, and they have a landline in their house, like a physical cable that plugs into a wall that connects to other cables all over the literal world.


The engineering necessary to make this happen, and also the fact that like five or ten years ago it would seem completely normal to me and now it seems both extraordinarily inefficient and also kind of adorable is really interesting.


But that's not what I'm here to talk about. Their phone, it rings, a lot. They get maybe seven phone calls a day, three or four of them are from people who are trying to steal their money. Here are a few of the stories my mother-in-law has heard:


One: The IRS is going to arrest you tomorrow.


I mean, we've all heard that one. But here's a better one:


Your grandson has been arrested in Africa, and he needs bail money!


Three: The radio station has free CDs for you


Four: She has inherited money

Five: Microsoft is updating Windows and in order to maintain your connection to the internet you have to buy this fifty dollar software package. Ugghhh.


They live in a part of Florida where the average age is higher than normal, and these scams are somewhat targeted at the elderly. One, because they tend to have money in retirement accounts, and two because on average they are a little less likely to have kept up on how things work. Is that ok to say..?


[Phone rings]

[To phone] Are you literally a robocall? You are literally a robocall! No! I'm making a video right now.


In 2017, 3 percent of mobile phone calls were from fraudulent sources. In 2018, it was up to 30%. The FTC estimates that for every successful fraud the scammer gets about 400 dollars, and that in total over a billion dollars has been stolen.


I tweeted about a year ago that like, any legislator who wants to just get elected in any election ever should do something about this because obviously it's something that everyone agrees should get fixed. And I assumed that maybe the reason it hadn't gotten fixed was like money and politics and telecom companies being evil or just general incapability of doing anything in Washington.


But no actually, it turns out that these people are good at hiding from the law, and that technology allows them to do that for the most part. There may be a bit of this that telecom companies could do something about, if they wanted to work harder on it.


In any case, it's a lot more complicated than I thought it was, if you wanna learn more about why it's complicated I've linked to some articles in the description, but basically technologies are integrating together that weren't meant to integrate together. People are sometimes bad people, and I don't think that when we created this system we understood the significance we were putting into the institution of the phone number.


But it is of course disgusting in like twenty different ways. A thing that I didn't think about though was that for a lot of people, like the majority of the times that the world reaches out to them in any given day, are people trying to steal their money. And that's a pretty big societal cost- one more way in which a lot of people have just lost faith in the world around them. Likely all because of just a few hundred or maybe a thousand operating scammers in the US. It's really not much more than that.


In short John, human existence is messy and culture, technology and crime all interact in weird and unexpected ways. And while I'm a pretty optimistic and pro-human person, if you like allow one thousand people out of three hundred million to ruin something by being bad people and making money at it, yeah I'm not that optimistic, like that will happen.


But I do think it's important to remember that a lot of people talk to scammers more than they talk to people and so when I get a chance to talk to people, I'm gonna do my best to be nice to them.


John, I'll see you on Tuesday.