Scams, Deliveries and Bored Friends 🔗

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In Israel, employers are required to allocate a certain percentage of every employee's salary to a retirement fund. An employee can choose to open this fund at one (or more) of several insurance companies. Employers sometimes offer employees further insurance plans and benefits. A few years ago, while sitting at my office at work, I received a phone call from the insurance company where my fund was managed. Let's call it "Insurance Company X". The phone conversation went something like that:

  • Caller: "Hi, this is Caller from Insurance Company X. I'm calling just to inform you that your employer has added a new coverage to your insurance policy. From now on, if God forbid you are diagnosed with any 'severe or terminal disease', you will be immediately compensated to the tune of <forgotten amount of money>, no questions asked. OK? Just wanted to let you know that."
  • Me: "OK."
  • Caller: "Great, so I'll send it to my manager for approval, goodbye."
  • Me: "Wait wait wait, what approval? You just said this was added by my employer."
  • Caller: "Yes, but it needs to be approved by the insurance company."
  • Me: "I'm confused, does this additional coverage cost me money?"
  • Caller: "Of course, yes, 200 NIS per month."
  • Me: "And you didn't think to tell me that?"
  • Caller: <don't remember caller's response>
  • Me: "Not interested, and don't call me again."

This infuriating phone call was basically my insurance company trying to scam me into paying them more money. It's fraud, plain and simple.

This was around seven or eight years ago, and last week I got a very similar call from a different insurance company, where I have a personal accident policy (let's call this Insurance Company Y):

  • Caller: "Hi, this is Caller from Insurance Company Y. I'm calling because you have a Personal Accident Insurance at our company, and I just wanted to let you know that we've extended your policy to also include <coverage I no longer remember>."
  • Me, knowing where this was going, but wanting to let it play out: "OK."
  • Caller: "Sounds good?"
  • Me: "So long as this doesn't change what I pay."
  • Caller: "Oh, you will need to pay more for this coverage."
  • Me: "Not interested, bye."

I should mention that I've received many, many calls from insurance companies over the years trying to sell me more policies, but these two instances where the only ones where the companies blatantly attempted to defraud me. And the problem is that as angry as it makes me, moving to another company probably won't make much of a difference, but rather only turn me into a target for their scams.

I will touch more on the subject of scams in my home country in an upcoming rant, but - as I often do - I'm taking this rant in a different direction.

Do I Even Need a Phone?

By this question I do not mean "phone the device" (i.e. smartphone), but rather actual phone communication. The vast majority of my incoming phone calls are - from most frequent to least frequent - as follows:

  1. People working for charities who want me to fund the lavish lifestyle of the charity's chairman.
  2. Insurance companies trying to scam me into paying them more money in return for absolutely no service.
  3. Delivery drivers letting me know they'll be at my place within 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. My mother checking if I'm still alive.
  5. A bored friend remembered smartphones can make voice calls too.

The other use for a cellphone is OTP tokens delivered via SMS, a technology that is so broken that it baffles the mind that it is seriously being used for security purposes.

Text messages are also an extremely popular avenue for spam and scams. If not for OTP tokens, 100% of my text messages would be scams (most often black market loan offers).

And here are all the scenarios under which I make outgoing phone calls:

  1. None.

This is why whenever I hear the phone's ringtone starting to play, or the alert sound for a text message, I am immediately annoyed, because it is almost certain that someone is reaching out in an attempt to scam me. And the worst part is that these scam calls are often made early in the morning, when I'm still asleep, so it's double the nuisance.

Looking back to my childhood, before cellphones were a thing, people called landlines all the time, and every time you placed a call, you'd pray that your friend's mother/father/sibling wouldn't be the one answering. Then the Internet came, and we replaced a certain portion of these calls with chat room conversations (and later instant messengers such as ICQ). Then cellphones came and every friend was easily within reach, so conversations moved to cellphones and we no longer had two recognize how someone's mother sounded like. And then the Internet became a 24-hour thing on cellphones, and we never had to talk with each other ever again.

Now, I get that this is not a universal thing, and it's not even true for many of my fellow Israelis. Many people still love to talk on the phone. But I can't help but ask myself: do I really need a phone? If it's mostly an avenue for scams, what do I need it for? If I somehow disabled my phone's ability to receive calls, but kept data service, would my life be negatively affected?

I actually already have the answer to this last question, kind of. Whenever I'm traveling abroad, that's exactly the scenario I am in: I can't get phone calls from Israel, but I have Internet, and I am in constant touch with my family and friends through instant messengers, VoIP, or video conferencing software. I've gone as much as six months like this and it was an absolute bliss to receive zero scam calls. But then I came back home, and now I get an average of one such call a day.

By reading this, you are agreeing to pay the author 200 NIS a month for an insurance policy that only covers what you don't have, no questions asked.